Initiative to remove trade hurdles, says member customs

Pakistan Customs introduces NSW system for traders

KARACHI: The customs department is taking a number of initiatives to remove the trade hurdles in Pakistan, and in this connection, National Single Window (NSW) system has been introduced in the country, said Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Member Customs Operations Jawad Agha here on Friday.

He said, “Pakistan Customs is now leading the project for the development of Pakistan’s NSW which will provide a single ICT platform to fulfil all regulatory requirements in relation to imports, exports and transit trade.”

“NSW requires a legal framework that enables and defines the conditions of electronic submission of documents, user authentication, data sharing and data archiving,” Agha added.

The meet-up was organised by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Pakistan Customs.

According to Jawad Agha, Pakistan Customs and FBR are focused on improving the trade logistics, including regional integration, with focus on streamlining customs clearance procedures, to increase trade flows and improving performance on Trading Across Borders indicator of “Ease of Doing Business” reforms.

Traditionally, the role of customs is to collect customs duties and taxes and to control illicit trade. However, due to its pivotal position in the global supply chain, Customs is now the primary agency to ensure that trading across the border is made easy and less costly, Jawad Agha said.

Pakistan Customs’ automation efforts have contributed significantly towards recent improvements in ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking and reduction of cost of trading across borders.

He claimed Pakistan Customs has played a positive part in trade expansion and streamlining of transit trade, and is now prepared to handle CPEC trade.

WeBOC Head and R&A Director Wajid said that most of the customs administrations have moved from paper-based customs management systems to web-based paperless customs solutions which are accessible on-the-go. This paradigm shift has been supported by the World Customs Organization’s (WCO).

Since 2005, he said, Pakistan Customs has made concerted efforts to improve the efficiency of customs clearance processes and facilitate trade by strategically introducing latest technologies in modernising customs. In 2011, Pakistan Customs started rolling out its indigenously developed paperless customs management system, named WeBOC (Web-Based One Customs) to seaports, dry ports, airports and border stations, Wajid claimed.

He said Pakistan Customs has taken significant steps to promote digitalisation and automation in Customs clearance for enhancing the ease of doing business and to make the import/export procedures more transparent. Its Web-Based One Customs system is now among the largest IT systems in the government sector.

Developed indigenously in challenging circumstances, WeBOC system is delivering solid results in optimising government revenue, facilitating trade and improving the efficiency of customs clearance.

WeBOC is completely paper-less, user-friendly and is available 24/7 for GD filing and Electronic payment of duty/taxes.

He further said WeBOC is electronically linked with traders, shipping companies, port operators, banks, warehouses, transport operators and all major government regulatory authorities.

An automated risk selectivity criterion is applied to facilitate bonafide traders and soon an Authorised Economic Operators programme will be launched for further facilitation of compliant traders, he added.

WeBOC is at the forefront of trade facilitation through its user-friendly interface, robust risk management system, electronic payment options and seamless workflow. WeBOC has greatly contributed towards reduced customs clearance time while strengthening revenue collection and ensuring optimal utilisation of human resources, Wajid said.

He further said it has provided tangible benefits to both the trading community and the government. WeBOC has over 82,000 registered users which makes it one of the largest e-government portals. During the last one year (2017-18), it has processed over 1.6 million consignments arriving/departing at the seaports, dry ports, airports and border crossing points of Pakistan, he claimed.

WeBOC is one of the largest revenue contributors to the federal treasury. During 2017-18, out of the total revenue of Rs3.842 trillion collected by the FBR, WeBOC has collected Rs1.636 trillion or 42.6 per cent of overall revenues at import stage in the shape of customs duty, federal excise duty (FED), income tax and sales tax, he added.

Customs has several reforms agendas which include Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS) programme which is the flagship trade facilitation program of Pakistan Customs. ITTMS is designed to improve the quality of trade facilitation for Pakistan’s regional trade. It is supporting physical infrastructure development at three land-border crossing points – Wahga Border with India in Lahore, and Torkham and Chaman with Afghanistan.

With the help of development partners, Pakistan Customs conduced Time Release Studies (TRS) at three border crossing points namely Wahga, Torkham and Chaman. The exercise map all the existing processes, as well as procedural and infrastructure constraints at the border post. These studies also identified the gaps and point towards taking immediate actions to address issues in imports and exports clearances at border crossing points.

TRS reports provided sets of actionable reforms Pakistan Customs which were implemented. Several reforms were implemented, and improvements were identified in the level of automation and quality of overall trade facilitation.

As part of the improvements, the customs authorities have installed giving the ability to scan dumper trucks needing full height clearance. Further, it is helping to regulate high and low traffic conditions. Exports to India at present are largely in big dumpers. Levelling and compaction of export parking lot greatly reduced the truck breakdowns and resulting avoidable delays.

Single window payment system: A scattered process of payments at two-three points earlier in 2014 has been moved to the single point and a bank branch has been moved adjacent to the customs area, resulting in curtailing avoidable delays.

Similarly, a bank branch has been established at the Torkham Customs area and is fully functional. This facility will now save at least 2-3 hours from the clearance time since agents need not travel a kilometre to and from to make the payment.

A Customs Help Desk has been set up, agents can now seek assistance/guidance as and when needed, while WeBoc is fully functional which will help reduce time and cost delays.

Scanners have been installed for inbound and outbound traffic and yard entrance on the Pakistani side has been formalised, a proper gate has been constructed where gate passes are being issued to export truck. Roads, parking and passageways have been improved at the border areas.

Moreover, the Women Entrepreneurs Network for Easy Trade (WE-NET) was launched on November 9, 2017, in Karachi. The establishment of WE-NET is aimed at mobilising women entrepreneurs. It aims at building a collaborative, inclusive and sustainable platform for women entrepreneurs. It will facilitate holding a well-structured and well-informed dialogue on trade facilitation between women entrepreneurs and relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Commerce and Pakistan Customs.

Program Director of the FBR’s National Single Window (NSW) Imran Mohmand also spoke on the occasion.

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Arshad Hussain
The author is business reporter at Pakistan Today. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @ArshadH47736937
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