Ryan Rajkumarsingh is the newly appointed director of the government’s Department of Commerce and Investment. Here he talks with the Journal about how the DCI facilitates business for Cayman and he speaks about his hopes for the development of the department under his directorship.
Before his transition to the DCI, Ryan Rajkurmarsingh, a qualified accountant and certified fraud examiner, was the finance manager with H.M. Customs, and a senior internal auditor with the Internal Audit Unit with the Cayman Islands government. Prior to that, he was employed as a senior audit analyst and a senior accountant in the oil and gas, stockbroking and insurance industries in Trinidad.
“While in Trinidad, I also had a small part-time accounting practice that specialized in tax work,” he says. “In that capacity, my responsibilities partly involved advising small business clients on growth strategies and financing options for their business.”
Now he oversees a government department that has a broad mandate, providing business advisory services to its clients and arranging training workshops for small business owners and budding entrepreneurs. In addition, the department coordinates all trade and business, liquor and tobacco licensing functions on behalf of the government and monitors compliance in those areas. The department also manages the administrative functions of the Special Economic Zone Authority, through the Special Economic Zone Secretariat.
Facilitating business development
As a general overview, Rajkurmasingh explains that the DCI helps business development by providing advice and technical assistance to businesses that create employment and generate income and competitiveness in the local economy.
“With input from relevant stakeholders, the department also routinely reviews the laws that impact commerce to ensure that the right framework is in place to support fair and responsible business practices,” he says. “For example, after a series of consultations, DCI has made recommendations for enhancements to both the Trade and Business and Liquor licensing laws.”
A simple and hassle-free business registration process also furthers development, he says, as clients and the government alike benefit from straightforward and consistent processes that save time, reduce resource requirements, and lower administrative costs.
“In the past three years, TBL has implemented several process improvements that have resulted in faster turnaround times for licenses, easier access to data and ultimately, improvements in customer service. For example, the turnaround time for processing and issuing a trade and business license has been reduced from three months, to two to three weeks,” he says. “Since acquiring liquor and tobacco licensing functions in July 2013, we also have begun the process of streamlining operations in those areas.”
Future growth and development
Rajkurmasingh says he anticipates the DCI will continue to build on its capabilities as a driver of commerce and investment, to be achieved in a number of ways.
“I want us to work closely with our key stakeholders to get a better understanding of the needs of the local small business sector, and using those insights to create a strategic plan for future growth and development,” he says.
Other areas of focus include ensuring that all laws relevant to commerce and investment are conducive to fair and responsible business practices. Moving toward more online services such as 24-hour access to filing applications and online payment is another important concern for him.
“International research shows that 45 percent of online access to government websites occurs outside normal office hours,” he ventures.
Rajkurmasingh wants to see Cayman benchmark itself against other jurisdictions and learn from best practice. He also wants to see the department sharing more data on its website.
“For example, continuing to post valid trade and business licenses as we started in October, and eventually posting lists of liquor licenses and tobacco permits. We also intend to upload minutes of board meetings and lists of expired licenses in the near future,” he adds.
Rajkurmasingh says the department has begun to have discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association to gain further insight into the needs of small and micro businesses. Another objective of the meetings is to determine if there are potential avenues for closer collaboration on projects or initiatives that will contribute to economic growth.
The DCI also plans to continue to work with other government departments, such as Immigration, and the Departments of Tourism, Environmental Health, and Planning, to improve the services they offer, he says.
As far as the long-term is concerned, he would like the DCI to establish an avenue for consumers and business owners to voice their concerns when misleading, deceptive and unfair practices take place.
“Coupled with that, we would need to set up the legal framework and authority to take appropriate action when infractions occur,” he says.
Other goals include the creation of a small business incubator program, and the re-launch of a more user-friendly and interactive website.
Meanwhile, Cayman has welcomed initiatives that are diversifying its economic base, Rajkurmasingh says. These initiatives are well known: Health City Cayman Islands, Cayman Enterprise City, the ForCayman Investment Alliance and potentially a new port.
“We also are building market and competitor intelligence through benchmarking, and other research methods. Attracting new business alone will not be enough, however. We also will need to develop business after care strategies that ensure the retention of existing investors – both local and foreign,” he says.