Licensing rules impede small businesses, opposition says

Changes to Cayman’s Trade and Business Licensing regime approved during this week’s Legislative Assembly meeting should cut “50 percent of the red tape” now troubling local business owners, Commerce Minister Joey Hew said.

Amendments to the legislation that governs local business operations have eliminated the need for Caymanian entrepreneurs to submit things like proof of electric bills and/or police clearances before obtaining a license in most cases.

The changes have also lifted requirements for first-time business applicants to show proof of employee pension and healthcare payments.

However, opposition lawmakers said they were not convinced of the minister’s “red tape” cutting claims.

“I’m glad the government has seen the error of its ways,” East End MLA Arden McLean said, but he said the administration needed to do more to reduce impediments to Caymanian business ownership.

Both Mr. McLean and Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller complained of requirements, still within the legislation, for business owners renewing their licenses to show proof they are up-to-date on employee pension and healthcare payments.

“We already have legislation and boards and bodies who have the responsibility to regulate those [areas],” Mr. Miller said. “Are we conceding they’re not doing their job?”

“We use the Trade and Business License to do the job that should’ve been done six months ago?” Mr. McLean said. “What’s the purpose of the insurance or pensions department?”

George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan advocated for different licensing requirements for local “mom and pop” bake shops in his district that he said did not have the ability or the desire to compete with “industrial” kitchens and were only looking to make “a few hundred dollars on the weekends.”

“[The Trade and Business Licensing Law] has created much difficulty for them to comply,” Mr. Bryan said.

Mr. Miller said he would prefer that government look at overall fair trade and anti-competitive business practices rather than tinkering with the licensing law to address the “non-competitive nature of the conglomerate being created by super-wealthy people controlling large sectors” of the Cayman economy.

Minister Hew said he had spoken with many small businesses about the onerous requirements contained in the 2014 iteration of the law and many of the changes made in the current legislation were as a result of those concerns.

He said the government did not intend to address the wider issues of fair trade practices in this particular legislation, but that it may attempt to consider it later.

“I obviously brought one bill, and everyone else is talking about another,” Mr. Hew said.