Suggestion that planned business ownership survey is reinventing the wheel

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The President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Dr Errol Samuel is “questioning” why the government needs to carry out a survey to determine who owns businesses as announced yesterday by the Labour Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin.
Samuel told OBSERVER media that the undertaking sounds like a reinvention of the wheel because the information being sought is at the Antigua & Barbuda Intellectual Property and Commerce Office as well as the Inland Revenue Department and several other government agencies.
“We really don’t need a survey. Inland Revenue would have info on not only the type of business but the size, in terms of income and employees,” he said.
That is true if the companies are incorporated. But the IRD continues to complain that many small businesses do not pay taxes because they have not registered with the IRD. This means that there’s only anecdotal evidence on the ownership of a large percentage of the entities.
Meantime, Dr Samuel said that most of the CCI’s 150 members are Antiguans.
“More and more Antiguans are opening businesses. Look at St John’s. You have the larger business by Syrians and other nationalities but then you have black-owned barber shops, hair dresser salons, food enterprises, legal firms,” he noted.
In announcing the pending study on Tuesday, the labour minister also said that the government intends to reserve special areas of activity for locals of African descent.
“This is something that has to be done because over the years, it has always been the expatriates, Syrians, Lebanese who have controlled the local economy,” Benjamin explained.
He promised that along with “first priority” the government will provide locals with soft loans and concessions, along with help in writing business plans to take to the bank.
In December 2015, Minister of State in the Finance Ministry, Senator Lennox Weston came under fire for saying that the government would institute measures aimed at empowering local black people and to stop the domination of Syrians.

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