The “black market” on which liquor licenses are bought and rented is one of the reasons Cabinet will consider lifting the current moratorium on new licenses, says Minster Wayne Panton.
In his 2014-2015 budget speech at the Legislative Assembly on Friday, the Minister of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment, addressed the controversial issue alongside Sunday trading and daylight savings.
Mr. Panton said the Liquor Licensing Review Committee had been reviewing the current Liquor Licensing Law and had recommended the existing moratorium be lifted.
“One of the reasons for that is, and a very significant reason for that, is the black market which essentially exists at this point in relation to these licensees, and I refer to it as a black market simply because that is how it is typically described in the business community, where licenses are being offered for sale at very substantial values, and in some cases, many cases, they are being essentially rented for significant sums of money as well,” Mr. Panton said.
“I think one of the issues there is that the government gets absolutely no benefit from this. It doesn’t limit the numbers of restaurants or bars that are serving the public because there are quite a number of these licenses out there.”
He said Cabinet would consider the recommendation in the coming month.
Mr. Panton also touched on the issue of daylight savings and said the Chamber of Commerce had advocated for its introduction for many years to bring the Cayman Islands on par with its competitors in the United States.
Also under discussion was the sensitive issue of Sunday trading.
“I think our determination has been that we will engage in a public consultation on this issue to essentially get the feedback of the public, of the country,” Mr. Panton said.
“It is clearly a sensitive issue and that has to be respected. Our traditional Christian values have to be respected, but equally there are a number of competing factors which suggest that it is something that we should consider and we should engage the public in discussion.”
In April, the Chamber of Commerce produced a draft letter that stated Sunday trading laws should be amended.
The letter suggested changes to the law would increase consumer choices while lowering prices, enhance economic opportunities and boost employment.
“We firmly believe that our proposed policy change would not pose any negative harm to our society or traditions,” the letter stated.
The Sunday Trading Law, 2003 revision, currently allows various businesses including bars, restaurants, gas stations and hair salons to open on Sundays. Mr. Panton also addressed the cost of living and the costs associated with businesses.
Small businesses account for more than 60 percent of the economy, so it was imperative to support them by decreasing the costs of operating a business, he said.
“These measures to relieve the cost of doing business allows businesses to lower the costs of their goods and services to be more competitive and therefore grow,” Mr. Panton said.
“Of course, lowering their costs to the public has the added benefit of lowering the cost of living generally. If they grow, that will at some point maximize the existing productivity of their employees and they have to create additional jobs and hire additional people.
“The combination of a growing economy, more jobs, higher levels of pay, plus reductions in the cost of living is a recipe for a strong economy, strong country and a stronger society.”
Environmental issues such as littering were also important, he said.
“It is a huge issue and one that impacts not only our quality of life but the quality of our tourism product as well. It is nothing short of disgusting … to see the numbers of beer bottles that are discarded along our road sides, aluminum cans, other trash, plastic bags; this is indicative to me of another problem in terms of the beer bottles, too much drinking and driving,” Mr. Panton said.
“I want to appeal to our citizens and residents to be more responsible, to have pride in themselves and their country and to show respect for both, through respecting the environment. “