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Government to clamp down on rogue business

| 10/12/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): As a result of what the minister said were deficiencies in the Trade and Business Licensing Law, government has moved to tighten up the rules and create a fairer environment for local business with a new law. The new Trade and Business Licensing Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly last month without the support of the opposition benches after the leader of the opposition said it increased bureaucracy and would stifle the entrepreneurial spirit.

Wayne Panton, the minister responsible for local commerce, said the goal was to increase efficiency and introduce a level playing field where rogue businesses would not be granted licences if they were not following the law.

“For some time, perhaps as far back as the late 1990s, we have had successive TBL boards and review committees that have pointed to deficiencies in the Trade and Business Licensing law and suggested ways to address these. But apart from minor changes to fee schedules, there has been no action to address these concerns,” he said.

Panton added that the new legislation would go a long way to modernize and improve the regulation of local trade. He said a number of stakeholders were consulted and the review committee included representation from the current board, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Bar Association

The main issues that have been addressed are improvements to the governance structure and processes, and the ability of the board to delegate certain functions to the commerce department.

The minster pointed to a focus on supporting Caymanian business owners and creating a local level playing field. A ticketing system for offences would enhance enforcement to deal with infractions, he added. Panton said the law would define what actually constitutes the categories of micro and small business to allow government to create incentives.

The minister said the goal was to make it easier for new businesses to be licensed and for bad employers not to be. He said the new bill would create a business environment where there are clear rules to follow and swift action for breaches. This was, he said, about fairness across the business community and promoting proper competition.

He pointed out that with many business not paying health insurance, pensions or complying with other labour laws, it was unfair to those that were. As a result, inspectors would be given powers to enforce the law and the board would be given the power to refuse renewals or new licences to uncompliant applicants. To make sure business owners were compliant there would be more interaction with the government departments relating to labour issues, he explained.

“The end result, it is anticipated, is an improved framework for local businesses and that should help the economy,” Panton stated. “We can’t have job creation without successful businesses operating in a fair manner.”

Despite claims by the minister that it would improve efficiency, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush disagreed and said that every time legislators tried to do something it help, things were “smothered with processes that kill the aims and objectives of what we really need to address”.

Widely known to be outspoken against bureaucracy, red tape and following process, Bush said he believed that processes were weighing too heavily on the people.

“In today’s Cayman if you don’t get a lawyer, you won’t be able to do anything,” he added, as he lamented the amount of forms people need to fill in and the mounting threats in laws to lock people up if they don’t get it right.

Warning that many small business owners or people trying to start a little business may not be college educated, he said they could not always understand what was required of them as the bureaucracy increased.

“It crushes the entrepreneurial spirit,” Bush said. “I feel bureaucracy is killing this country.” He asked why government could not achieve its aims through simpler means, as the new law would put additional burdens on anyone applying for a licence and make it harder and more expensive.

The opposition leader also complained about the powers that would be given to the board and inspectors to seize people’s business records, especially in the current “frame of mind that exists, where everyone is complaining about somebody”, as he described the powers as “draconian”.

Panton took on board Bush’s complaints about bureaucracy but said he did not believe the new law introduced any more red tape or regulation than was necessary to properly regulate business environment.

“We want an environment that facilitates business but protects business owners,” he said.  The minister defended the legislation and said it would allow the board to function more efficiently.

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Category: Government, Local Business, Small Business

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