Senate paves way for one-stop business registration centre
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE RED tape that has significantly slowed the pace at which persons register a business name or company in Jamaica appears to have finally been cut with the passage of the Companies (Amendment) Act 2013 last Friday in the Senate.
Effectively, the Government has introduced the much-talked-about 'one-stop shop' where the registration of business names and companies can be done within a short time.
Piloting the legislation in the Upper House, Senator Mark Golding said the bureaucratic process faced by persons to register a business had rendered the process inefficient.
He said the lethargic process of registering a business in Jamaica was a contributory factor to the country's poor ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report. Jamaica, currently, ranks 94 overall out of 189 countries.
For Professor Rosalea Hamilton, the former president of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Alliance, the bill is an important piece of legislation that was long overdue.
"I think the legislation will encourage some businesses to get registered but I don't see an influx of many businesses wanting to register because of this amendment to the Companies Act," Hamilton told The Sunday Gleaner.
STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE
"In the context of our current weak economy where many businesses are struggling to survive, micro and small enterprises (MSEs) are likely to be more concerned about earning enough income to stay afloat rather than registering their business.
"When registration is combined with other supportive activities to facilitate growth and profitability, more MSEs will be inclined to register," argued Hamilton.
Persons registering a new company or business name are required to visit multiple government offices to submit information which is required by law.
The agencies to be visited to complete registration are Tax Administration Jamaica, the National Housing Trust, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the HEART Trust/NTA .
The new bill creates a 'one-stop shop' at the Companies Office of Jamaica to allow persons to complete all registration linked to a business or company at one location.
"This is a milestone because, up to now, you had to trek around from one government office to another and it takes time, and is a tedious process," Golding pointed out.
Recently, ICD Group CEO Peter Melhado called on the Government to set up such a one-stop shop to reduce the amount of red tape faced by persons attempting to set up businesses.
He was supported by business leaders, including Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Chris Zacca, who agreed that a single entity responsible for the setting up of businesses would be more attractive to investors.
Zacca, who noted there was too much doubling-up in the process to get major investments off the ground, said that based on his estimation Jamaica was missing out on some $30 billion worth of investment opportunities because of continued bureaucracy.
Metry Seaga, deputy president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, however, warned at the time that an inefficient one-stop shop would be just as bad as what currently obtains in the public sector.
"It is less about a one-stop shop, in my opinion, and more about making the shops that we have efficient," he said then.
The new legislation is one of the International Monetary Fund's structural benchmarks which had a deadline of December 2013 for its passage.
Commenting on the impact of the bill on the start-up of businesses, Sophia Fraser Binns, government senator, said it would now take a maximum of two days to register a business, compared with the previous six days.
She said the process would now involve the completion of an eight-page form, compared with the previous 13 forms to be completed.
Dr Nigel Clarke, opposition senator, indicated his support for the bill but added that more needs to be done.
"It is important that the bill is followed up by the kinds of reforms that promote greater coordination among the relevant government agencies and also within the government agencies, to ensure that the total time involved to be duly registered ... is substantially reduced to internationally competitive norms," said Clarke
The single-agency concept where all aspects relating to the registration of a company or business name would be done at the same location was previously being pursued by the Jamaica Labour Party government and was a key reform trumpeted by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.