The Journal sits down with members of one of Cayman’s key boards as far as business is concerned: the Trade and Business Licensing Board, responsible for authorizing business to be conducted in the islands.
Cayman’s Trade and Business Licensing Board is implementing a series of changes to improve efficiencies. Coupled with efforts of the Department of Commerce and Investment, the board is instructing the drafting of a new Trade and Business Licensing Law that is intended to change the way businesses operate and create a far more streamlined, user-friendly system that’s particularly sensitive to the needs of small business owners.
Getting tough on rule breakers
Unless exempt under law, no business can operate in Cayman without a Trade and Business License, for which there is an annual fee. The draft law would give the board greater powers when it comes to enforcing the law against individuals who continue to operate without a valid license, including individuals who set up operations periodically on the side of the road or at the beach. Under the new law, a ticketing system also may be introduced that would result in on-the-spot fines and appearances before a magistrate for habitual offenders.
There have also been updates to DCI’s website, including a list of all valid trade and business licenses, LCCL (Local Companies [Control] License), and liquor license holders, and the expiry date of their licenses. Soon the list will also include tobacco license holders. There are no immediate penalties for expired licenses, which the board hopes will change under the new law. They also hope the law will allow them to levy administrative fines for licenses that have been expired for more than 28 days. The current system only allows for prosecution under summary conviction.
DCI’s recently appointed enforcement officer and the officer from the recently transferred Liquor Licensing Unit are investigating problems such as expired licenses and businesses operating without a license, but they still lack the ability to make arrests. The enforcement arm of the Immigration Department is required to enter premises and make arrests.
Under the new law, it is proposed that the board will have greater enforcement abilities. DCI’s trade officers would have the ability to issue tickets similar to traffic tickets, and to enter premises.
While the board supports the intention to put in place a more robust system when it comes to enforcement, the members are also quick to point out that the new law would better support the board in its pro-business approach and, in particular, its pro-Caymanian business approach.
Deputy Chairman Lynn Bodden says: “It should be stated that we are not trying to discourage business. The board, through DCI’s small business advisers, is available to work with individuals such as vendors who don’t have a license and help them to complete the necessary application process. We are very much here to help encourage growth and employment.”
Bodden adds that the board is extremely serious about protecting the rights of Caymanians when it comes to granting LCCLs. If a business is less than 60 percent Caymanian owned and controlled, it will need an LCCL issued under the Local Companies (Control) Law. This means that the board must look closely at each application so as not to allow foreign-owned businesses to operate in Cayman that may be in direct competition with Caymanian-owned businesses.
“We ensure that Caymanians’ interests are protected before we grant any LCCLs,” Bodden confirms.
At the time of this writing, DCI has started a thorough examination of the law as it relates to the LCCL, in the same way it has done with the Trade and Business Licensing Law, according to department director, Ryan Rajkumarsingh.
Helping small business owners
Small businesses have long sought a fairer system when it comes to licensing, pointing out that they have to pay equal fees to license their businesses as do large organizations with multimillion-dollar turnovers.
“The [Trade and Business Licensing] board has long been an advocate for small businesses, and we have pushed to review the law specifically as it relates to them,” says Garth Arch, board chairman.
The DCI began by working on a definition of what constitutes a small business, the first hurdle to surmount before any concessions can be given.
“The criteria for defining a small business involves the number of employees who have been in employment for a period of at least six months, as well as the turnover of the business,” says Rajkumarsingh. “In this way we can define what is really a ‘small’ business.”
The Trade and Business Licensing Law is scheduled for completion by the government’s legal drafters in the first half of this year, and it is anticipated the law will become operational by the end of the year.