Market reforms in Cuba could spark co-op conversions

President Miguel Diaz-Canel argues the economic reforms will stimulate development and growth

By Miles Hadfield

Cuba’s communist government is embarking on a new series of market reforms which will permit small and medium-sized businesses to operate for the first time since 1968.

The change also applies to small and medium-sized state firms, which means subsidised operations must become profitable or fold.

Economists say that in the food service sector, thousands of government-subsidised restaurants will either close, become co-operatives or turn into small businesses.

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel says the economic reforms will stimulate development and growth, undertake gradual economic reform and raise standards of living.

The announcement follows a series of reforms since Mr Diaz-Canel became president. In 2018 the government opened a wholesale market in March for non-agricultural co-ops in Havana. This followed reforms under his predecessor Raul Castro.

Announcing the latest reforms on television, economy minister Alejandro Gil said state and private business would be put on an equal footing to compete, work together and create joint companies.

The reforms follow a period of unrest in Cuba, with the impact of US sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic leading to shortages in food and medicine.

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