The Cuban government has announced new measures to support non-agricultural co-ops, with new wholesale and retail centres for co-operatives and self- employed workers in the food and services sectors.
The plan, to give access to staple products at lower prices, was announced four days after the 7th Congress of the Communist Party, which revised the market-oriented reforms set out five years ago.
In 2011, the government decided to place a specific emphasis on co-operatives as a means to decentralise the Cuban economy from state-owned enterprises to citizen-controlled co-ops. However, it is estimated that only a fifth of the reforms announced then have been implemented. Only 22 new co-ops were created last year in sectors other than agriculture.
The changes, which will take place from 2 May, were announced by minister of domestic trade, Odalis Escandell García. The law will mainly affect former state-owned enterprises that are now co-ops.
These co-ops will be able to buy some essential products from the wholesale markets instead of having to wait for the government to assign them. The Cuban state currently controls the distribution of fuel, pesticides, fertilisers, seeds and other products required in agricultural production.
In exchange for cheaper products and a tax break, co-ops will have to set price limits to some of their products, such as sparkling drinks, beer, rum produced nationally and cigars, cigarettes and chicken.
Self-employed workers who rent public spaces for their business will also benefit. If they restore the buildings they rent the workers will be excused from paying rent for up to two years, in an attempt to get them more involved as well as improve services and infrastructure.
The scheme will give priority to businesses focused on energy saving, repairing orthopaedic footwear, providing school snacks and the offering services for families.