The times they are a changing in Cuba with President Raul Castro announcing he will stand down in five years time after having very slowly brought in some reforms in the communist country over the last five years, including expanding private enterprise.
One who has taken advantage of that is William Arias, formerly a waiter in a state-owned restaurant, now running his own place.
Arias has ambition saying: “I hope the restaurant business does well, gradually expanding into a chain of restaurants. I hope to open outlets in other countries, maybe even Bejing, in five years. Though it is not allowed to open a chain of businesses in Cuba right now, I’m very confident about the future.”
It is a long way from real capitalism, but Arias – who gave up his ‘secure’ state job after 21 years – said he was grateful for the economic changes that let him realise one of his dreams by opening the restaurant with a group of friends.
Since 2010 Raul Castro has encouraged small businesses and cooperatives in retail services, farming, minor manufacturing and retail, and given more autonomy to the state companies which still dominate Cuba’s economy. The party plan also includes opening up the country to more foreign investment.