ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Customs and Excise Department has announced several new measures aimed at reducing the time it takes to clear imported goods.
The announcements were made during a press conference yesterday at Customs’ head office in St John’s.
The measures, which will begin taking effect as of Monday, April 23, mainly involve a reduction in the amount of bureaucracy or paperwork, and a simplifying of procedures.
The press conference – described as the first by Customs in many years – was hosted by four representatives of the department who introduced themselves as its “PR (public relations) team.”
Milton Aska outlined an example of the new measures being implemented, pertaining to the importation of vehicles, especially used ones.
“If you ever had to complete this process, the requirements, you would know it takes you a couple of days,” he noted. “This is one of the things we have looked at and have revamped.”
Aska continued, “One of the measure that was in place was that you had to get the vehicle valued or re-valued or examined – the documentation – by tax compliance, and this was located in St John’s. Persons would have had to journey from the port to St John’s to Finance to Environment. We think that we could eliminate this and we have. The controller has eliminated this process.
“We believe we have the expertise within Customs for valuation of used vehicles, and so you would not have to take that route anymore. We use the special enforcement team if we have doubts, and do any research on vehicle importation. So you can strike that out, there’s no need for any tax compliance unit where the clearance of vehicles is concerned,” Aska said.
Another member of the Customs PR team, Stennett Knowles, explained that the department wants to go beyond its traditional roles of revenue collection and law enforcement to help facilitate trade.
“One way we are trying to do that is by having separate queues,” he explained.
“Right now, if you are a business person and you come into Customs, whether you’re a business person or a casual importer, you use one queue; everyone joins the same line. What we want is for the business person to take one queue and casual importers take another. So this way the business importer will not be spending too much time in Customs.”
Knowles, however admitted that this plan will have to surmount the challenge of personnel shortages.
“We are working on getting more staff as we won’t be able to do this until or unless we have more staff.”
Numerous other measures were announced by the Customs officials and a longer portion of their press conference is due to be featured today on today’sOBSERVER AM.