May 14, 2021

Caribbean customs departments targeted for improvement

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One regional association is about to turn up the pressure on Barbados and other Caribbean territories that have not yet fully implemented systems in their customs department to improve business facilitation and trade.

Officials of the revamped Caribbean Association of Customs Brokers (CACUB), say after a nine-year hiatus, the organisation has a renewed mission – to make the clearing of goods in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) more efficient and to improve the ranking in the Doing Business report.

Customs Broker Louis Forde told Barbados TODAY a “major problem” contributing to the inefficiency in customs in Barbados was the slow implementation of the ASYCUDA World system and the Electronic Single Window.

ASYCUDA is a computerised customs management system, which generates trade data and covers most foreign trade procedures including accounting and customs declaration.

Forde said a major part of the delay in fully implementing the ASYCUDA World system, an upgrade to ASYCUDA, was the deferral in merging the Customs Department into the Barbados Revenue Authority over the past three years.

“That is why we have not implemented our ASYCUDA World or have other systems implemented because [of] the labour aspect. You have the will on the political side to move everyone into a revenue authority, but the staff does not want to go,” Forde told Barbados TODAY, following a recent one-day meeting of CACUB members at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) office.

The ASYCUDA World system would allow importers, exporters and agents to submit administrative and supportive documentation for the processing of their goods online.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Single Window allows traders and brokers to research systems codes and duty rates for commodities, as well as to check on the status of their applications.

After several delays, government was hoping to have the systems fully implemented by February this year, with its management eventually being assigned to the BRA.

Forde said while things have started to improve “a bit”, until the systems were fully implemented and managed by the Customs Department, there would continue to be several challenges including the delay in clearing items.

In relation to the island’s ‘doing business’ ranking, Forde said he got the impression “from a lot of politicians” that if they say “nice speeches, things would improve,” instead of simply implementing the required systems and procedures.

Forde, who was instrumental in reviving CACUB, said a part of that organisation’s plan was to agitate for faster implementation of better systems and better plans for trade facilitation in each CARICOM member territory.

Newly elected president of CACUB Delroy Fairweather told Barbados TODAY he believed Barbados and other countries which continued to experience delays in implementing ASYCUDA World and other systems could learn from Belize, given that that territory has been successful with its implementation.

“As it stands now, we are urgently required to get together and see how best we can aid the logistics and supply chain industry,” said Fairweather.

“That is exactly what we are trying to accomplish here – make the whole trade facilitation process easier, more comprehensive and more real time. The longer your cargo sits at the port, the more monies you start incurring. So we are actually here to work on methods to be more efficient and share information,” he said, adding that every country has something to “add to the table.”

The association’s next conference will be held in Belize in April 2019.

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IMAGE: ASYCUDA Automated SYstem for CUstoms DAta

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