Beautiful Virgin Islands

Monday, Aug 15, 2022

Trade Commission to be a ‘one-stop shop’ business operators

Trade Commission to be a ‘one-stop shop’ business operators

The new Business License Act that passed in the House of Assembly days ago is expected to make the Trade Commission a ‘one-stop shop’ for people who wish to operate a business in the territory.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Natalio Wheatley highlighted how businesses have a difficult time getting their relevant documents to obtain their trade licenses.

He said the Act seeks to remedy the situation.

“Businesses have such a difficult time sometimes getting a Good Standing Certificate from different agencies. Of course, Inland Revenue, Social Security, NHI and so forth. Sometimes they have a difficult time getting work permits approved and things like that. You want to truly be able to provide a one-stop-shop where you can go to one agency and this particular agency,” the Premier said.

“The Trade Commission will be in communication with the Labour Department, Immigration Department and all these other agencies. Of course, they will do their internal processes as opposed to sending the business owners here there and everywhere. We hope that things will be more efficient. That is our hope that persons will be able to get their licenses more quickly,” Dr Wheatley added.

Policy Analyst and Strategic Adviser in the Office of the Premier, Lizette George said the main purpose of reviewing the existing Business Professions and Trade Licence Act was to streamline the system of licensing with clear standards and requirements to reduce the lengthy timeframe for obtaining a licence.

“One of the aims to achieving this was to facilitate interdepartmental communication among government agencies in terms of creating synergy, as well as to provide central services through a one-stop-shop approach to providing services to the business community,” George said.

“Also taken into consideration was the need to create a more relaxed environment to enable Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to develop, grow and thrive within the economy, as more support structures will be put in place to ensure their development and survival,” the strategic adviser added.

Meanwhile, Dr Wheatley said his government hopes the approval process for trade licenses will be more straightforward. He admitted that a framework currently does not exist.

“A lot of things have been left up to the discretion of various persons including the Director of Trade and the Minister for Trade etcetera. We want to take away some of that uncertainty and some of that level of discretion,” the Premier said.

Of course, we can’t remove discretion altogether but once you satisfy all the criteria, we want to approve that license. Of course, we have provisions for quotas and things like that in the issuance of licenses if we believe an area is oversaturated and hurting the business environment,” he added.

The Finance Minister noted he wants people to get their trade license as quickly as possible to operate in the territory once they meet the criteria. However, he noted if there is a good reason to deny the license then the reason should be made clear to the applicant.

“If there is a good reason to deny it, the person knows exactly why it was denied and those are the type of things we want to bring to the business environments as soon as the trade commission is functioning. We just must ensure the board is up and running and then we can get the trade commission moving,” Dr Wheatley said.

Currently, the Minister of Trade (the Premier) is responsible for issuing trade licenses, particularly for non-Belongers. Other licenses can be signed off by the Director of Trade. However, under the Trade Commission, the Trade Commissioner would have the responsibility.

“The Trade Commissioner will have ultimate responsibilities for most trade licenses but for more complex matters; maybe a major investment that is coming in That will be handled by the Trade Commission Board,” Dr Wheatley stated.
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