Since hurricane Irma a number unlicensed shops, vending operations, and services have popped up in various sections of the Territory, and the Trade Department announced that it will not turn a blind eye to these illegal businesses.
During a press conference Director of Trade and Promotional Investment Mrs. Karia Christopher told the media that the Department which is mandated to ensure that businesses operating in the jurisdiction are licensed intends to take action in this regard.
In fact, when Mrs. Christopher was asked if the Department intended to turn a blind eye to these unauthorized businesses she told reporters: “I don’t know that we are going to look past or turn a blind eye.”
It was made clear that the Trade Department is well aware of the unlicenced ventures and have had discussions on this matter. “We have heard about it, what I can say is that we had a staff meeting for that same purpose or one of the purposes on Monday (15 January).”
Furthermore, the Director announced that the Department now has a team of Trade Inspectors who will be able to investigate rumored infractions. However it was noted that the staff on hand might not be enough to address the matter. “We’ve spoken to the powers that be to have more (Trade Inspectors) on the ground so that we can actually be able to inspect. So the issue we are having now is…because it is not a small issue, we have to be able to have the man power to go out there.”
Nonetheless, Mrs. Christopher pointed out that investigations of the unauthorized businesses have already commenced: “We have started and we are on the ground…We also work pretty much closely with environmental health so these are areas and it is a combined effort, and we are trying our best to do it to our very much best, to do it delicately and quickly. We have built a great relationship with the community so first of all we have to find these people; the person who is in charge of the inspections Mr. Barry right now has a great rapport with the underground persons,” she added.
Mrs. Christopher emphasized that the Department’s first inkling is not to go and attack the illegal vendors. “We are very cognizant of that fact and again say it’s not about invoking fear in those people. In terms of having penalties – obviously we know that you are not supposed to open businesses that are not legal and the Act speaks to different reasons there. First step first model is to ensure that we educate the public. I don’t know that we should, well I hope that no drastic measures without first educating the public and then we wait for directions from the policy makers.”
Meanwhile, Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Hon. Marlon Penn noted that a sympathetic approach is needed for this situation of illegal businesses: “We are all aware that an informal economy operates in any economic system, and I think more so coming out of ours persons have lost jobs, persons are trying to find a way to earn a living and we have to be sympathetic to that.”
Further Hon. Penn said that these illegal business owners should be educated on the dangers and risk of operating without licences: “We have to find a way to show those persons there is a proper way to do what you are trying to achieve. Some of these things could have some legal implications if something goes wrong – if you are selling food, selling drinks, or operating some heavy equipment.”
“We understand that an informal economy exists, and we don’t want to shut down the informal economy considering the hardship that many people are facing right now after these storms. So we have to find a way to work together to get people to do things the right way, the structured way and to help them grow,” Hon. Penn added.