Cuban Import Restrictions Highlight Dilemma of Economic Reform

Cuban Import Restrictions Highlight Dilemma of Economic Reform
People put their luggage in a private taxi as they arrive from the U.S. to the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

Last week, Cuba announced significant restrictions on the number of goods travelers can bring into the country. In an email interview, William LeoGrande, professor of government in the School of Public Affairs at American University, discussed the recent Cuban import restrictions.

WPR: What is the motivation behind Cuba's recent implementation of import restrictions?

William LeoGrande: Cuba's new import regulations limiting the goods that travelers can bring into the country in their luggage are aimed at preventing what used to be imports for private consumption—gifts for family and friends—from becoming imports for commercial businesses. In the past two years, the rapid growth of legal self-employment and small business in Cuba has created substantial demand for all kinds of equipment, much of which is hard to obtain in Cuba. Cuban-American travelers from the United States have recently started to bring large quantities of such equipment into the country under the guise of it being for non-commercial use.

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