Capitalist storm clouds loom over Havana after state cuts 1m jobs
Cuban workers told to become entrepreneurs in bid to boost island’s private sector.
Tuesday 14 September
It was supposed to be the start of a brave new world in which the customer was king. But the teenage boy in the barber’s chair stared at his reflection, aghast and almost crying. “What have you done?” he asked, caressing uneven clumps on a shorn scalp.
The barber, a fortysomething man with a grubby white coat, put down the scissors, lit a cigarette, and shrugged. “Looks OK to me. Don’t know what you’re on about.”
The young customer examined his head from different angles, each worse than the last. “It’s like …” – he struggled for words – “a tennis ball. A bald bloody tennis ball.” The barber took another drag and put out his hand. “Forty pesos. Have a nice day.”
The scene on Neptuno street, a crumbling, sun-bleached quarter near downtown Havana, was a taste of Cuba’s challenge in transforming its socialist economy with a sweeping privatisation drive.