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Trade Minister: Customs to improve with new legislation Trade Minister
Trade Minister Vasant Bharath will in 14 days take before Parliament legislation the implementation of a single operating system that will make the duties of Customs and Excise officers at the nation’s ports more efficient. “For the very first time, we will see the asycuda system run by Customs and Excise with the single electronic window that is run by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investments.
Currently, the process is very cumbersome. The process is, a customs broker inputs his information into the asycuda system, awaits the information to come back and then physically takes the information to five different agencies, separately, to get each of these agencies to sign off and to certify those documents,” he said. Bharath was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T’s (AmchamTT) 20th Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre yesterday.
No longer, he said, will custom brokers have to run around to Ministry of Trade, T&T Bureau of Standards, Chemistry, Food and Drugs, Plant Quarantine, Animal Quarantine and then back to Custom and Excise to have paper work processed, which could take as long as eight days.
“It will now be that when the information is entered into the asycuda system it is simultaneously shared across all of those platforms. The customs broker sits at his office, behind his desk, each of the agencies certifies it, sends it back electronically, (and) he receives within minutes, takes it to the port and clears his goods,” Bharath said.
“In addition to that amendment to the Customs and Excise Act, there is also an amendment that will allow for the advance manifest to be delivered to Customs prior to the vessel arriving. It means, therefore, Customs will have the opportunity prior to the vessel arriving to have a look and see if there are any issues with regard to security. We have three container scanners donated by the United States Embassy and we are buying more for the ports of Port-of-Spain and Point Lisas.”
The Minister said he had made it clear to public servants under his purview that it cannot be business as usual and that had to do whatever it takes to make T&T competitive. He said slashing the time it took to register and incorporate a business in this country from 43 days to three was no small feat. Under the new system, someone setting up a business in T&T will get certification, VAT registration and NIS within three days. He said this is necessary to attract international investors.
“We can identify as many sectors or as many products or as many areas that we want to invest in, but if we don’t create the enabling environment to make it happen we are wasting our time,” Bharath said. “We rank 69th in the world as far as ease of doing business and ease of doing business has ten components and we are attacking each of those components: the more important ones first, working hand-in-hand with the World Bank because they are the one who developed the rankings.
We are working hand-in-hand with the World Bank so they are very aware of what we are doing on the ground,” said Bharath. He added: “We are now working on the number of days its takes to get a construction permit in T&T. We are working with the World Bank who has done a similar exercise in Kenya, where they have reduced the number of days from 300 which is close to where we are to six weeks. It is not impossible. Other people are doing it and if we do not do it, we are going to be left behind.”
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