by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Sept. 20 (Xinhua)-- Cuba has put into effect a new legal framework that for the first time legalizes small and medium-sized enterprises on the island starting on Monday.
Consequently, local entrepreneurs in the Caribbean nation initiated the application process either online or by attending offices set up by the government across the country's over 160 municipalities.
Nayvis Diaz, who runs Havana-based bike rental and repair shop VeloCuba, expects to found one of the first small-sized enterprises in the Caribbean nation.
The 45-year-old told Xinhua that the new measures would improve the performance of the Cuban economy and ameliorate the economic relations between state and non-state sectors.
"With the new measures, I will be permitted to receive donations from international companies and import raw materials," she said.
"This is a huge change. We are even thinking of using bamboo, steel, and other materials to manufacture the bicycles we rent in Cuba," Diaz added.
Under the new legal framework, small and medium-sized enterprises will not be allowed to hire more than 35 and 100 employees respectively.
Yasmany Rodriguez, who runs a mobile repair shop in Havana's 10 de Octubre district, said that the openness of the private sector will bring prosperity to the island.
"I cannot found a small enterprise because I lack funding for the moment, but I expect to do it in the future," he said. "This is something that will promote entrepreneurship at the local level."
The number of self-employed persons in the Caribbean nation has increased from around 157,000 in 2010 to more than 600,000 nowadays.
According to the Cuban Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the small and medium-sized enterprises will only be restricted to operate in a few fields, including education, public health, defense, garbage management, and mining.
Accounting for 13 percent of the nation's workforce, local entrepreneurs on the island are now encouraged to export through state-operated enterprises.
Among them is Juan Sotolongo, who works as the coordinator of RFR Colorin, a local development project that uses flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials to manufacture rain boots.
With the new measures adopted by the government, he dreams of exporting boots made in Cuba to the neighboring Caribbean nations.
"For the moment, we want to improve the quality of our products to reach foreign companies based at the Mariel Special Development Zone, but in the future, we want to extend the scope of our business," he said.
The new regulations come into force amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cuba and the worsening of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against the island.
"By 5:30 p.m., the Platform of Economic Actors that came into force today with the implementation of the new legal framework had already received 75 applications to create micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as non-agriculture cooperatives," Cuban Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning Johana Odriozola said on Twitter.