Bush bashes 'draconian' legislation

Trade and business, secondhand dealers bills pass

Two long-debated bills aimed at regulating local pawn shops and improving business licensing processes are “draconian” pieces of legislation that will discourage Caymanian entrepreneurs, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Thursday. 

Both laws, which were approved by a majority of Legislative Assembly members, have been under consideration in one form or another for years.  

“This … concern which [Mr. Bush] articulates of bureaucracy is one we are cognizant of,” Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton said. “We certainly do not wish to see any greater degree of bureaucracy introduced in this country than may be absolutely necessary.”  

The Trade and Business Licensing Bill largely seek to prevent the use of agreements or instruments to circumvent the statutes of the Local Companies (Control) Law which prescribe that locally operating businesses have to be at least 60 percent Caymanian owned, unless they are exempt.  

Companies already have to submit an annual return and a shareholder return to renew their business licenses as a matter of Trade and Business Licensing Board policy. Under the proposed law, applicants would also have to present a statement confirming that the effective control and benefit of the company is not in any way altered from the return of shareholdings.  

If the bill becomes law, licensees would have to obtain the written approval of the board before any increase or decrease in shareholdings or interests can take effect. This applies also to the sale, transfer or charge of a significant interest in a company, defined as 10 percent of voting rights, dividends or distributed surplus assets.  

Under the bill, which was gazetted on Oct. 31, the trade and business licensing process would become the enforcement mechanism for a range of other laws governing businesses.  

For instance, it is proposed that license renewal applicants be required to submit evidence that they are complying with pension and health insurance provisions, planning laws and, where necessary, that they have obtained the approval by relevant authorities to carry out their business in public places. In addition, applicants must submit evidence of Caymanian status, police clearance and a bank reference.  

Anyone who knowingly provides false or misleading information, if convicted, would be liable for a fine of $5,000, a one-year prison term, or both.  

“This little country of ours has adopted every conceivable process that weighs far too heavily on our people,” Mr. Bush said in his debate on the bill. “In today’s Cayman, if you don’t get a lawyer, you won’t be able to do anything. Far too much bureaucracy is killing this country. I just voted against [the Secondhand Dealers Bill] because we can get what we need without all of these things that people don’t understand themselves.” 

The Secondhand Dealers Bill makes it an offense for pawn shops that fail to alert police when they are offered suspected stolen goods for sale. Those responsible in such cases could face jail under the bill.  

The Secondhand Dealers Bill aims to restrict the ability of thieves to sell stolen property in the Cayman Islands. The bill was drafted amid growing public concern over a rise in break-ins and home invasions.  

No lawmakers debated the Secondhand Dealers Bill during Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative Assembly.  

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