The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration is hinting strongly that it intends to amend the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Act approved late last year, as it embarks on an “interesting journey” to breath new life into the ailing economy.
While not making specific mention of the legislation when he addressed the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Guide to Costing seminar yesterday, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland left little doubt that Government intended to make changes to the measure, which was criticized by then Opposition Leader Mia Mottley when it was introduced by the then Democratic Labour Party administration.
“We need to remove those criminal penalties associated with vending while promoting compliance to rules of engagement among the vending community. We have reached a stage where we have criminalized vending and I am not one who will come here to try to grow business but yet become punitive,” Sutherland said, echoing Mottley’s words during debate on the bill last November.
The legislation, designed mainly to tackle praedial larceny, and which was approved by the House on November 28, 2017 and by the Senate on December 13, 2017, makes it mandatory for anyone selling or “disposing of” agricultural produce or livestock to obtain certificates of purchase.
It also requires the same certificate to be produced by the purchaser or any person possessing the items, when requested by a praedial larceny warden.
It gives the wardens powers of arrest, and anyone who fails to comply with the instructions of a warden, or obstructs the warden while in the line of duty, faces fines of up to $5,000, three years in jail or both.
The BLP had maintained the measure criminalized vending, with Mottley stating during the debate that “the problem is not that it is mandatory, the problem is that the penalty for failing to register is a criminal conviction with a criminal sentence”.
Sutherland yesterday said everything would be done to ensure vendors continue plying their trade because vending was an important element of the economy.
“We have to remove all of the fears and all of the major obstacles to business development in this country, whether it is vending, whether it is the wayside vendors selling coconuts or eggs. We cannot criminalize vending and expect our economy will grow via small business. So our ministry is charged with that responsibility and we are presently working on drafting documents that will go to Parliament that will amend legislation to ensure that vendors are seen as entrepreneurs and small businessmen in this country and they play a very critical role,” he told those gathered at Pelican Craft Village for the BMA seminar.
The minister made it clear it would not be a free-for-all, stating there would be rules by which vendors must operate.
However, those who violate these rules, he suggested, would not have to worry about spending time in prison.
“When you break rules we have to put certain things in place. I don’t want to see any vendors going to [prison] as a result of breaking a rule. We have to put measures in place and systems in place that we can treat with people who break rules as opposed to making them criminals in this country,” Sutherland insisted, while pointing out that “when you begin to make people criminals in this country that is when they begin to retreat”.