Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Order at the Foot of the Highway - Granma

The most recent article on the expansion of self-employment in Cuba, "Orden al pie de la carretera," from Granma on Monday, September 27 (my new favorite morning read) leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the article seems to channel the voice of Fidel, always emphasizing the need to impose a strict "order" and "control" as the new self-employed sector begins to expand.  The article also engages in the old tactic of singling out evil "intermediaries" who were supposedly making it rich without doing much work.  Finally, it emphasizes that these new self-employed workers must "pagar lo que deben," or pay what they owe in taxes.

There's even a new dress code being imposed - reminding me of my good-ole-days as a Catholic school student - along with the exhortation for growers/sellers to act orderly and keep their kiosks clean.  You've heard, "you kids get off my lawn."  Well this is the Cuban version: "Hey, you kids go clean your room!"

NINGÚN KIOSCO PUEDE EXCEDER LOS 25 METROS CUADRADOS; QUIENES VENDAN PRODUCTOS EN ELLOS DEBEN PERMANECER CORRECTAMENTE VESTIDOS Y MANTENER EL ORDEN Y LA LIMPIEZA EN EL ESPACIO QUE OCUPAN.  
(Photo credit: Jose Antonio Torres for Granma)

On the other hand, the article does give the good news that private growers of agricultural products who had long sold their goods clandestinely "a escondidas burlando lo establecido por insticiones estatales," can now sell their wares out in the open.  It also recognizes the legality of what the evil "intermediaries" do by stating that "products can be sold through third parties who buy the merchandise."

Here's the key quote:

"Este ordenamiento se desarrolla para brindarle a la población una mayor variedad, calidad y mejor presentación de los productos y a su vez, eliminar el descontrol persistente en este tipo de comercialización. Ahora las personas que en sus patios, huertos o parcelas cultiven frutas, vegetales, viandas o flores, no tendrán que venderlas clandestinamente y podrán llevar ellos mismos los productos al kiosco o a través de terceras personas que compren su mercancía."

Finally, the article slips in the following all-important phrase after a long list of limitations and regulations:

"Prices will be established under the principle of supply and demand."

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