The cooperatives are here

After confirming their efficiency in agriculture, the Cuban government decided to extend that structure to the rest of the economy.

Archivo IPS Cuba

Agricultural markets are the predominant activity among the first cooperatives created in Cuba outside agricultural production.

Cooperatives in the non-agricultural sector of the Cuban economy finally made their appearance this July after prevailing among the agricultural productive structures. The step is, according to many local observers, one of the boldest among the measures assumed by the government. And it is one of the reasons that move the authorities to speak of the start of a more complex and profound stage in the economic reform undertaken under the title of “Updating of the economic model.”


The first group of 124 cooperatives officially began operating on Monday July 1 consisting of a still small number of activities. A meeting of the Council of Ministers held last June 28 announced the approval of a second group of 71 entities of that type that should be incorporated shortly.

A data confirms one of the objectives recognised by the Standing Committee for the Implementation and Development of the Guidelines (a government structure responsible for managing the programme of transformations agreed upon by the Congress of the Communist Party in 2011): the majority of the cooperatives in the first group, 112, were previously state entities. With this new management formula, the authorities are seeking a response to the State’s inefficiency to manage small businesses.

The head of the Committee’s Business Improvement Group, Grisel Tristá Arbesú, admitted that “we are betting on the management, in a cooperative manner, of activities that when run by the state have not been efficient. Moreover, this allows the State to start getting disengaged from matters that are not transcendental in the economy’s development.”

Out of the total of 195 cooperatives between both groups, the majority is associated to the solution of an activity affected by old conflicts: the sale of agricultural products. Out of the 124 that started up last Monday July 1, 99 were organised in agricultural markets, 12 are construction brigades, five function in passenger transport, including school buses, six are devoted to the repair, body work, washing of automobiles and other services for transport and two to the recycling and recovery of raw materials.

Judging by the information provided by the head of the Committee for the Guidelines and vice president of the Council of Ministers, Marino Murillo, the second group includes new activities and a better balance among them: 22 are related to commerce, gastronomy and other services for the population, 16 are small industries, 12 have joined construction work, two are food producers, two more were added to transport and, surprisingly, ornithology has entered this new scenario with 17 cooperatives.

It seems the birth of the new entities was difficult. It took more than two years. The legal norms that regulate the expansion of the cooperatives toward the non-agricultural sector were announced November last year: Decree Laws 305 and 306, of the Council of State, Decree 309 of the Council of Ministers and resolutions of the Finance and Prices Ministry and the Economy and Planning Ministry. The approval of these cooperatives travelled a long road of validation from the provincial government, the agency in charge of their activity and finally the Council of Ministers, in a new centralisation that precisely tries to go over the development of that form of non-state production.

But if they comply with what is stipulated in the legislation, this new productive or services structure opens the doors to a very different way of understanding and managing the Cuban economy. The cooperatives are born with a juridical character and this puts them at the same level of conditions as an enterprise, but with a substantial advantage over other economic entities. Though they have to respect the country’s legislations for each activity, these cooperatives are not subordinated administratively to any state or government agency – in line with the principle of decentralisation collected in the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines.

Their topmost leadership body is the General Assembly, in which each partner has a vote.

This freedom to operate even extends to the prices, which will be adjusted by the cooperatives according to supply and demand. The first signs of the hike have already awoken unease among the population, according to statements collected by Cuban television’s newscasts.

Murillo clarified that only some prices will be regulated by the State: in the agricultural markets, rice, potatoes and peas, three basic foodstuffs in the Cuban diet. The authorities will also control the prices for the products of cafeterias supplied by state-run enterprises – for example, cigarettes – and in the transport of passengers.

Judging by the steps it has been taking, the government is showing much more interest in the expansion of this non-state management alternative. According to statements by a few officials, the government could even be more attracted to this than the non-state model of self-employment that was first authorised. Compared to self-employment – which also serves as an umbrella for the hiring in private microenterprises -, the legislation allows the formation of cooperatives in professional activities, despite the fact that for the time being it is only betting on a very limited number: translation, computer science and accounting.

Even so, the government is moving with the cautiousness shown in this process of changes: the first non-agricultural cooperatives are only operating in an experimental way in three provinces: Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque. But judging by the enormous interest with which they are expected in other provinces, this alternative could soon get the green light in the rest of the national territory and in other activities. (2013)

Normas para comentar:

  • Los comentarios deben estar relacionados con el tema propuesto en el artículo.
  • Los comentarios deben basarse en el respeto a los criterios.
  • No se admitirán ofensas, frases vulgares ni palabras obscenas.
  • Nos reservamos el derecho de no publicar los comentarios que incumplan con las normas de este sitio.