Law cleared to end runaround in doing business

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By Neil Marks

Government Parliamentarians on Wednesday afternoon pushed through legislation that would allow for the collection and processing of all documents through a single online facility so that those looking to do business or engage in export/import would not have the headache of running around to several different agencies.

In Guyana, there are some 20 ministries and departments that a person would have to go to hand in documents and get approval for import/export.

“We have multiple levels of vetting, multiple levels of approval,” Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said in piloting legislation to allow the revolutionary changes. Adding to that, he noted that the cumbersome, manual and paper-based system hinders efficiency in doing business and leads to high costs.

With the so-called “single window” facility, all of this would end. The problem, however, is the amount of work that needs to be done to get there.

“The challenges are going to be enormous, especially in a paper-driven society where there may be marked reluctance to move over to automation,” Jordan stated.

But the legal requirement to get it done was passed when the government Parliamentarians voted for the passage of the Customs and Trade Single Window System Bill.

The opposition continues to stay away from sittings of the National Assembly until the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) rules on the three appeals before it regarding the passage of the No Confidence motion.

The Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, in a statement to the House on Wednesday, declared that until that ruling, the House will continue to conduct its business as normal since the Court of Appeal had ruled that the December 21 No Confidence motion against the government was not properly passed.

As a result, the government continues to call sittings of the House and pass legislation with its 33 Parliamentarians. Those Parliamentarians agreed to the passage of the legislation to allow for the Single Window.

The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business defined the system as one that allows parties involved in trade to launch standardise information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import/export and transit-related regulatory requirements.

There are three basic models for operating such a system, but Guyana has chosen the one in which a single authority receives all the information and disseminates this information to all relevant government authorities and coordinates all controls in a logistical chain.

In trade, import and exports require the submission of information and documents to customs and other government security and regulatory agencies for compliance with laws and regulations.

In Guyana, many of the systems are paper-based and some of it automated, while some operate on both legs. And each agency has its own procedures.

“Currently, information is submitted and processed numerous times to customs and different government entities.

“These procedures and cost of compliance impede facilitation of international trade and are time-consuming,” Minister Jordan stated.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Finance signed a loan with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for US$6 million to establish the Electronic Single Window for Trade.

While the Ministry of Business is the executing agency for the Single Window Project, the Government has approved and empowered a National Steering Committee from the main agencies to make decisions to get the project off the ground.

The Guyana Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Business co-chair the committee, which is made up of officials from all the government agencies and law enforcement bodies.

Earlier, Jordan had announced that the Government has procured the ASYCUDA world programme to aid with the modernization of manifests, customs declarations, accounting procedures, transit, suspense procedures, among others.

With this application, Guyana aims to take trade facilitation to a higher level by the standardization of procedures along with the implementation of international norms and best practices.

This will lead to a strengthening of Customs’ operations efficiency for control, improve transparency through full audit trails, and reform the customs clearing procedures, among other mechanisms.

The Government will also be provided with accurate and timely statistics on foreign trade and revenue.

Additionally, ASYCUDA will promote faster clearance time as well as lower transaction costs.

Minister Jordan said that implementing the Single Window will have its challenges. He noted the fact that in the public sector there is a lack of computerisation and Information Technology services and connectivity. Further, he said there is a lack of competent staff.

But he said that “hopefully with time and greater connectivity” the Single Window will become a reality and “hence improve ease of doing business in Guyana.”

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