OECS countries share similar companies acts that guide business start-up and the legal rights of borrowers and lenders, as well as bankruptcy procedures. Contract enforcement is subject to common civil procedure rules. Some of the laws affecting business have been harmonised but in the remaining areas of business regulation such as construction licensing, labor, taxes and property registration the OECS member countries continue to use different and seperate legislation.
Most of the company laws in the O.E.C.Swere introduced around the same time period, ideally only years apart. Despite these similarities, according to the 2017 Doing Business report, starting a business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines takes 12 days while in St. Kitts and Nevis an entrepreneur needs 47 days to complete all the requirements. Similarly, a business seeking to resolve a dispute with its customer has to follow the same set of procedures in all jurisdictions, but doing so takes an average of 297 days in Antigua and Barbuda and 635 days in St. Lucia.
Company Acts’ within the O.E.C.S region are supported by applicable regulations which help to guide the implementation of the requirements under the parent Act. This seemingly results in variations in economic performance because where regulations have not been harmonised. There are many key differences in the different regulations used under each company act, for example, regarding the Search and Reservation of a company name.
The Doing Business website has indicated that in Antigua the company name search is performed manually by going through large registration books. In comparison, in Dominica it takes less than a day to reserve the company name and the investor can check whether the company name is available by searching in the online database. This data further illustrates that in St Lucia a lawyer conducts the name search and usually takes about 2 days. The above illustrates fundamental disparities in administration of introduced regulations and it is here where Member State governments need to consider better cooperation in order to ‘boost’ their individual Ease of Business position in the region.
OECS member states need to integrate economically and update existing Company Acts, as reform is needed to further harmonise corporate policy and regulations across member countries. According to research, if each OECS country were to adopt the region’s best practices in each of their Doing Business indicators, they would rank 10th in the world on the ease of doing business.