Goods imported into Barbados take four times as long as they do in neighbouring St Lucia to be cleared, the head of the Port of the Bridgetown has revealed, complaining of the cost of the delay to Government.
Barbados takes 104 hours to clear imported goods, a task which takes St Lucia 27 hours to complete, Senator Lisa Cummins revealed during debate on the Public Service (Miscellaneous) Bill.
Based on the Senator’s figures, goods landed at Bridgetown take about 13 eight-hour working days to leave the port while they take just over three days when landed at Castries.
The senator complained that St Lucia, a smaller economy with fewer people, was way more efficient than Barbados.
She said: “In Barbados, for border compliance in terms of exporting it takes 41 hours for us to transact a single clearance on average; in neighbouring St Lucia a smaller economy with fewer skills it takes 27 hours.
“In terms of documentary compliance… it takes 54 hours – manpower hours all manually done by an individual today – 54 hours to process documents. In St Lucia it takes 19.”
She continued: “At the border in terms of compliance our agencies for importation it takes 104 hours in St Lucia it takes 27 hours. I say that to say the industry has changed. Barbados’ failure to change with it in real time has a direct cost attributed to our development process but most certainly to our competitiveness.”
Providing background to events that led to the findings, the Senator said a comparison was done in relation to the use of technology.
“We spent a moment for another purpose over the last few weeks certainly over the weekend and heading into Monday looking at how Barbados is performing at our border compared to other jurisdictions… We were not looking at countries that had their systems in place, we were not looking at countries that have a high labour force necessarily, we are talking about optimisation of technology and the way in which border agencies have evolved over time using that technology…”
Cummins pointed out that Barbados stands to lose heavily if the reform of key agencies fails to take place urgently.
“What this means is that business that could be attracted to Barbados, investment that could be attracted to Barbados is going to look at these numbers which are publicly available in research and they are going to take their business elsewhere. If we do not reform the way in which our agencies function, if we don’t reform the way in which we approach populating these industries … because once upon a time the way in which you treated with these very issues is most certainly not what is being done now.”
The senator said there was no secret that there was a shortage of manpower at the Customs and Excise Department
“The customs department we know has chronic shortages we have heard that reported in the press it has been spoken of in other places. We hear about the impact it has had as a result of a failure to fill posts and to designate the Customs officers 3, and Customs officers 4. We hear about all those things but I want to make this thing real to us.”
Cummins added: “There is a very direct relationship between the challenges in Customs created by man power but also differentiating skills, those specialist skills that the World Development report now says are needed in our public sector.”