Individuals and companies conducting business with the Customs Department and related agencies should start to see marked improvements in a matter of weeks.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn gave that assurance as he announced that the long awaited ASYCUDA World system would be pressed into action come September 1.
He explained that the new customs management system, along with an updated tariff scheme, would significantly reduce the time it takes to clear items at the Port and eliminate the use of cumbersome documents.
However, residents and businesses will have to wait a while longer to have the Electronic Single Window system put in place.
Straughn, who came in for high praises from Prime Minister Mia Mottley for “doing a number of things in customs that were left undone for more than a decade”, said over the past ten years the department had lost a number of customs officers due to the delays in implementing improvement measures.
However, he said as part of the Barbados Labour Party’s modernization plan the Customs Department would continuously be upgraded, and that was beginning with the implementation of the ASYCUDA World.
This system, which generates trade data, uses international codes and provides for electronic information exchange between traders and customs officials, is expected to improve the customs declaration process, and accounting and transit procedures.
“The reality is that Barbados has lagged behind with respect to not just the upgrade of the system but an upgrade of the processes through which the customs department will now be able to better deliver a service to the public,” said Straughn.
“September 1 will be the implementation date for ASYCUDA World . . . The implementation of ASYCUDA World will deliver a fully paperless environment. That by its nature will be disruptive,” Straughn declared.
Straughn said his ministry along with customs officials, have been meeting with members of the private sector and other stakeholders with a view of moving towards putting everything in place from a technical standpoint. This, he said, included training of customs officers and other stakeholders who engage in the business of importation of goods.
“Through those series of consultations we have reviewed the new customs tariffs, which will now come into effect with the implementation of ASYCUDA World. Cabinet agreed to the tariff, which will be implemented,” he said.
The tariff outlines the level of import and excise duties on products that come through the island’s ports, removing any uncertainty as to how Customs would come up with a valuation.
“So while we are upgrading our systems, we are at the same time providing greater information to the public such that they don’t feel that a customs officer is arbitrarily assigning a level of duty simply because the tariff is the basis upon which the customs department functions,” Straughn told the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.
He said while customs officers have been receiving the requisite training, he called on individuals and businesses to provide accurate information to ensure a smooth process.
As a result of the September 1 start date for the use of the new system, the Customs Department, with the exception of Terminal One, will be closed on August 30 to allow officers to finalize preparation.
As it relates to the Electronic Single Window platform, Straughn said he was hoping it would be ready by the end of the year
This system is a single, online point of contact between the trading community and government agencies to obtain licences, certificates and permits and other documents to import and export products.
A revised Customs Bill should also be in place “before the end of the year”.