With business owners expressing concerns about the new trade license prices proposed in the Business License Act (2022), Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Natalio Wheatley said the bill will not come into effect until 2024 which gives the government ample time to assess the territory’s economic environment.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, the Premier said he understood that if the policy was implemented at this moment, it would be difficult for businesses in the territory.
“So, the good thing is it won’t come into force until 2024 and that will give us the time necessary to survey the economic environment. We hope that the war comes to an end because war is not the answer. It just causes lots of challenges for the world. Of course, we hope that we are able to provide the services through the Trade Commission and that would justify the increase in the value of the trade license,” Dr Wheatley said.
“We have time to be able to survey that through 2024 and if we look at the situation and we decide for instance that we can’t raise the fees right away then we may be able to graduate it. Have a gradual increase over a number of years. I sympathize with the businesses, and I understand how difficult it is to do business in the BVI right now. There are some measures that we want to take that will help businesses and help consumers,” the Finance Minister added.
However, the Premier sought to remind people that for the government to develop road infrastructure, build schools and facilitate health programmes, there needs to be revenue generation.
“Having fees from 1989 is not sustainable for the government. But we understand the concerns and we are sympathetic to those concerns, and we would like to see what we can do to help alleviate some of those concerns for every single sector. More will be demanded of us as we go through this very difficult period of our history,” Dr Wheatley said.
Meanwhile, the Premier acknowledged that business has been an integral part of the territory’s economy and policies need to be conducive to the need of doing business in the Virgin Islands
“This includes having clear policies in registering and regulating businesses. Over the year, persons doing business and attempting to do business in the Virgin Islands
have complained that the registration process has been long, cumbersome, confusing, and discouraging. We have all heard stories of businesses taking years to get their trade license approved. This is really not acceptable,” Dr Wheatley said.
“This leads to the perception that the process is not fair and transparent. We cannot have persons feeling that they are being given some arbitrary run-around, especially when this may be inconsistent with the laws and policies in place. This is not good for our reputation, and it is not healthy for business. We must change this to inspire confidence in the system and ensure we have an environment that is friendly and welcomed to businesses and investments,” the Finance Minister said.