Features — 12 June 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Move afoot to create seamless business space in CARICOM

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 10, 2015–CARICOM is advancing plans to set up a regime by means of which a business registered in one member state could operate in another member state without having to undergo new registration procedures. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat says the plan aims “to create a seamless space within which companies can do business.”

There is already a draft policy which outlines proposals for “the Single Jurisdiction for the Registration and Incorporation of Companies” in CARICOM. The document, developed by bkp Development Research and Consulting of Germany, under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), addresses incorporation of companies, securities, bankruptcy and other law-related matters, says a press release issued this week by the CARICOM Secretariat.

National consultations on the draft policy begin this Thursday, June 11, 2015, in the Eastern Caribbean nation of St. Lucia.

Amandala tried to get information on exactly what the plan is for the Belize consultation, such as the date and venue for the event(s), but the officials within the Ministry of Trade, Investment Promotion, Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection who handle CSME matters for Belize do not yet have any details.

The CARICOM press release suggests that the Belize consultation would be held in August, but provides no details specific to Belize, and our request to the Secretariat for further information has so far not been answered.

The plan to develop the single jurisdiction for the registration of CARICOM companies is mentioned in the Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community, 2015-2019: Repositioning CARICOM.

The plan calls for “harmonization and simplification of business regulations and processes in member states and in the Community, including advancing work on the Single Jurisdiction for the Registration and Incorporation of Companies (within the CSME arrangements).”

The CARICOM Secretariat says, “The establishment of a single jurisdiction would allow businesses in member states participating in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), to register anywhere in the CARICOM Single Market (CSM). Once registered in one participating member state, businesses wishing to operate in another state, would not need to undergo a similar process.”

It added that, “This initiative is expected to facilitate easier access to cross-border commercial opportunities for companies, creating possibilities for economic growth and increased employment in member states.”

Amandala contacted the president of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arturo Vasquez, for comments; however, he was not aware that any such consultation session was planned for Belize. We shared the press release with him and he told us that he would discuss the matter with colleagues in the Chamber.

The CARICOM Secretariat says that, “In the consultations, staff of the CARICOM Secretariat CSME Unit will be soliciting feedback from public and private sector representatives on the efficacy of the policy and seeking recommendations for possible improvements.”

Apart from the St. Lucia consultation, sessions are also planned this month for Antigua, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago.

“These national consultations are vital since the creation of a single jurisdiction would be of significant benefit to those wishing to exercise the Right of Establishment under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” said the release.

Dr. Leroy Almendarez, Director of Foreign Trade in the Belize Ministry of Trade, was also unaware of the start of the consultation series when we contacted him yesterday. However, Almendarez is aware of plans for harmonization, and he did assert that the process would involve the Chamber and other private sector entities.

Richard Reid, Senior Trade Economist in the Ministry, said that Belize is no longer just the Belize market.

“We are now talking about the CARICOM Single Market. The operating space for any business is the whole of CARICOM,” Reid said.

He said that while Belize already has a system for registering businesses, there is a need to have that system harmonized with the similar systems in other member states.

“We have to tailor the business registration system to capture certain types of information needed for monitoring, reporting and evaluation of how the CSME is performing,” Reid said.
Last December, St. Lucia hosted an EU-funded meeting of 12 CARICOM states, including Belize, to discuss the development of a complete online registry for Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

Information published by the CARICOM Secretariat says that Registrars of Companies across the region are considering the proposal for the harmonization of online registries in the CSME participating member states.

“This harmonization would be facilitated by the web interface and interoperability of the respective systems allowing users access to information from participating member states,” it said.

It explained that the objective of the initiative is for interested parties to be able to register businesses/companies online across member states, thereby increasing cross-border economic activity.

The Belize Companies Registry could not provide us with information on the planned consultation on Single Registration for CARICOM when we contacted them today.

We also directed a query to Registrar of Companies, Velda Flowers, for details, but at the time of this writing, we had not yet received a reply.

(Note: CARICOM has 15 member states. The Bahamas, Haiti and Montserrat are not participating in the CSME. At the time of its implementation, public opinion in The Bahamas was strongly against the CSME, because of the view that it would not benefit them.)

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