The Government of Barbados (GOB) has embarked upon a Corporate Strategic Business Plan (CSBP) towards the continuing reform and modernization of the Barbados Customs and Excise department. It outlines the clear vision, mission, motto and values and stipulates its specific intentions in regards to its goals and the needs of the shareholders (Hon David Thompson, 2009). The plan seeks to streamline our operations to achieve consistency and a real change in the delivery of our services in the most effective and efficient way. Our stakeholders will then see us as a professional organization with a real focus on customer service (Frank Holder, 2009).
Therefore in response to the dynamic changes in the local and international trading community, the Customs department has encompassed a number of responsibilities to reach its strategic goals as we move towards 2020.
RESPONSIBILITIES AND PRIORITIES OF BARBADOS CUSTOMS AND EXCISE DEPARTMENT (CED)
The department plays a critical role in the Barbadian society and economy and subsequently accounts for about 50% of the total government annual revenue.
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The responsibilities of the Barbados Customs and Excise department include the collection of import duties, excise taxes and VAT on imports; collection of excise taxes and VAT on domestic transactions; societal protection in areas such as national standards, health and agricultural requirements; enforcement of foreign trade rules; intellectual property rights; enforcements restrictions and prohibitions including trans-national criminality counter measures in areas such as illegal drugs, illegal firearms and ammunition, commercial fraud, money laundering, human trafficking and terrorism; the prevention and combating of smuggling, the collection of foreign trade statistics and the deployment of trade facilitation measures (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015).
There are five areas in which there will be specific focus - the strategic goals:
Strengthening of the Customs Operations - aims to enhance the ability to collect revenue, enforce prohibitions, and other laws to facilitate foreign trade operations in addition to improving controls, reducing administrative costs to users of the customs service and lowering the cost of customs administrations (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015).
Strengthening of Enforcement and Border Security - aims to safeguard security and improve compliance through intelligence gathering and other border security initiatives designed to target non-compliance (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015).
Modernization on the administration of Value Added Tax - aims to improve the efficiency of the VAT department through improvements in the process of registration and deregistration, certification, filing of returns and payments, selection of audit cases and control (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015).
Modernization of the administration of excise taxes - aims to reform the excise control system through the implementation of a control system in addition to relying mainly on periodic audits of excise taxpayers and a web based computerized system (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015).
Strengthening of Management and the Organization - aims to strengthen the management and the organization of the CED in order to provide better service at a lower cost (Corporate strategic business plan, 2010-2015). .
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE DEPARTMENT
Of all the responsibilities mentioned in the above section, only three challenges will be focused on in this assignment. These are the collection and protection of revenue; enforcement restrictions and prohibitions and the deployment of trade facilitation measures.
Collection and protection of revenue
Recently, the Barbados Customs has experience a surge in the importation of car shells and subsequently the importation of engines to be assembled with the shells into complete cars. This has caused a considerable loss in revenue as car shells and engines attract no excise tax which is applicable on the importation of a motor car. However, it must be noted that there is a provision for cars to be imported knocked down and assembled locally but it has to be an approved business by the customs department.
Enforcement restrictions and prohibitions
There are a number of conventions which combat the threat of hazardous goods on the environment. These include the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous goods; the Rotterdam Convention which promotes shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among parties in the international trade on certain hazardous chemicals; the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer; the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants and the Cartagena Protocol on the protection of biological diversity from the risks posed by living modified organisms (LMO). Of all these the Montreal Protocol is of importance to the Barbados Customs department.
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The department is challenged by the training of officers in the detection of these substances and handling of the specific equipment. Some records have been made of the importation of these ozone depleting substances but the problem remains that not all officers in the airport or seaport have been trained and in the case of rotation in the department, untrained officers can be placed in areas where the importation of these substances can 'slip' detection and gain exposure in the public arena, resulting in harm not only to the environment but to the public at large. Subsequently, all ozone depleted substances have been listed under 'Prohibited Items'.
Trade facilitation as defined by the WCO is 'the simplification and harmonization of international trade procedures' where trade procedures are the 'activities, practices and formalities involved in collecting, presenting, communicating and processing data required for the movement of goods in international trade' (WTO 1998). Within the area of supply chain security, trade facilitation is seen as a concept that can help improve controls and offset the additional burden on legitimate traders.
The CED is at a critical point in the transition from a transaction-based Customs service to an intelligence-driven risk management regime with simplified processing and post-entry verification. To date, a Risk Management Unit has been implemented using a risk management tool which interfaces with ASYCUDA ++. This creates an importers profile with the selectivity module which determines how entries are channeled. Red - to be examined; Green - no examination required; Yellow - documentation check and Blue - post clearance audit. However, no risk management committee as yet been established and the section is limited it in its daily operations as officers are not performing all functions of the section.
In the area of control a Post Clearance Unit has been implemented but is limited in its functioning as only desk audits are conducted while waiting upon the drafting in the enactment of the legislation to carry out extensive searches at importers premises.
In addition, CED website is under construction offering no information of use to customs clients, stakeholders or staff members.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION IMPACTING ON THE CUSTOMS
Customs administrations have shifted from the traditional 'gatekeeper' role to become regarded as 'key border agencies responsible for all transactions related to issues arising from the border crossing of goods and people' (Luc De Wulf, 2005). Hence, adapting effective and efficient methods of operations and managing their responsibilities to keep abreast of the rigorous demands of the local, regional and international trading community, fostering strong partnerships with other customs organizations and establishing effective trade agreements.
To aid in this on-going evolution, a number of international organizations have impacted on the way that national Customs' today continue to do business in the simplification and harmonization of rules and procedures. These include the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank ( IADB).
The World Customs Organization (WCO)
The WCO, established in 1952 is the only international intergovernmental organization that deals with enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of legitimate international trade between countries (www. wcoomd.org). Commonly referred to as the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), this organization has a worldwide membership of 179 countries and deals specifically in the areas of development of global standards, the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures, trade supply chain security, the facilitation of international trade, improvement of customs enforcement and compliance activities, anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiatives, customs to customs and customs to business partnerships, integrity promotion and capacity building programmes (study guide). The WCO also administers the international Harmonized System goods nomenclature and technical aspects of the WTO agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin (study guide).
Barbados is a member of the WCO.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between countries (www.wto.org). WTO agreements are negotiated, settled and signed by the majority of the world's trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal of the WTO is to help producers of goods and services, exporters and importers conduct their business (www.wto.org) while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives (study guide).
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Barbados has been a member of the WTO since 1 January 1995 and a founding Member of GATT 1994.
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
The IADB, founded in 1959 as a partnership between 19 Latin American countries and the United States, is the leading source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean, with a strong commitment to the achievement of measurable results, increased integrity, transparency and accountability (www.iadb.org). Besides being a regular bank which provides loans, there are some unique aspects of the IADB which include providing grants, technical assistance and doing research for Member countries (www.iadb.org).
The IADB has been instrumental in the funding and development of the Barbados Customs modernization programme and with future projects such as the implementation of the Electronic Single Window (ESW) and the Central Container Facility.
Barbados joined the IADB as a Member country in 1969.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
UNCTAD was established in 1964 as an intergovernmental body responsible for trade, investments and development issues for developing countries as a way of allowing them competitive advantage and acceleration in their economic growth (www.unctad.org). It promotes international trade among all nations through the formulation of principles and policies and the implementation of these policies and principles having regard to different economic systems and stages of development. UNCTAD plays the role of the centre for harmonization of trade (study guide).
UNCTAD is the developer of the ASYCUDA technology which is in operation within the Barbados Customs and Excise department. Currently in use is the AASYCUDA++ with a future upgrade to ASYCUDA World as part of the modernization programme.
Under the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) Chapter 7, it is recommended that Customs adopt the use of modern techniques such as risk management and audit-based controls and the use of minimum practicable use of information technology.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND TREATIES TOI WHICH BARBADOS IS A SIGNATORY
There are three (3) conventions to which Barbados is a signatory:
Conventions establishing a Customs Cooperation Council - 1999-01-07
Customs Convention on the temporary importation of pedagogic material - 1975-03-07
Convention on the Valuation of Goods for Customs purposes (BDV) - 1994-04-05
OTHER ORGANIZATION TO WHICH BARBADOS SHOULD BE A SIGNATORY
The UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme
This United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime programme (UNODC) in collaboration with the WCO deals with ensuring the security of the international supply chain. This is of utmost importance as the Barbados Customs as it is in readiness to implement the Authorized Economic Programme (AEO). The objectives of the programme is for countries to develop law enforcement structures in selected seaports which act as a deterrent in combating and mimimizing the exploitation of maritime containers for illicit drug trafficking, precursor chemicals, weapons, hazardous materials and other transnational organized criminal activities purposefully concealed to avoid revenue collection (UNOCDC, 2010).
This programme allows for stronger and strategic alliances between customs, police, the trade and other relevant bodies to prevent organizations from abusing legitimate trade. It involves working together with port control units (PCU) comprising of analysts and search teams, who have been trained and are equipped to use risk analysis and other proactive techniques to systemically target high-risk containers (UNODC, 2010).
This further enhances compliance of the AEOs and gives credence to the final stage of AEO status of being Mutually Recognized. Containers moving through the international chain from country to country until the final destination is reached can be cleared in faster times as only those 'high risk' containers will be targeted for inspection.
There is also the use of new tools and mechanisms for collecting, analyzing and sharing information and the optimizing existing human, technical and logistical resources (UNODC, 2010).
OTHER INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONSTO WHICH BARBADOS SHOULD BE A SIGNATORY
The International Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures (Kyoto Convention)
In becoming a Member of the RKC, Barbados will be in a position to participate in a leading role, in the consideration and recommendation of amendments to the RKC and its Guidelines within the Management committee. Conversely, as a non-member, under Article 6 of the RKC and the establishment of a Managing Committee, comprised wholly of Contracting Parties, Barbados' only participation would be as an observer.
There is also the advantage of be able to negotiate bilateral and regional trade agreement resulting in advantages in trade facilitation and the fact that the reforms and modernizations programmes implemented in the Barbados Customs department such as the Risk Management Unit, Post Clearance Audit Unit and impending AEO programme would have the distinctive approval of the WCO as being successfully implemented and therefore would not have to be revamped. This would also assist Barbados' economy in attracting other government reform and modernization programmes.
The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System).
Becoming a signatory to the Harmonized System primarily promotes international trade and ensures that there is the proper application of Customs rules. There will be an increase in the supply chain security as well as a reduction in the disputes with the customs and the simplification of the analysis of trade information.
Presently, Barbados observes and is heavily influenced by the guidelines of CARICOM under which we are a Member and follows closely the guiding principle of the common external tariff.
It is to be noted that although Barbados is not a signatory to these Conventions, they however follow the guidelines very closely in their daily operations.
The Barbados customs department has undertaken a series of initiatives which will lead the department and its staff into delivering its vision and mission towards its modernization programme. This programme is built on the strategic goals of strengthening customs operations, strengthening enforcement and border security, modernizing the administration of the Value Added Tax, modernizing the administration of excise taxes together with the strengthening of our management and organization and the commitment of the staff that will deliver it.
With the support of the government and other international organization, whilst closely adhering to their treaties and Conventions, the department will reap success in this implementation.