Since the collapse of the seabridge last year, Tobago’s tourism sector has suffered approximately $700 million in losses.
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Bharath makes bold promise: Containers to be off ports in 24 hours
From October 31, containers will be cleared within 24 hours at the ports. That was the promise from Trade, Industry and Investment Minister Vasant Bharath. Bharath, also a minister in the Ministry of Finance, made the announcement on Wednesday as he addressed the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce post-budget forum at the chamber’s hall, Camden Road, Couva.
He said the Customs and Excise electronic system, ASYCUDA World, would be integrated with the Government’s single electronic window (SEW) to allow for quick processing of documents and less time for containers to be cleared. On average, Bharath said, it took about 19 days to clear a container on the port and often the delay had to do with processing documentation.
Bharath said, “By the end of October, those two systems (SEW and ASYCUDA) will be integrated. They will be speaking to each other and I have a commitment from the Comptroller of Customs that, barring any issue with regard to security of containers, containers should be off the port in 24 hours.”
His announcement was met with applause from the audience, which consisted mainly of central Trinidad businesspeople. He said the Government was moving towards raising its competitiveness ranking on the global market by making business-related transactions less bureaucratic.
The minister said on average it took 43 days to set up a business in T&T which would be a turn-off for investors. He said he took a note to Cabinet a week ago to reduce the bureaucracy involved in setting up a business.
“Cabinet has approved the note to reduce the bureaucracy involved in starting and incorporating a business in Trinidad and Tobago and come the end of October, a business will now be started up in T&T from between one and three days, three days being the maximum,” he said.
This, he said, would be done through SEW. The system would allow users to complete all government-required paperwork, such as applying for approvals, electronically. Bharath said he would also take to Parliament an amendment to the Customs Act which would allow documents to be presented to Customs at least seven days before the arrival of the vessel.
This, he said, means that Customs and Excise will be able to prepare the documents before the vessel arrives and if they do not have security issues the vessel wil be cleared. He said another problem which caused delays on the port was the scanners, and tenders had now been issued for new scanners for both ports in Point Lisas and Port-of-Spain.
Bharath said the World Bank ranked T&T 132nd out of 143 countries because of how difficult it was to do business here, mainly because of port operations. He said the Chemical, Food and Drug division had been moved to his ministry to allow for speedy testing.
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