Customs delays irk importers | Sunday Observer

Customs delays irk importers

Importers said that the snail’s pace of getting goods cleared at the Customs and other agencies has been a stumbling bloc to carrying out trade in an expeditious manner which is a huge draw back in being competitive in global trade. They said pre-arranged clearance is a vital mechanism to reduce clearance time from around two to three days to less than 24 hours which would help speed up trade and enhance efficiency in delivery.

Currently clearance from Customs takes around two to three days which is a hindrance to the smooth operation of trade. Chairman of the Import Section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Nishan Nanayakkara said cross border clearance with a system linking the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLI) with the Customs will help reduce the clearance time.

Speaking at the 82nd Annual General Meeting of the Import Section last week Nanayakkara said the long overdue electronic payment system should be implemented without further delay to facilitarde trade better and meet international trade standards.

The legislation for the implementation of the electronic payment system was passed in 2006. However the law has not been implemented due to due to bureaucratic lethargy and inefficiency. Sri Lanka’s low ranking in the ease of doing business index is a major disincentive to drive foreign direct investments at a time the country needs it most. Sri Lanka was ranked 110 among 190 countries in the Ease of Doing Business index by the World Bank recently. The ranking fell from 89 couple of years ago.

Sri Lanka has made progress in two vital reforms such as protecting minority investors and and starting a business in the ease of doing business report .However that does not suffice according the criteria laid down by the World Bank report to move up in the ranking.

A country’s ranking on the index is based on indices such as starting a business , dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

Nanayakkara who was elected to head the section assured that steps would be taken to fast track the implementation of a paperless trading platform to enhance efficiency of cross border transactions through electronic documents and e-signatures, implement the single window concept and Customs 24x7 operation.

The Sri Lanka Customs launched last week the on-line payment platform to facilitate real time payment.

Sri Lanka Customs Director General Chulananda Perera said the need for a container tracking and tracing system which was spoken of last year is spoken this year as well with little progress made.

Perera said he was disappointed with the slow pace of implementation of reforms. However he noted that steps have been taken to improve trade facilitation with the support of the World Bank, get the single window trading system ad the digital payment platform soon.

A major challenge he said is to make the working environment in the Customs, more people friendly.

However, Perera said his institution has come along way with key reforms to give it a human face and improve the working environment.