Havana – The proliferation of newly legal small businesses almost everywhere has led Cuban authorities to launch a widespread campaign regarding specifically which public spaces may be used to set up such businesses with an eye toward maintaining order and "good taste."
The Physical Planning Institute, or IPF, has printed thousands of brochures and posters to inform new entrepreneurs and prevent the unregulated construction of shops and stalls, counters and other things that damage the "image of the environment," government media reported Tuesday.
Many Cubans, as Communist Party daily Granma acknowledged, are not aware of the urban regulations for establishing a business, and they don't know where to get advice.
After the expansion of the private sector last year, a part of the newly self-employed began building counters, walls, benches and other things outside their homes or apartment buildings so that they could set up businesses such as coffee shops or small stores.
The phenomenon has changed the face of Havana, with some streets becoming transformed into little markets where consumers can purchase clothing, pirated CDs and DVDs, household items or objects with which to practice Santeria.
IPF president Graciel Rodriguez told Granma that any modification or expansion of outside areas for commercial ends requires authorization.
In addition, there exists a policy of "no ... large-scale use of kiosks," but rather grouping them in "concentrated" areas, he said.
Many of these areas are at urban sites where entrepreneurs pay a daily tax to occupy one of the spaces, Oscar - a Havana resident who repairs shoes and pays 20 pesos (about 80 cents) per day for his spot - told Efe on Tuesday.
Currently, Cuban authorities are also studying building bazaars in the idle spaces that exist in various cities.
In fact, there are already old business districts, like Havana's Fin de Siglo, where for years vendors have been allowed to set up their shops and which with the broadening of self-employment have decided to devote more space to that.
Through May, some 309,728 people were performing private labor in Cuba, and of those 221,839, or 71 percent, had obtained their business license since last October, when the government of Raul Castro expanded the scope of small business as part of its economic reforms.
According to government figures, the majority of the new authorizations have been for establishments engaged in the "preparation and sale of food" ranging from restaurants to small coffee shops or stands where one can buy food on the street.