ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Opposition Leader Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), expressing concern that a significant number of trade licenses were approved for Non-Belongers in certain sectors that should typically be reserved for locals, wanted to know during the Second Sitting of the Third Session of the Third House of Assembly (HoA) on March 8, 2018 who is responsible for approving those licenses.
It was brought out in an answer to a question posed to Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) by Hon Fahie, that the number of trade licenses approved post Hurricane Irma (October 2017 to February 2018) was 419. Of that number, 357 were for Belongers and 62 for Non-Belongers.
But according to Premier Smith, 50% of the trade licenses approved for Non-Belongers had a Belonger “attached” to the license as well.
Hon Fahie also wanted to know how many trade licenses were approved in the last three years and how many were for Belongers and Non-Belongers, as well as the type of business for Non-Belongers.
It was stated that some 2358 trade licenses were approved for the period 2015 to 2017. In 2015 there were 704 trade licenses approved with 626 for Belongers and 78 for Non-Belongers. In 2016 there were 842 trade licenses approves, with 732 for Belongers and 110 for Non-Belongers. In 2017 there were 812 trade licenses approved with 759 for Belongers and 53 for Non-Belongers.
List too long!
Asked to state the type of businesses in which trade licenses were approved for Non-Belongers, Premier Smith said the list was too long to call out.
“This list is too long to read out…The types are there but they are not broken down,” Premier Smith said, as other Members began to grumble.
At this stage, Hon Fahie remarked: “The people probably wouldn’t hear on the outside but the Government keep telling me what is nonsense and what is not. I am trying to do my job in here. I don’t trouble anybody. I does sit down over here and listen when they jump on me for things I don’t even know about I don’t interrupt them. I trying to do my job.”
He added that the question was submitted a while ago and it is not something he should have been fishing for.
Premier Smith then proceeded to list some of the fields in which trade licenses were approved for Non-Belongers over the last three years. Those included human capital management, property rental, law firm, installation of alternative energy systems, manufacturing, construction, investment company, auto repair shop, and business consulting.
Who approving these licenses?
Hon Fahie then wanted to know if certain sectors are to be for the people of the Territory, what justifies Non-Belongers, especially those without a Belonger attachment, getting a trade license?
Premier Smith then reminded that 50% of licenses approved for Non-Belongers had a Belonger attachment; however, Hon Fahie said this still meant that a significant number of Non-Belongers, without a Belonger attachment, were given trade licenses.
He then asked what was the process when a Non-Belonger applies for a trade license and whether it is approved by the Trade Department head or the Premier.
All applications, according to Premier Smith, go to the Department of Trade and is processed by the Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion, who is Honourable Marlon A. Penn (R8).
“Who approves it?” Hon Fahie asked.
Premier Smith said the applications go to the “Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion, Madam Speaker, and he refers to me when necessary.”
Hon Fahie wasn’t too pleased about the answer but stated that he would move on with his questions.
‘It typically goes to the Premier’s Office for approval’- Hon Penn
Speaking exclusively to our newsroom after we sought clarity on the matter, Hon Penn stated today, March 16, 2018 that the “Non-Belongers license typically go to the Premier’s Office for approval.”
“I have approved some and he has also approved some of them. So it’s either between myself or the Premier approved those licenses. Sometimes it goes to him and I don’t know, but if I am not there it has to be approved,” Hon Penn stated.