They should not have to compete with individuals or businesses that do not have a valid TCI business licence
Like most countries, for a business to operate legally in the Turks and Caicos, that business is required to have a valid business licence. The business licence period runs from April 1st to March 31st and is renewable each year. There are fifteen (15) major categories of the business licence and within each category, there are many subcategories. There are also quite several business licences categories that are reserved for Turks and Caicos Islanders only.
While some businesses in the Turks and Caicos have progressed well, there are many other businesses that are struggling. There are many factors that are causing these businesses to struggle but one factor is due because of the competition from others who do not have a valid business licence to operate in the Turks and Caicos.
The Procurement Ordinance
The current procurement ordinance allows any business anywhere to bid on a government tender. As a result, locally registered businesses must compete with their own suppliers because their suppliers are allowed to bid. If the suppliers are allowed to bid, then the suppliers of course will be able to offer a better price and as a result the local business has no chance in winning the bid.
I do not think this should continue as it is now. Only businesses that have a valid business licence and have been operating in the Turks and Caicos for at least a year should be allowed to bid on jobs. The reason I say a year is because some people are aware of some of the available tenders, and they form a company just to bid on the tender.
I know when the Ordinance was implemented, it was probably felt that the Government was not getting value for its money. While it is true that some businesses inflate their prices when it comes to government, the Government however, can get around this by setting a maximum price on the tenders.
How do we expect local businesses to thrive if they have to compete with their own suppliers?
The Procurement Ordinance needs to be reviewed and amended to allow only a valid Turks and Caicos business holder to bid on a job. It is fine if the local companies are competing among one another, but they should not have to compete with a non-registered local business.
Businesses operating illegally in TCI
There are several businesses operating illegally in TCI. They are illegal because they do not have a business licence. Some of these business owners are very bold while some are clandestine. However, the country is small, and the compliance departments should be able identify these illegal businesses. If they are unable to find them, but if you are aware of businesses operating without a valid business licence, you should report them. It is unfair to legitimate business owners who are paying so much in taxes to operate a business while others are not paying anything.
There are businesses that are reserved for Turks and Caicos Islanders only. Now there are some individuals who apparently were able to get a business licence in that category without a Turks and Caicos Islander status. Somehow, it is alleged that some individuals with the BOTC status and PRC status can get a business licence in the reserved category. I am not sure if this is true but if it is true, there is a significant difference between Turks and Caicos Islander status and BOTC and PRC status. Only persons with TCI Status should be permitted to obtain that reserved category licence. Of course, there were some exceptions whereby some individuals and companies were grandfathered in since some of them were already operating a business when some of the reserved categories were implemented. However, there should be no new business licences given to individuals in the reserved categories if they do not have a Turks and Caicos Islander status.
There are some companies in the Turks and Caicos Islands that do not support the local businesses. They import their products from overseas on a regular basis and they do so because they are cheaper. I know we cannot force any company to purchase locally but we can provide incentives to those businesses that have a valid business licence. Perhaps, we can have a different import rate for businesses that have a valid business licence to discourage others from importing overseas. I know this may seem farfetched, but it is possible.
I am aware that businesses face other obstacles in growing their business but if we can address some of these shortcomings, many businesses will be able to be successful. If we want our economy to grow, then we need to stop allowing most of the money to flow out. Support the local economy by supporting the business. We want people to support our business but yet we are going overseas supporting their businesses.