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Digital transformation

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Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building Data Ecosystem

By Selwyn Da Silva 

Comptroller of Customs and Excise (Ag)

International Customs Day is globally recognized, where Customs administrations come together to remember and celebrate the contributions made by Customs in protecting the economy, health, and security of the nations, and to commemorate the first session of the Customs Co-operation Council held in 1953.  The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Customs and Excise Department (CED) again joins the World Customs Organization (WCO) in celebrating International Customs Day, Jan. 26, 2022. 

The WCO will devote the year 2022 to contributing to the establishment of a more global digitalised customs environment that is more data-driven. As such the slogan for this year’s celebration is “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”. 

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The uncertainties of the global economy because of climate change, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, volatility of oil prices and the rise in freight charges have impacted the global supply chain and caused tremendous shock on our local economy. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic and recent volcanic eruption have further exacerbated economic challenges, forcing the Customs administration to become more creative in collecting tax revenues. Nonetheless, revenue continues to be consistent from year to year and with foresight, good strategy and the dedication of staff the Customs and Excise Department can look forward to even greater successes in the future. 

The volcanic eruption of April 2021 brought to the fore sheer dedication, commitment and true Vincentian spirit of the entire staff which saw us working from Sunday to Sunday to ensure that the much needed relief goods transited the port to all importing parties smoothly. Officers recognised the need to take care of each other and stepped up to serve their country in a time of need. 

The dedication shown by staff during these times of uncertainty and disaster is indeed commendable and deserves recognition. While the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the work force as well as the international supply chain, the customs staff has demonstrated tenacity as we put country before self in facilitating and sustaining international trade and travel. 

Moreover, in mitigating these challenges, the department employed a number of risk management strategies and was able to collect approximately EC$33 million, a record collection for any December month. As a result of this success, the department has now recorded the highest revenue collection for any fiscal year in the history of the CED. This achievement was accomplished on the backdrop of a fiscal year that was punctuated with massive concessions in the form of relief goods stemming from the volcanic eruption, spanning three quarters of the financial year of 2021.

Despite the internal and external challenges, the CED remains committed in carrying out its mandate with pride, dedication, and commitment. The Government of SVG, through the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project (CARDTP), intends to implement an Electronic Single Window for Trade (ESWFT) to manage the regulatory processes impacting the importation and exportation of goods. 

The main value proposition for having a single window for St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to increase the efficiency in trade and investment through time and cost savings for traders in their dealings with government authorities for obtaining the relevant clearance and permit(s) for moving cargo across St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ national or economic borders. In the current pre-single-window environment, traders have had to contend with visits and dealings with multiple government agencies in multiple locations to obtain the necessary papers, permits, and clearances to complete their import or export processes. This digital infrastructure would ease doing business with the Customs by providing a one stop shop for importers and customers to process all import and export documents.

The CED hoped to celebrate throughout the week of Jan. 26 with several activities. However, due to the current COVID-19 spike, this year’s celebrations would be scaled back in an effort to maintain the health and safety of the staff and the public. The management of Customs would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff and thank them for a job well done in a very challenging time. We ask for your understanding and support as we move into 2022. We would also like to thank our customers and stakeholders for your cooperation and understanding as we look forward to working together in the future. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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