Cuba to privatize 8,984 restaurants in economic reform


Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - Page 13

The Cuban government announced plans on Friday to sell 8,984 state-owned restaurants to private operators, the latest step in the communist island’s economic reforms.

Cubans frequently complain about the restaurants, which are famous for poor quality, bad service and running out of food.

Cuban Deputy Minister of Trade Aida Chavez said the state would sell them off in a gradual process starting next year.

Chavez said the government would rent the buildings where the restaurants are to the new owners, but sell off all other assets.

Cuba currently has 1,261 private restaurants that offer better-quality food and service at a higher price than state establishments.

Known as paladares, they were first authorized by former Cuban president Fidel Castro in the 1990s.

Initially, Castro only allowed family-run restaurants with a maximum of 12 seats, but today they can seat up to 50 guests and hire staff.

That has been a key development for the country’s tourism industry, which draws nearly 3 million foreigners to the island each year.

Cuba has begun gradually opening its economy since Castro, the 88-year-old father of the island’s communist revolution, ceded power to his younger brother Raul in 2006.

The reforms have so far failed to deliver the hoped-for boost to economic growth.