Bonaire in business: Right to information

Blog

9 February 2017

If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s important to know what is going on in Bonaire. It allows you to anticipate future developments and sometimes it will give you a competitive advantage. An earlier blog post already discussed which information the Chamber of Commerce can provide, but it’s also good to know in which other ways an entrepreneur can get hold of important information.

Spatial development

In Bonaire, a spatial development plan has been adopted. As a result, the Public Body of Bonaire has imposed restrictions on the use of plots of land and terrains in Bonaire. Some companies are only permitted to establish themselves in certain places, especially if these companies affect the environment (car repair shops, production companies, etc.). The spatial development plan can be consulted via www.bonaire-ro.nl. There, the permitted use is indicated with colors and an explanation describes what exactly is allowed and what isn’t.

The spatial development plan is revised periodically. Therefore it’s important to take note of any planned changes, also so that you can object to them if need be in case they would interfere with your business activities. The planned revisions are published on the same website.

New rules

New legislation is published on www.wetten.nl. Sometimes there’ll be a consultation before a law is introduced, where everyone is invited to give their opinion of the new law. This is done via www.internetconsultatie.nl, where you can even set up an alert profile so that you’ll be kept up-to-date of new consultations automatically.

More and more often, new rules and decisions of the Island Council and the Executive Council are published on www.bonairegov.com and also on www.wetten.nl under the button ‘Regelingen van BES’ (BES regulations). A correct publication is necessary in order for a law or regulation to come into force and administrative bodies must proceed in a meticulous manner. In St. Eustatius, for example, the Port Dues Regulation was declared inapplicable because it had not been published properly. That had an enormous financial impact, in a positive sense for the entrepreneurs but in a negative sense for the Public Body, which missed out on a lot of income.

The Government Information Act

As an entrepreneur, you sometimes want to know exactly what happened and was decided in a certain ‘administrative matter’. It may for example involve the granting of a license to a competitor or even the establishment of policies relating to, for instance, nature. Anyone can submit a request to an administrative body to inspect documents (advice, memos, other documents) regarding an ‘administrative matter’ that are held by the administrative body. The administrative body is only authorized in exceptional cases to reject a request or to black out certain information in documents. The latter would apply to, for example, privacy-sensitive information or company data. Exception because of ‘disproportionate advantage or disadvantage of natural or legal persons or third parties involved in the matter’ often gives rise to the most discussion in such cases, whereby a balance has to be struck between the importance of public disclosure and the importance of confidentiality of that information for the persons or companies concerned.

After the application has been submitted, the administrative body must decide on the request within three weeks. This period can only be extended once for a further three weeks.

Court sessions

Did you know that a court session in principle is open to the public? Although exceptions are included in the law and the Court may also decide at the request of the parties involved that a hearing will be held behind closed doors, it’s possible to attend a session. Sometimes this can be useful if the case concerns a dispute whose outcome is also of interest to you as an entrepreneur or where the boundaries of the application of a particular rule or authority are being dealt with. The announcement of the ruling is public as well, so that you can take note of the result of the case.

Consultation of documents and witness hearing

If it’s important for you as an entrepreneur to consult documents that affect a possible claim that is based on, for instance, an unlawful act or the fulfillment of an agreement, then the law offers the possibility to request the Court to order a party to provide access to those documents. This helps to prevent that a party withholds important information that may be relevant for a possible claim.

In this context, the Court may also be requested to hear certain witnesses before any proceedings are instituted. Thus, witnesses can be asked questions under oath about facts and circumstances that are important for assessing whether you can cash in on your entitlements by submitting a claim.

Conclusion

A lot of information for entrepreneurs about laws and regulations is available online. In addition, the Government Information Act provides entrepreneurs with a powerful tool to obtain information from administrative bodies, such as the Public Body of Bonaire.

In order to get private parties to hand over information, you can use the legal option of requesting disclosure of documents or hearing witnesses.

All in all, the entrepreneur has a wide range of possibilities at his disposal to obtain information that can be to his benefit.

Tom Peeters is an experienced and specialized real estate lawyer and head of our Bonaire office. He regularly publishes about project development, sustainable energy projects, cooperative structures and (public) procurement. Via this blog he shares his knowledge about these and other legal topics that concern entrepreneurs in Bonaire.