New System Set to Modernise Customs Department and Increase Bahamas Rank for Ease of Doing Business
Posted on 20 February 2018.
by Jones Bahamas
Come this April, the Customs Department’s import and export system will be completely revamped into a paperless, a speedier, more efficient process with the introduction of the Bahamian Electronic Single Window (BESW), one of the outcomes of a public/private a cooperative initiative involving Bahamas Customs, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation and Arawak Port Development (APD).
The registration process for BESW is scheduled to begin in mid March.
Invitations will be sent out initially to all of the companies, brokers, shipping lines so that they can register first and then individuals will be invited after.
BESW is expected to herald a new day in Bahamian import/export processing hallmarked by 24-hour service, which will significantly increase the ease of doing business.
Certain processes within the Customs Department that would normally take hours to complete will be done in just minutes. The system will also reduce red tape, cutting down on the number of steps and locales traditionally involved in the import/export process in this country.
Speaking to a roomful of enthusiastic local brokers and traders at the “Trading Across Borders Workshop” hosted by Arawak Port Development and the Bahamas Customs Department, Superintendent of Customs, Jasmine Hudson explained that BESW will also benefit The Bahamas not only locally, but also in world trade.
“The main objectives of the Single Window [is] it supports The Bahamas’ public trading, it improves trade facilitation, strengthens the revenue collection and provides effective and efficient for our penetrable borders,” Ms. Hudson said.
“The Bahamas Government, with the assistance of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), is implementing a trade sector support program. The overall objective of this program is to improve the operation and efficiency of (the) Customs and Excise Department and to prepare the Government of The Bahamas for ascension to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“There will not [a] paper document. Everything will be submitted electronically and there is no paper at all so nothing has to be printed and stamped –nothing. The new process will cut your time in, I would say, more than half of the time you would take to clear a shipment… In the old process, you would have submitted your documentation electronically; however, that entry would sit in a key for an extended period of time before it is processed by an officer. In the new system, the system will check the entry which makes the process a whole lot quicker. That is where the time will be cut.”
At the workshop, Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Mike Maura explained that BESW is a strategy to improve the country’s overall ranking for the ease of doing business.
“Bahamas Customs, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce as well as Arawak Port Development (APD) have been engaged in working through the various ease of doing business issues and, specifically, trading across borders for two years now,” he said.
“Our country has recognized that the last survey that was conducted, which began in February and March of last year and concluded with the report being issued in October 2017 had The Bahamas ranked at 119 out of 190 countries.”
Mr. Maura also ran through the list from last year’s survey to lay out just how far The Bahamas has to go in order to improve its trade rating. In terms of the ranking for starting a business, 108; dealing with construction permits, 86; getting electricity, 117; registering properties, 167; getting credit, 142; protecting minority investors, 129; paying taxes, 55; enforcing contracts, 74; resolving insolvency, 64 and trading across borders, 157.
He added that while the transition to the new system will not be a smooth process every day, he has high hopes that the more than $100,000 injection made by APD, owner and operator of Nassau Container Port (NCP) and Gladstone Freight Terminal (GFT), to link the systems of APD and Bahamas Customs will ensure a more efficient system.
“We, definitely at the port feel that we have a corporate responsibility,” Mr. Maura explained.
“No one came to us and said ‘You are expected to spend $100,000’. No one came to us and said ‘You are expected to support customs in all things.’ “But we listened. We understood the value of this journey that Customs was on from an ease of doing business perspective. We see the opportunity. We do not expect it be a smooth ride every day. I can tell you in our business at the Port with our system – IT (Information Technology) systems that we have invested in – there are always challenges. But you persevere, you keep your head down, you get through the hard days and at the end of it, you have a reward, and we have always had a reward with the investments that we have made in IT.”
The World Bank publication “Doing Business 2018” recently noted slight improvements in the way The Bahamas facilitates business development.
Despite a two-spot movement on the index, the publication shows The Bahamas falling below the regional average and in the areas of ease of getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors and trading across borders.