Three years after the Single Electronic Window (SEW) was launched by the Ministry of Trade, businesses are finding the system helpful in doing business. Kevin Aleong, manager of the customs department at Agostini Marketing Ltd, called the SEW system efficient. Aleong, via e-mail, told the Business Guardian that Agostini has been using the system for the last six months. Hand Arnold Trinidad Ltd is the company from the Agostini group that is presently using this system for the purpose of obtaining import permits for dairy and meat products. “I welcome this facility, as it allows my department to function in a timely and more effective manner. At the moment, we are using the service with the submission of several applications to the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources (Animal Production & Health Department) for import permits.” Aleong said the time in which it takes to process documents is now much shorter, which makes doing business easier.
“The benefit is that it allows a shorter period of time in the processing of an import permit and a reduction in manpower usage,” he said. Although the documents now in use are the same as before, the system works efficiently.
“The same document/s required in the past is/are the same document/s you are required to scan and send to the agencies. What we are required to do now is enter information into a database for the agency ourselves and submit them for screening to ensure correctness of information. Once submitted and the information is found to be correct, within ten minutes of submission a response is sent to you for approval or a request for additional documents or information,” he said. Aleong said the SEW system eliminates the bureaucracy of the past. “I think this system was not intended to eliminate agencies and/or documents but to improve the quality of services without the hassle previously endured,” he said. Other companies that the Ministry of Trade has used to showcase the efficency of the SEW system include Hyline Label Co. Ltd, Phoenix Logistics Trinidad and Brokerage Solutions Ltd. On the Ministry of Trade’s Web site, Phoenix Logistics praised the SEW system.
“I am pleased to say that this system is very impressive and user friendly. The plant import permit was approved in less than four hours, which is a drastic improvement from one month before you can collect, the other animal permit was done between 7 am and 8 am and the approval and collection response was almost instant and within the same period of the application, as compared to two to three days before you can collect,” said Christopher Alexander, managing director of Phoenix Logistics Trinidad. Mahase Frank, a customs clerk at Hyline described the system as lighting fast. “The processing time is tremendously reduced, as I received approval of my certificates of origin within five minutes of sending them through this service. I find this system to be working efficiently and it is very convenient, as it eliminates the hustle of having to go into the office in person and waiting for approval.”
The Single Electronic Window, or SEW is an IT-based trade facilitation tool that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents at a single-entry point, in order to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. This mechanism is designed as a one-stop shop, where private stakeholders and approving government agencies can collaborate to process necessary permits and approvals online in a seamless and efficient manner. The system incorporates significant co-operation amongst a range of ministries and agencies responsible for trade facilitation and because of its interactive nature will require major process re-engineering on the part of some operators. When it was launched in 2009, former trade minister Mariano Browne pointed out the benefits of the system. He said: “I am sure you will immediately understand the benefits of such a system, which is grounded in the concept of a standardised approach. It can provide operational efficiency, transparency of government services, improved collection of state revenue, speed the trade-facilitation process and at the broader level, sharpen the competitive edge of our companies and industries.
“This, in turn, will strengthen our global competitiveness. “Clearly, it is no surprise that Singapore, because of its highly-efficient and transparent border administration, according to three major independent global surveys—the Global Competitiveness Index, Global Trade Enabling Trade Report and the Ease of Doing Business Report—is the most competitive nation worldwide. For this reason, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has sought to partner with CrimsonLogic, who as you would have heard are an agency of the Government of Singapore and proprietors of the SEW system.” According to the Ministry of Trade’s Web site, many countries worldwide have sought to improve their trade processes and ultimately their competitiveness by implementing SEWs. The introduction of a SEW in Singapore, known as TradeNet, resulted in a move away from three paper-based trade documents to one single e-document, a decline in the processing time for permits/approvals from two to seven days to within two minutes, and an increase in the volume of documents processed from 10,000 to 30,000 per day.
The Ministry of Trade states that the process is simple, companies and individuals who wish to import/export goods, apply for permits, licences, register a business or conduct other business-related activities can submit their documents online via www.ttbizlink.gov.tt
. These are then sent to the various government agencies responsible for approvals and within a set period are processed. TTBizLink is a secure, user-friendly web interface. In addition, the approval status of applications can be tracked online. TTBizLink is an entire national change-management process that is aimed at modernising the way companies connect with government agencies while conducting business and trade.
For business operators and investors, the benefits of this system include:
• Greater operational efficiency
• Increase in the speed of business/trade transactions
• Access to vital, timely information to support more efficient business-to-business transactions and investment decisions
• Sharpening the competitive edge of companies and industries
• Increased transparency in dealing with the Government