More than five years after government vowed to crack down on unlicensed beach vendors, the Public Lands Commission is, literally, rearranging deck chairs rather than resolving underlying issues relating to these sorts of enterprises.
This week, the Central Planning Authority approved plans to upgrade amenities at Public Beach – a good thing. The new plans call for volleyball and soccer courts, huts for beach vendors and designated spots for food trucks. Officials say they hope the new infrastructure will help control commercial activity on the beach.
For years, residents and tourists have complained about the “carnival-type” atmosphere that reigns on Public Beach – with vendors hawking everything from beach chairs to umbrellas, Jet Skis to banana boats, as well as food and drink (and some say “smoke”).
Additionally, complaints have been lodged about particular vendors commandeering public cabanas, behaving rudely, and being deceptive and aggressive to reluctant potential customers. In the meantime, officials’ threats, pledges and promises to remedy the situation have grown steadily weaker.
At first, officials said vendors without valid trade and business licenses would be faced with fines and prison time. Then, they said vendors would be provided with training and licensing. Now, they are about to build them huts.
Confronted with a simple issue, rather than taking direct action – enforcing existing laws – officials and politicians have adopted the most circuitous course imaginable, and, in the process, managed to create yet another politically appointed body.
When the Legislative Assembly passed the Public Lands Law last spring, it established the Public Lands Commission specifically to license and regulate beach vendors. At the time, then-Minister Kurt Tibbetts provided assurances the commission would oversee an inspection unit which would be responsible for regulating commercial activity in Cayman’s public areas and policing vendors who use Public Beach.
Well … what’s happened since then, aside from the continuing expansion of vendor activity on Public Beach? Have inspectors been hired? Are they inspecting? Have guidelines been established? Has customer service and first aid training been conducted? Have licenses been issued? Etc., etc.
In this scenario, the beach vendors, from our perspective, aren’t “bad guys.” They might even be thought of as ambitious entrepreneurs trying to make a living by catering to palpable demand in the market.
The constantly shifting sands of government’s remonstrations and regulations must be as frustrating for vendors as it is for beachgoers, nearby residents and, frankly, common sense thinkers.
Here are some straightforward questions that government needs to address:
- Are beach vendors required to obtain a trade and business license, in addition to whatever license the Public Lands Commission may issue?
- Are vendors required to provide health insurance and pensions benefits, even if they are operating as “sole proprietorships?”
- If not, what steps have been taken to exempt them legally from these requirements?
- If vendors are to be exempted from these requirements, will those “carve-outs” also be applied to other businesses, be they large, small or “micro”? And, if so, on what basis?
- If certain businesses are exempt from providing health insurance, will the responsibility fall to CINICO (i.e., the public purse)?