Prime Minister Perry G. Christie as keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony of the latest group of Customs officers on Grand Bahama Wednesday afternoon, spoke of the ‘firsts’ this group will meet in their duties.
Christie highlighted the New Customs Management Act and the Regulations 2011 and the fact that this group will be the beneficiaries of the $16.5 million loan agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“This modernized Act (Customs Management Act) was drafted to meet the obligations contained in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed by The Bahamas in October 2008,” the prime minister shared.
Christie went on to say that this Act aligns with the Trade Rules of The World Trade Organization (WTO) and will now comply with the instruments and standards of the WCO such as the Revised Kyoto Convention on the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures to introduce best practices, and re-enforce the role and capacity of The Bahamas Customs Department to achieve its strategic objectives.
In addition, the prime minister said that they would be the first beneficiaries of a $16.5 million loan agreement between the Government of The Bahamas and the IDB.
Christie told the 22 graduates that the Loan Agreement has three main components: to improve the facilitation of Trade, to collect revenue and to improve Border Protection, “Hence, you will be immersed into a modernized customs organization with improved border protection, enforcement and the Electronic Single Window (which began 1 February 2017) and System Automation.”
Noting that the Customs Department is an evolving and progressive one, Christie said the Department is fast becoming one of the most modern Customs’ administrations in this region.
Addressing the graduates, Christie said, “You are expected to play a great role in the implementation of the Single Window, as the Department moves towards a fully automated Organization. A contract, valued at eight million dollars has been signed with Crimson Logic, a company based in Panama and headquartered in Singapore. It is expected that some of you, with information technology background, will find yourselves becoming fully involved in this process.
“The Single Window is a massive trade facilitation tool, which allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements. If the information is electronic, then the data elements should only be submitted once.”
Christie then spoke of the more efficient systems that have been put in place, including: faster clearance time, greater transparency, greater predictability, more efficient deployment of resources, compliance, use of sophisticated risk management, more efficient access to trade and related information, and more efficient and accurate collection of the revenue.
Additionally, the prime minister confirmed all processes will be electronically submitted and the Customs Officers new and old; are expected to be trained in all aspects of this service. “To date, 99 percent of the Commercial Traders now submit entries online. This causes the ease of doing business to be increased phenomenally, as brokers no longer need to stand on line as the entries are cleared almost instantaneously. Your main role is to check those documents after clearance, hence this section is in great need of your services,” Christie added.
The prime minister singled out the different divisions: Marine, K-9, Resource Section, Intellectual Property Rights (this new section is responsible for policing the import of counterfeit and pirated goods), Advanced Rulings and Currency Declarations that each of the officers have the opportunity of specializing in.
Christie said that as Minister of Finance, he is in the process of naming persons to administer the Customs Appeals Commission. This Commission, Christie said, will be dealing with Rights of Appeal, “meaning that Customs Officers will no longer be the end all to decisions made by you.”
This section will be responsible for reviewing all appeals by members of the public, and also be responsible for representing the Department at the hearings of the Appeals Commission.
“It is not the Customs Department where the duty office was armed with only a small desk calculator,” Christie acknowledged. Nowadays, the PM added Customs Officers are intricately linked with international trade and you have a duty to adhere to stringent international and world- based practices.
“This is a new day for Customs and you should be proud to know that you have entered the threshold of a new and innovative system,” the prime minister noted.
Published Thursday, March, 16, 2017