Establishment of companies
A business licence is required for anyone wishing to start or expand a company on Bonaire, St. Eustatius or Saba, or wishing to make changes to an existing business in accordance with the BES Establishment of Companies Act, which has been in force on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since October 10, 2010.
Anyone wishing to obtain a business licence must submit an application for one. The applicant provides the following information:
- Personal details (name, address, date of birth);
- Type of business for which the licence is requested, for example: real estate agency, souvenir shop, bicycle factory, guesthouse, hotel;
- Education and any experience in running a company;
- Investment needed to start up the new business;
- Financial resources that can be used for the new company.
The local public service organisation checks whether the application is complete and gives the applicant the opportunity to complete the application if this is not the case. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is then heard about the application. If the Executive Council is of the opinion that there is no objection to the granting of a business licence, it can grant the licence.
Maximum handling period
A decision period of eight weeks applies by law. If no decision is made within these eight weeks, the licence will be granted to the applicant by operation of law. The Executive Council publishes a list of companies to which a licence to establish a business has been granted by operation of law within two weeks after it is granted. After that, the Executive Council has eight weeks to set further conditions (Section 6 of the Act provides for this) if necessary. The entrepreneur can already start his business.
The term starts to run when an application for a business licence has been submitted, and the application meets all the requirements. This also means that all required documents have been submitted. If the application does not meet the requirements, the Executive Council will allow the applicant to amend or supplement the application. If the application has been amended or supplemented and meets the requirements at that time, the decision period starts at that time.
Since the 1st of July, 2021, entrepreneurs on Bonaire have had the possibility of applying for a business licence online. Because the processing time is much shorter, as a result, entrepreneurs can now obtain this licence within six working days. This differs significantly from the eight week waiting period that normally applies. This makes starting a company on Bonaire easier.
If in the opinion of the Executive Council, there is an objection to the granting of the business licence, and that objection lies in the fact that the entrepreneur evidently has insufficient skills or evident insufficient financial means, then the Council may reject the application within eight weeks of submission, stating its reasons. In this case, it is essential that the Executive Council respects the decision period; otherwise, the decision will be granted by operation of law.
Rejection on the grounds of general interest
The establishment licence has also been denied in the past to protect other general interests. Such interests include, but are not limited to, public health, the environment, consumer protection, public order and security. With the conversion of the 10th of October, 2010, the possibility of protecting these other interests has been reduced, assuming that other regulations could protect these interests. That does not appear to be the case, at least not enough. Until these other regulations come into force to protect the general interests, the Executive Council also has the instrument of refusing a licence to establish a business at its disposal, albeit that the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy must approve the refusal of the licence.
If according to the Executive Council, there is an objection to the granting of the business licence, and that objection is based on the need to protect a general interest, it can inform the applicant within the first period of eight weeks that the decision period will be extended by a second period of eight weeks. Within that 16 week period, the Executive Council will contact the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and explain the grounds on which the licence should be refused. If the Minister agrees to reject the licence, the Executive Council will send a rejection decision within the stipulated period. If the Minister disagrees with the rejection, then a favourable decision will follow, and the Executive Council can impose further conditions if deemed necessary.