Opening Statement by
Lizette O. George
Policy Analyst/Strategic Adviser, Office of the Premier
Premier’s Press Conference - Update on Current Matters
Business Licencing Act 2022
24 June, 2022
Good morning to the viewing and listening audience and the members of the media.
Thank you Honourable Premier.
As the Virgin Islands economy has grown over the years, and as we seek to enable new business, attract new investment to the Virgin Islands and diversification of the economy, a comprehensive review of the legislative framework governing these areas – directly and indirectly – was necessary.
This exercise was much wider than just looking at reported and detected problems from the customer and business operator point of view. While one objective was to remove the barriers to the ease of doing business, we also needed to be forward looking – in terms of what was on the horizon and also in terms of where we want to take the Virgin Islands.
And therefore, in order to be comprehensive in this task, we recognized that we needed to develop a National Trade Policy that would help to guide the reform and modernization of our systems and support trade and economic development.
The Business Licensing Act 2022, is part of a suite of legislation under the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands, which sets the legislative framework for trade and economic development.
The Trade Policy was developed in partnership with public and private sector stakeholders, including, BVICCHA, BVI Bar Association, BVI Banking Association, BVI Yacht Society, FSC, Trade Department, HLSCC, among others, who formed the Trade Policy Review Committee.
The Trade Policy Review Committee was established in January 2017 and operated for a period of 5 to 6 months, during which it conducted the necessary research and analysis of best practices, by reviewing the current legislative framework for business and trade, and making recommendations to the Government on the most appropriate model framework that would seek to increase the level of economic activities, while establishing trust between the business sector and the consumers.
The process, although quite long, was clearly laid out in the Committee work plan.
Three working groups were created from among the members of the Committee, with specific focus on each of the areas of Trade & Business, Investment and Consumer Affairs. Each of the working groups was responsible for making policy recommendations, which subsequently formed the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands, and was further considered and approved by Cabinet in July 2018.
Upon approval of the Trade Policy, subsequent policies and legislation, including those for licensing of Businesses, investment, and consumer protection, were drafted and considered.
Upon consideration by Cabinet, as series of stakeholder consultations were held, for the various policies and legislation, to ensure valuable input was received from the private sector.
I would like to this opportunity to acknowledge the various business organisations, including BVICCHA, Tortola Pier Park Businesses, BVI Finance, TRC, among others, that were instrumental in reviewing the appropriate policies and legislations, and for facilitating stakeholder meetings for their specific sectors of businesses during the entire month of March 2021.
From the various consultations, we were able to make the necessary amendments to ensure that the various instruments meet the needs of the private business sector and the economy on a whole.
The Business Licensing Act, as it is so drafted, took into consideration the current environment within the Virgin Islands, as well as well as the trends towards development for the future.
In review of the existing Business Professions & Trade Licence Act, we identified the gaps, and addressed the needs for growth, as well as considered best practices of other similar economies, including Cayman, TCI, Bermuda, among others, and tailored it to suit the economic needs of the Virgin Islands.
The main purpose of this exercise was to streamline the system of licencing with clear standards and requirements, in order to reduce the lengthy timeframe for obtaining a licence.
Consideration was also given to the total cost of doing business in the Territory, including licences & permits, NHI, Social Security and applied taxes as compared to other similar jurisdictions.
One of the aims to achieving this was to facilitate interdepartmental communication among government agencies in terms of creating synergy, as well as to provide central services through a one-stop-shop approach to providing services to the business community.
Also taken into consideration was the need to create a more relaxed environment to enable Micro Small and Medium Enterprises to develop, grow and thrive within the economy, as more support structures will be put in place to ensure their development and survival.
In providing a clearer understanding of its purpose in ensuring the ease of doing business here in the VI;
The Act seeks to repeal and replace the existing Business Profession & Trade Licence Act. CAP 200, 1989, for Licensing and regulating ALL economic activities and applies associated fees for such types of activities.
The International Standard Industrial Classification was utilized to ensure efficiency in the classification of licensed activities. It provides detailed description of such activities to ensure that licenses are placed within the appropriate economic division. This will also ensure efficient data collection and analytics for evidenced based decision-making.
Additionally, through the use of these classifications, the Act seeks to establish appropriate standards for obtaining a licence in various sectors, which will ensure more effective operational guidelines for businesses
Finally, the Act clearly outlines the requirements and licensing procedures, as well as the criteria for consideration, which eliminates all elements of doubt in the granting of licenses.
Our vision is that through the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands and its constituent parts such as the Business Licensing Act and the other legislation and policies, we will create the business environment that serves and balances the needs and interests of all our stakeholders – from the business owners and operators, to the Government and to the consumers of the goods and services provided by the businesses operating in our economy.
Entrepreneurs and business owners have an expectation of fast and efficient service when it comes to dealing with registration and regulation. They need to have confidence in the system – and we need for them to see that they are being treated with fairly and in a transparent manner.
The Business Licensing Act and suite of legislation and policies under the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands will help us to achieve this and encourage trade and economic development, because it will create greater ease in doing business in the Virgin Islands.
I thank you.