Bahamas to become model for region
The Bahamas Customs Department is getting an upgrade thanks to a portion of a $16.5 million grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to The Bahamas.
Some $2.1 million of the Trade Sector Support Programme, which is part of an agreement established between the government and the IDB, will go toward modernizing the Customs Department.
The new training program was launched at the Department on Thursday, in conjunction with the World Customs Organization (WCO), which according to Dr. Janeen Moss, Customs comptroller, is set to “elevate operations at the government agency to a new level”.
“Today marks the initiation of the training program that will integrate industry best practices and international standards,” said Dr. Moss.
“This is an important signal to the trading community that the Customs Department is committed to the reform and modernization of customs’ operations and that we are at full throttle with the implementation of the trade sector support program.”
The new training module falls under the umbrella of the department’s ‘modernization,’ efforts and will run for a period of two years.
“The overall objective of this training programme is to improve operational efficiency of the Customs Department and to assist in positioning the country closer to global trading standards, as the government prepares to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of 2019,” explained Dr. Moss.
The overhaul and facelift at the department will also welcome the introduction of a ‘Single Window’ platform, which she said, will connect all relevant government agencies to the Customs Department for seamless interaction.
The Single Window platform will launch in September, according to Dr. Moss.
“The single window is expected to engage all government agencies and will streamline the way we do business. This will allow the Customs Department to be fully integrated with the Public Treasury, The Ministry of Finance, the Road Traffic Department, Agriculture, the National Insurance Board and Inland Revenue,” explained Jasmine Hudson, superintendent in the Customs Department.
“All applications and transactions from these entities can be done through the Single Window platform. This system will have the ability to track all concessionary grants given to importers as well.”
The first two-year phase of the modernization programme is said to be focused on improving the human resources element and the ease of doing business.
The second phase, which will be introduced in the not so distant future, is said to be focused on risk management.
“Nowadays, it has become very important to improve business environments in economies,” said Kunio Mikuriya, secretary general of WCO.
“So, this programme will help the country to vie for economic competitiveness. Customs is often the infrastructure of trade so it’s very important to enhance its function in order to compete globally and service the needs of Bahamians locally.”
Once fully implemented, Mikuriya said he believes the Bahamas Customs Department will become a prototype for the region to emulate.