Prime Minister William Marlin’s concern about the continued misuse of directors’ licences to circumvent local residence requirements (see Thursday paper) is understandable. After all, the provision in principle exists to facilitate investments, not to employ foreign workers without an employment permit.

Among the examples given was a jewellery store having the same number of directors as salespersons. He said when authorities close one loophole another one is opened.

That can indeed be frustrating, but any thought of ending the arrangement altogether should be strongly discouraged. The whole idea is that people who take over or open a business in St. Maarten be allowed a few top managers of their confidence from abroad, including possibly themselves and family members.

Several years ago then-Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards announced far-reaching restrictions for obtaining a director’s licence, like minimum amounts for the company’s turnover and the applicant’s accommodations. These were not well received and foreign business owners even held meetings to protest.

Ultimately the limitations were softened and the storm blew over, but especially small investors had threatened to pack up and leave. The experience showed that this matter needs to be handled with the necessary care.

People will always try to get away with evading certain rules they consider a nuisance or inconvenient; such is the nature of the beast. That’s why active law enforcement is very important, but one still has to avoid throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

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