The Cuban authorities are considering legalizing certain private businesses, a potentially transformative move for the communist island as it liberalizes its economy.
The ruling Communist Party on Tuesday published a list of reforms proposed during its congress in March, including possible changes to laws governing small and medium-sized businesses.
Potential reforms include allowing Cubans to create “small businesses mainly run by the worker and their family, medium-sized, small and micro-scale private businesses.”
Parliament must debate and approve the proposal before it can become law in the one-party state.
But the very mention of the possibility in an official party document signals change in Cuba, which is opening its relations with former enemies such as the United States.
President Raul Castro started gradually reforming the economy when he took over in 2008 from his brother Fidel, leader of the 1959 revolution.
Raul Castro has allowed Cubans to be self-employed workers and hire staff in certain cases, such as family-owned restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, although they do not have the same formal legal status as companies.
The president acknowledged during the March congress that “the increase in self-employed workers and their authorization to hire staff has led in practice to the existence of medium, small and micro enterprises that are operating today without legal status.”
The state still holds tight control over most of the economy, however. Tuesday’s document proposed that small private businesses should serve only to “complement” existing state-run enterprises.
Yosvany Lopez, a 36-year-old restaurant-owner in Havana, told AFP on Wednesday that he is skeptical about the potential for business reform.
“Up to now all they have tried to do has been to obstruct the functioning of these businesses,” he said.