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More than one million Cubans, representing thirty percent of the country’s labor force, currently make up the nonstate sector. These include self-employed workers and micro-entrepreneurs, sharecropping farmers, members of new cooperatives, and buyers and sellers of private dwellings. This development represents a crucial structural reform implemented by Raúl Castro since becoming Cuba’s leader in 2006, and may become the most dynamic economic force for the country’s future. Despite this phenomenon, little has been published about the demographic makeup of this group (age, gender, race, and education), as well as their economic conditions and aspirations.
Based on eighty in-depth interviews recently conducted in Cuba, this book captures actual voices from this evolving economic sector. It details workers’ level of satisfaction with what they do and earn, profits (and how they are allocated between consumption and investment), plans to expand their activities, receiving foreign remittances and microcredit, competition, forms of advertising, and payment of taxes. Perhaps most revealing are the speakers’ views on the obstacles they face and their desires for change and improvement. As such, the book offers fascinating insights into today’s Cuban economy from the nonstate sector, while also reflecting on its potential for development and the obstacles it faces.
About the Author
Carmelo Mesa-Lago is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He wrote, coordinated, and revised the translation of this book.
Roberto Veiga González and Lenier Gonzlález Mederos, director and assistant director of the think tank Cuba Possible, conducted the interviews in Cuba.
Sofía Vera Rojas, PhD candidate in political science at the University of Pittsburgh, processed and tabulated the interviews under the supervision of Aníbal Pérez-Linán, professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh.
“The most comprehensive and well thought-out account of Cuba’s new private sector. This book presents a wealth of information that had never before been compiled so systematically.”
—Jorge I. Domínguez, Harvard University
“One of the most significant contributions to the economic and social history of Cuba.”
—Consuelo Naranjo Orovio, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
“A unique treasure. A triumph of scholarship in a country where fieldwork is notoriously difficult to carry out.”
—Mitchell A. Seligson, Vanderbilt University
"For its scholarly rigor, immense readability and policy-making applications, this is a pioneering volume. It takes a ‘ground-up’ approach relying on interviews with Cubans that speak for themselves."
—Lillian Guerra,Waldo Neikirk Professor of Cuban and Caribbean History, University of Florida
"This book should be read carefully because is of great utility for those interested in Cuba’s non-state sector… required reading for our society, and hopefully motivates researchers to engage in similar projects."
—Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, former drector, Center for the Study of Cuban Economy, University of Havana
“A model of innovative academic collaboration between US and Cuban-based scholars, this book is both quantitatively rigorous and qualitatively path breaking. An essential, timely resource for Cuban policymakers and all those interested in Cuba"
—Archibald Ritter, Carleton University and Ted Henken, Baruch College
"The most authoritative, complete, and fact-based analysis of Cuba's nascent private sector. Required reading for those interested in the progress and challenges of Cuba's reform process."
—Jorge Pérez-López, former Economist, U.S. Department of Labor
"A pioneering book… supported by excellent field work and reliable statistics and information. A key reference to understanding the future of Cuba and the evolution of its reforms."
—Carlos Malamud, Royal Institute Elcano of International Studies, Madrid