London’s Guardian reports on the privatization of hundreds of state-owned barbershops in Cuba.
Cuba’s centrally planned socialist economy is getting a trim: hundreds of state-owned barbershops and beauty salons are being handed over to employees and, in effect, privatised.
Shops and salons with three or fewer chairs will be allowed to rent the space and pay taxes instead of getting a monthly wage in what could presage further economic liberalisation. It is the first time state-run, retail-level outlets have been ceded to employees since Fidel Castro nationalised small businesses in 1968. The measure, discreetly implemented and not officially announced, suggests president Raúl Castro is inching ahead with reforms signalled when he succeeded his ailing older brother last year.
Clipping back communist controls will, it is hoped, give the former employees an incentive to work harder, improve dismal service and inject a bit of dynamism into a moribund economy.
Under the new system, a tiny but telling ideological break from Fidel’s era, barbers, hairdressers and beauticians will no longer receive a state wage and be able to charge what they like. They are likely to earn a lot more than the average monthly wage of about $20 (£13).
In return they must pay tax and rent which will be based on 15% of the average revenue generated by haircutting and styling in each area. Barbers and manicurists will pay less than hairdressers.
Daisy, a hairdresser in easternmost Guantánamo province, told Reuters that under the old system the government took in $234 per month per hairdresser. Now she will pay the government $35 per month and keep any earnings above that.
“We have to pay water, electricity and for supplies but it seems like a good idea,” Daisy said.
The plan did not turn the shops into co-operatives but employees would have to team up to decorate and maintain the establishments.
For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/13/cuban-barbers-salons-privatisation
Image: A worker cuts hair at a barber shop in Havana. Photograph: Enrique de la Osa/REUTERS