Remember when you bought that first thing – a car, maybe – with your own first income? Remember the feeling of pride it gave you? You’d scrubbed pots and pans in the diner kitchen all summer. Or maybe you were the “go-to” babysitter for everyone in your church. You earned that money, and you bought yourself something.
Now imagine living in a world where that could never happen. You are told by the government that they will care for your every need, no need to pay for anything. Everyone will get the same things, and all will be well. We call this place “Cuba,” and that system has not worked. (See also, Soviet Russia, Bay-area communes and Shakers.)
With the U.S. sanctions against the island nations now lifted, Cuba is beginning to see economic life again. The Communist government also recently changed laws about self-employment.
Joan Perez-Garcia has always had a job – the government guaranteed him one – but he’s never made much money. That is changing.
Perez-Garcia switched to a private job of fixing cellphones, TVs and computers.
He won’t say how much he makes now, but he smiles and says, “a lot more.”
“I’ve never been able to buy my own car or even a motorcycle to get around. Now I might be able to,” said Perez-Garcia, 30. “There’s nothing better than having something of your own.”
For Maria Perez, a restaurant owner, economic changes in Cuba mean that she now doesn’t have to use guess work to figure out her menu. She no longer has to rely strictly on government-run suppliers for food. Food trucks are now becoming a staple in Cuban cities; it’s a popular small business for fledgling entrepreneurs.
Cuba is still far from a free-market society. You can sell something you’ve made, or receive payment for a service. You cannot buy something and then sell it for a profit, however. The government still does not formally recognize small business owners, either. A business or company that is not government-owned still cannot import or export, severely limiting their markets. However, many Cubans remain optimistic that their economic lives are now more and more in their own hands.