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Private sector not against regulation - just its inefficiency

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Gowon Bowe

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian businesses are not opposed to regulation, just its inefficiencies, two private sector leaders have told Tribune Business.

Gowon Bowe, pictured, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) president, told Tribune Business that the “push back” from legitimate businesses stemmed from the obstacles and bureaucracy in the Government’s compliance processes rather than any opposition to the notion of being regulated.

Speaking after the Government confirmed it is eliminating the need to obtain upfront proof of National Insurance Board (NIB) compliance before business licence renewals are issued, Mr Bowe said it was vital that different public sectors communicated with each other electronically to ease the burden on the private sector.

Similarly, Michael Maura, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) chairman, told this newspaper that the NIB step’s elimination in time for 2019 Business Licence filings was “very much welcomed” as part of a wider effort to marry enhanced tax compliance with better customer service.

“Ultimately the desire is that the Government and its various agencies have systems that speak to one another, and follow the idea that of ensuring businesses are in compliance with laws and regulations but ease the burden of doing that,” Mr Bowe said.

“Having to go to different agencies is tedious. Businesses have no difficulty doing that if it can be done online, or in some fashion that allows for the agencies to report back to the Department of Inland Revenue.”

Mr Bowe said the Government’s information management and approvals processes will benefit the more its various systems are integrated, and added: “I don’t think businesses are saying to the Government: ‘We don’t want regulation’. Most businesses are saying: ‘Efficient regulation’.

“The Government needs to satisfy itself their in compliance with applicable laws and regulations without being restrictive. All the push back is coming from efficiencies embedded in the process. The more efficient we’re able to carry out these processes, the less push back we’re going to have.”

Mr Maura, echoing the BICA president, said: “I believe that any and all steps that the Government can take to both streamline and reduce the bureaucracy, and time the corporate citizen spends complying with regulation, is a great step towards a modern, efficient and growing economy.”

Backing the NIB ‘letter’ move, he added: “Our expectation, though, is that this progressive step has been facilitated and accomplished by intra-government connectivity, which simultaneously accomplishes tax compliance verification and great customer service.

“This is important as its effective success mitigates the possibility of excessive taxes which often exist when a government is inefficient.”

Marlon Johnson, the Ministry of Finance’s financial secretary, confirmed to Tribune Business earlier this week that the Minnis administration has ended “one of the major issues of contention” for the private sector by eliminating the NIB ‘letter of good standing’ requirement up front.

He warned, though, that companies are “not off the hook” when it comes to being current with NIB contributions, as compliance checks have now moved “from the front end to the back end”.

Mr Johnson said the ministry remains firm in not issuing business licences to firms that are delinquent on their social security contributions, and promised that the Department of Inland Revenue will be constantly checking with NIB to identify those that are non-compliant.

“Instead of having businesses do that on the front end, we will do that on the back end to determine if businesses are compliant. That was one we realised we could do very readily at the back end,” he added.

“This does not get businesses off the hook to be compliant with NIB. We are working with NIB to get information on delinquent businesses upfront. We will check when businesses come in against the information we have, and not extend Business Licences to persons who the data indicates are non-compliant.

“It’s incumbent, before businesses come to us for Business Licences, to ensure they’re compliant with NIB if they have reason to think they’re not.” The timely, and full, payment of due NIB contributions has been a regular compliance issue for The Bahamas’ national social security system.

Yet Bahamian businesses have grown increasingly frustrated in recent years with the Government’s inefficient, cumbersome approvals processes, many of which remain paper-based amid the lack of electronic (Internet) connectivity between different agencies and departments and with the private sector.

A regular complaint has been the need to visit, and obtain, approvals from multiple agencies to gain key permits such as the Business Licence, all of which costs companies time and money, and undermines the “ease of doing business” in The Bahamas.

Comments

bogart 3 years, 9 months ago

DUH....BAHAMIAN BUSINESSES.....IN DA FIRSTEST PLACE ...WAS AGAINST PLENTY....PLENTY TINGS....TO DO WID ....GIVING CONSUMERS.....AN GOVT .....DA SHORT END OF DA STICK...................WOULDNT....HA HAD....REGULATIONS TO BEGINS WID.....,!!.,.,.,HOW ABOUT....... PROPER CONSUMER COMPLAINTS...SECTION....ANSWERING DA PHONES....NO CARTELS.....NO ANTI COMPETITION REGULATION.......ROBBING CUSTOMERS AN PORE CUSTOMERS CANT DO NUTTING BOUT IT....VICTIMIZING CUSTOMERS WHO POINTS OUT YA SHORTCOMINGS....stead of obfuscating...delaying...lying...losing file..evading customer victim....transferring staff so start all over again...SHORTER LINES....QUICK EXPEDIENT SERVICE....jacked up unilaterally skyhigh imposed fees......PARKJNG FOR CUSTOMERS....FIRING LOUSY STAFF....can goes on an on...THERE IS... NO AUTHORITY ...LIKE A FINANCIAL OMBUDSMAN THAT PORE PEOPLE CAN COMPLAINS TO AN THAT MAKES EASE OF DOJNG BUSINESS FOR MANY PORE PEOPLE DIFFICULT....,!!!!!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 9 months ago

Our business community is struggling to stay alive in a banana republic besieged by mini-dictators like Marlon Johnson who believe they have the incontestable right to takeaway the ability of any business owner to conduct business as they go about deciding who will be the winners and losers among competing businesses. I say incontestable because most local businesses are operating on a whim and a prayer with no financial means to pursue, through our dysfunctional legal system, costly and protracted litigation against wrongful decisions made by the likes of Marlon Johnson. In civilized countries business owners get to keep the doors of their business open as they go about resolving legitimate disputes they may have with government departments and agencies. Marlon Johnson would prefer to shut 'em all down if they have not paid any amount he considers owed to the government, even if it results in many Bahamians ultimately being left unemployed. As for Mr. Maura and Mr. Bowe, they should know that business owners are just as concerned about unnecessary or over regulation as they are about inefficiencies in the regulatory apparatus. LMAO

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