By IAN FERGUSON
MOST economic textbooks tell us there are a number of different types of enterprise - sole proprietorships, partnerships, private and public liability companies, corporations and the Government.
That's right, the Government is named as a type of business. Most persons would agree that the Government has a necessary role in serving to advance the economy in any nation, community or industry. Others chide, however, that less governmental influence in the affairs of business is beneficial to the economy at large. Certainly, we have seen how government interference in the daily functioning of businesses has negatively impacted outcomes. Perhaps we have become so reliant on the Government, anticipating and expecting them to provide the 'bail out'.
Our conversation this week in the Chamber Voice dialogues the question of how involved the Government should be in the affairs of private business. To set the stage for this discussion, let us first clarify the critical role that the Government does play in regulating industry. We take this conversation further by evaluating the Government's ability and presence in performing these crucial tasks, as globally accepted. Let's review five of these roles:
i. The Government is responsible for granting permission for companies to exist within a specific locale. The registration of business must ensure that persons are equipped to lawfully and skillfully conduct business within the district, while monitoring the functioning of that enterprise in the business world. This includes ensuring that persons serving are legally permitted to work in the country.
Reflection: Has our government been effective in monitoring the business activities of both local and foreign-owned businesses, or have some been allowed to run amok? Has the Government ensured that Bahamians are equipped, and that businesses ensure qualified Bahamians assume senior leadership roles?
- The Government is responsible for protecting the customer or the consumer. If the product or service causes harm to an individual, or has been priced outside the fixed nominal rates, the Government reserves the right to intervene.
Reflection: Do you even know the course of action for compensation provided by the Government if you have been violated by a company? Certainl,y here are some opportunities for more effective communication, leading to greater accountability.
- The Government is responsible for ensuring the protection of employees in industry. The Government has seemingly neglected the responsibility of ensuring decent working arrangements and conditions for employees, and delegated much of this to trade unions.
Reflection: Has the Government, through their own practice and the creation of policy, created an environment where employers are obligated to respect and honour employees?
- The Government is responsible for ensuring that private enterprise protects and preserves the natural environment. No industry or company should be allowed to function and exist while causing harm to the environment. Sustainable development is a vital role of the Government.
Reflection: Have we sacrificed, and perhaps compromised, environmental standards, even in the releasing of Crown Land to the 'investor' to the detriment of the business and Bahamians?
- The role of the Government in regulating companies further extends to the business of taxation. If the Government is to remain current in providing basic public and merit services, from which companies and individuals will benefit, then it needs the revenue streams to do this. Private business must play their part.
Reflection: Have we sold our birthright, making unnecessary concessions to encourage and facilitate increased and sustained business in the Bahamas?
We believe it is important for the Government to encourage and facilitate trade and industry. When the Government, however, neglects its primary roles and responsibilities and assumes another, we quickly slide down a dangerous slope of inefficiency and dependence on government.