Madrid.—Central government is introducing new legislation which will make it much quicker for shops and small businesses to open with what is being termed an “express licensing system”.

Currently, getting an appropriate license to open a shop can take between 6 and 18 months so the government wants to reduce this waiting time down to a minimum.

Spain's Secretary of State for Commerce, Jaime Garcia-Legaz, said yesterday that plans are that the new system should be up and running in June this year but those local authorities wanting to get the ball rolling sooner, are in fact able to change their own local bylaws. Garcia-Legaz said that the system is already operating in Madrid, Valencia and Seville.

A window of opportunity
The Commerce Secretary explained that the “early opening” option will however mean that there will be further government controls once a small business had had a chance to get on its feet, but the change in legislation will mean a window of opportunity for providing employment, not just for those who currently have none but particularly for people who lack formal academic qualifications.

The overall aim of the change in the law is to speed up bureaucracy and minimise the costs for people wanting to set up their own businesses. Central Government says the measure won't mean less money for the town councils and confirmed that the modification in the bylaw will only refer to premises of up to 300 square metres. Distribution chains will therefore not fall into this category, the Secretary of State said.

As the law stands at the moment, two licenses are needed to open a business. One for the property at which the shop or business is based, and a second one for the business activity itself. Garcia-Legaz said that the granting of permits is a very arbitrary process, with unclear criteria so far as the length of time necessary to acquire them is concerned. Garcia-Legaz said that the waiting time for a permit has in the past frequently depended upon the individual local authority and if the “express” licence system is introduced, it will leave less opportunity for corrupt practice. The news has been welcomed by small to medium-sized business associations in the Balearics who say that shops could be a larger source of employment as a result.