Press, health and education remain in state control under Cuba reforms

A man walks next to a mural of the Cuban flag in Havana in January 2021
·2 min read

Cuba's weekend announcement that it would authorize private enterprise in most sectors of its economy excludes 124 areas, such as the press, health and education, the labor ministry said Wednesday.

The reform represents a major step in a new direction for the communist island where the state and its affiliate companies account for 85 percent of the economy, but which saw its GDP fall 11 percent in 2020.

Cuba began timidly opening up to the private sector in the 1990s before full authorization in 2010, followed by a true boom after the historic warming of ties with the United States at the end of 2014 under then-president Barack Obama.

A previous list authorized the private sector in only 127 economic activity areas.

Now, a converse list allows the private sector in all but 124 domains -- out of a total of about 2,100 identified areas.

Among those the ministry said Wednesday would be reserved for the state were strategic fields such as public administration, defense, law enforcement, medicine, journalism and education (with exceptions for certain subjects such as languages or music).

The private sector will also be excluded from petroleum, coal and mineral extraction as well as the printing of newspaper and books, plus the manufacture of weapons, the manufacture and distribution of gas and electricity, and the sale of vehicles.

In addition, Cuba will maintain its control of cinematographic and audiovisual production, TV programs, cultural programming in general and real estate activity.

The same goes for certain professional domains, which will remain under Cuba's authority, such as architecture, scientific research, travel agents, funeral directors and security guards.

Some 600,000 Cubans already work in the private sector, accounting for 13 percent of the workforce out of a population of some 11.2 million people.

They are mostly employed in gastronomy, transportation and renting rooms to tourists.

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