The Cuban government announced on Monday that it will allow foreign investment in wholesale trade and – through joint ventures – also in retail trade.
The announcement is part of a package of easing measures to boost the economy, which has been suffering from a serious economic crisis for two years.
The first deputy minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ana Teresita González, said on public television that they are “risky measures that do not solve the problems” of the country, which is in a “complex scenario.”
The goal of these reforms, González added, is to achieve “greater efficiency” in the national retail trade.
“We seek that these measures have an immediate impact on the problems of shortages” that the country suffers, he said.
Foreign investors will be able to create entities to trade in the wholesale market and form joint ventures – in a “selective manner” – to “carry out retail trade activities”.
These new companies will focus on the sale of “raw materials, inputs, equipment, and other goods” to “boost the development of domestic production”, as well as supply food, hygiene products, and even electricity generation systems from renewable sources”.
Until now, González added, foreign investment had been limited to production, and trade was restricted to state-owned entities in the communist country.
He also pointed out that these products will be offered in Cuban pesos (cup) and in freely convertible currency (MLC), a controversial Cuban virtual currency based on foreign currencies that are used in a network of state stores.
Betsy Díaz, Minister of Domestic Trade, stressed that “the trade sector also needs foreign investment.”
However, he stressed that the sector has not been fully opened. Access is no longer “restrictive,” but the priority actor remains the state, Diaz said.
Díaz added that priority will be given to the initiatives of this type of foreign investor with experience in the country and allied countries.
IMPORT AND EXPORT
González also said that some non-state entities will be allowed foreign trade activities, both importing and exporting.
Also in this area, the restrictions will be maintained because, as he emphasized, the country has not “renounced the monopoly of foreign trade” nor does it plan to do so.
The Cuban state, he added, will always maintain control, although “certain private actors” may participate in the “operation.”
The import, he explained, will be restricted to those who have their own foreign currency for this activity without the need for financing and are able to obtain “better prices for the Cuban population” than the state company.
The priority goods in this area will be “inputs, raw materials, and equipment”.
In the field of export, we want to start with the sale abroad of computer services, González added.