SME Chamber

Another year lost due to Government’s inaction

GRTU members feel very aggravated by the total inaction with regard to the amount of ‘occasional sellers’ that have literally set up shop, or better tents, in prominent areas to sell flowers and make the most of Valentine’s day.

GRTU has literally been showered by pictures from its members showing these individuals selling from underneath tents mostly just next to churches in the main square of the locality and other central areas such as roundabouts and other main streets.

Unfortunately this is a scenario GRTU was expecting and during the last months GRTU had stepped up its efforts to warn the authorities concerned and bring everyone around a table to find a solution so that this time round this yearly farce would be avoided. While the authorities have given the impression that they are trying to cooperate due to the intense pressure placed on them by the GRTU, they also clearly show an inability to take the necessary action. The authorities are caught up in the bureaucratic mess of uncertainty and unclear regulations they themselves created and in the most passive of approaches, feebly attempt to fire-fight when the building has already been burnt to the ground.

It is clear that these structures set up from the very early hours of yesterday to sell flowers do not hold permits issued by the Commerce Department, the single Department entrusted with issuing trade permits to anyone carrying out an economic activity. The Commerce Department assisted GRTU in reporting these operators, clearly carrying out an economic activity, to the Police Commissioner for immediate investigation.

The problem here is that while they will not have a trading license they will most likely have a permit issued by one of the Local Councils. GRTU contends these are abusive licenses and in no way can the Local Council take it upon itself to bypass the trading license and issue such permits. The only leeway given to the Local Councils is of issuing permits for stalls and kiosks in view of the religious feast and other special celebration within the locality. The Local Councils are however extending this abusively and the authorities are turning a blind eye.

How can Local Councils be permitted to license trade? What competence or remit does the Local Council hold to do this? How is it permissible that two weights and two measures are still accepted when there is a clear single authority to license trade? Will the police, as our enforcement arm in this regard, be well-briefed to know what to look for and not accept any kind of permit issued? The permits issued by the Local Councils by virtues of Legal Notice 119 of 2002 – Activities Requiring Permits by Local Councils – are inadequate for this occasion and should not be accepted.

We cannot help but feel the Authorities are simply playing around with time and simply putting on a show, and not a very good one at that, to appear they are addressing GRTU’s complaints. We all know what needs to be done. A simple clarification in the law is required and also that the authorities that are responsible to license trade take it upon themselves not to permit any bypassing through strict enforcement.

GRTU has called on the Minister for Small Businesses, Hon Chris Cardona, to stop this unfairness and it has copied him in all correspondence. This is unfair competition and the Minister must take the power he has in hand to effect the changes that need to be done. This is not a time for the Minister to distance himself from the situation but stand for and with small businesses on this issue and stop once and for all this yearly injustice.

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