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News Report: Chamber laments new business license renewal requirements

Written by Paige McCartney, The Nassau Guardian, February 7th, 2023

Asserting that business license renewals are taking three to four weeks longer to process because of recently implemented rules by the Department of Inland Revenue, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) said yesterday that these policy shifts are making it even more challenging for businesses to operate in The Bahamas.

These new government regulations and “red tape” were listed amount the top concerns of respondents to a recent BCCEC survey, Chamber Chair Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said yesterday.

In particular, the chamber pointed to the new requirement for all businesses to submit a real property tax (RPT) assessment number – even if they are renters – when applying for a business license renewal; the requirement of all businesses earning less than $100,000 in annual revenue to provide proof of income; and the new mandated migration towards the Click2Clear Bahamas Electronic Single Window Integration.

Rutherford-Ferguson said under these new policies, delays are guaranteed and gravely impact micro and small businesses that do not have resources to quickly gather the information needed in an acceptable format.

“These decisions have added to the mounting frustration of the private sector, added delays, and continue to hinder the timeliness in how businesses are able to operate and prepare for the future. Businesses suffer and cannot properly plan when the GOB [government of The Bahamas] makes policy shifts that have a material impact on how they are to operate, without providing a fair and adequate notice period for implementing new policies,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Other areas of concern for 57-65 percent of respondents to the BCCEC internal survey include government taxes and fees and inflation, Rutherford-Ferguson noted.

“The BCCEC acknowledges that it is within the purview of the GOB to make policies. However, we believe that in these economic times challenged by inflation, supply chain issues and uncertainty, policies ought to make doing business easier. The benefit of policies that advance the ease of doing business not only makes the jurisdiction more attractive to international businesses and partnerships, but also leads to a strong and more resilient local business community. These factors will naturally increase revenue for the government of The Bahamas,” she said.

“The business community wants to see policies put in place that support business growth, which is tantamount to economic growth. This takes the form of policies that reduce bureaucratic red tape, support industry, promote shopping locally and builds in meaningful and robust consultation between the government and the business community at the time when material policy shifts are being contemplated.”

In addition to the new DIR policies for business license renewals, Bahamas Power and Light has recently implemented a glide path recovery strategy in which the fuel surcharge on consumer bills increases incrementally over 12 months. The government as of January 1 increased the minimum wage to $260 from $210 per week, and has implemented temporarily expanded price controls for grocery stores and pharmacies – the latter of which expired on January 17.

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