March 7, 2021

The Editor Speaks: I told you so!

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Colin WilsonwebI am not bragging with that headline. I am actually furious.

I refer you to a previous Editorial I wrote on May 21 2014 entitled “Is it custom for Customs to make life hard for customers?”

“Who in the world will benefit by knowing, for example, how many light bulbs we import and whether they are sealed beam lamp units, whether they are halogen, or exceed 200 watts, whether they are fluorescent, or mercury, whether they are ultraviolet, or other, or even parts for a light bulb?”

I repeated the question a CNS reader asked. I answered it, “Only the Cayman Islands Customs.”

I asked our customs department what benefit it is for them to know this. The person couldn’t answer me specifically except to say it was all part of the new internationally recognized tariff classification system that has approximately 5,000 codes for various goods. The person was obviously reading from prepared text.

You see, customs have invested in a new upgraded computer system aptly called TRIPS as it’s tripping up everybody – customers and even the customs officers themselves. Actually TRIPS stands for Total Revenue Integrated Processing System – probably someone got paid $100,000 for coming up with that name to fit the abbreviation.

I was very surprised at the Chamber of Commerce President, Johann Moxam’s, rather insipid comment to his members’ complaints about the delays that have resulted from the new system.

He didn’t blame the system but the customs officers for their lack of public support.

“With anything new, it takes time to sort out all the issues. We would encourage customs and business owners to work in partnership to find a resolution to this matter,” he said.

Yes. Dump the system but that would add to the already mountain of trash at Trashmore.

Surely a new system should make things easier and more speedy not one that, using the words of Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett, “requires far more detail and the process was time consuming”?

No one in customs or government has told us why we want a system that will provide us with 80% more detail than we need and will never use even though we now will have it.

According to the published propaganda that was provided to us when TRIPS was announced last March, “it will enable Cayman to collect data, allowing customs to monitor controlled goods, the origin, transport statistics and prices. It will also help with the compilation of Cayman’s national accounts and economic analysis.” It will also bring the country in line with international standards.

Really? And will that  mean an increase in manpower? Of course. Will it speed up the system? No.

That has happened with the announcement of additional customs officers only last week with the promise of more staff in autumn and long delays and frustration from the public trying to get their goods cleared.

Things will speed up when the new staff arrive we have been assured. And the training of them?

I hope they will be able to digest the 230 pages of document they have to read and digest!

Knowing they were going to have problems, customs conducted a series of public training on tariffs so they can say “we tried to educate our customers but only a few showed up”.

I said in my previous editorial I referred to:

“The long lines at Customs that were there before this new law are now going to seem never ending. Probably days waiting.”

A CNS story posted on Thursday (10) was headlined “Customs codes cause chaos” and the opening sentences says “Local business owners and overseas shoppers are tearing their hair out as they battle with the new code system recently implemented by the customs department. According to a number of CNS readers, the new system is causing untold delays and creating another bureaucratic barrier to business. Custom officials have admitted that there are some teething problems.” End quote.

When a government agency says, “there are SOME teething problems” you can substitute ‘SOME’ to ‘LOTS’!

Why do we, a tiny country, want to adopt a system that is way above what we need? Just because 250 other countries have such a system should not be the reason for us to do it. These other countries might want to know more about a pane of glass than just it is a sheet of glass and its weight. Do we in Cayman really want to know whether it is fused silica glass, vitreous silica glass, soda-lime silica glass, recycled glass, how much silica it contains, it’s optical properties, it’s % of translucency, etc?

Unfortunately, the new system will not go away. Too much money has already been invested into it. Joe public, you and I, will have to dig into out pockets to pay for the extra staff it is going to take to bring the over long long lines back to the long lines of people we used to have waiting to get their goods.

And the benefits to our country? Did I see the word ‘statistics’ in the published propaganda? Yes, I did.

Stats! Another job for someone. My fury bubbles over

And, remember, I told you so!

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