Customs works to improve customs clearance mechanism

CARACHI:

Customs member Mukarram Jah Ansari said the removal of prepayment of duties and taxes is in progress. Speaking to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Ansari said modules for the export facilitation program will be included in the WeBOC system within the next 15 days.

Ansari informed the businessmen that “450 customs assessments are in progress and it is not possible to complete all the assessments in three months. However, they will be completed as soon as possible and some obsolete valuations will be removed”. He also encouraged the business community to come forward and make the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program a success as it will reduce the cost of doing business and improve the ease of doing business. “Pakistan Customs has been slow to embrace technological changes and advancements, which has led to delays,” said Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (EFP) President Ismail Suttar.

“Customs officers take an inordinate amount of time to examine and assess containers. This delays the customs clearance process and thus dilutes the value for importers and exporters. It also creates incentives for corrupt practices,” Ismail explained. Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) CEO Ahmad Jawad said, “Pakistan Customs should set up a one-stop shop for importers and exporters with the State Bank of Pakistan and other agencies such as the DPP and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP).

This will facilitate the business community in the timely clearance of goods from ports. Usually, there is a lack of coordination between services, including those at cross-border points, which creates a significant backlog. Jawad added that an online complaint mechanism should be set up to address all issues, concerns and grievances from the business community related to customs clearance.

Absence of a container terminal regulator, delays in refunds, unfair demurrage charges, lack of digitization and insufficient investment in container scanners are major impediments to smooth customs operations , did he declare. “In this regard, a special coordination office should also be set up for the convenience of exporters, importers and industrialists. Branches should be established in shopping malls and industrial areas where duty-related facilities are available,” he suggested.

“Importers and exporters need a friendly customs policy,” said Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) President Zulfikar Thaver. “There is a trust deficit because customs officials think there is under-invoicing to save on import duties or regulatory duties on exports,” he added.