Author : D.S.MALIK
As part of the Government’s initiatives for improving the Ease of Doing Business, several facilitation measures are being taken by the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) in last two years. In line with the Budget announcement made by the Union Finance Minister and as part of the “Ease of Doing Business” initiatives, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) launched the Customs’ SWIFT (Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade) Clearances Project with effect from 1st April 2016.
SWIFT will help India to improve its ranking in World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016. India now ranks 130 out of 189 countries in the Ease of Doing Business, moving-up four places from last year’s (2015) adjusted ranking of 134.
The Customs’ SWIFT enables importers/exporters to file a common electronic ‘Integrated Declaration’ on the Indian Customs Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data Interchange (EC/EDI) Gateway i.e. ICEGATE portal. e-Commerce portal Central Board of Excise and Customs
The Integrated Declaration compiles the information requirements of Customs, FSSAI, Plant Quarantine, Animal Quarantine, Drug Controller, Wild Life Control Bureau and Textile Committee. It replaces nine separate forms required by these 6 different agencies and Customs. With the roll-out of the Single Window, CBEC has also introduced an Integrated Risk Management facility for Partner Government Agencies (PGAs),
which will ensure that consignments are not selected by agencies routinely for examination and testing, but based on the principle of risk management.
It will also help the participating agencies in handling their respective work areas (related to human and animal health, bio-safety and environment safety) more effectively.
With this development today, Indian Customs is amongst the few select countries in the world that have functional Single Window clearances, inclusive of multiple PGAs and integrated risk based selection.
Implementation of Single Window is by far one of the most complex systems integration efforts that have been taken-up by the Directorate General of Systems.
To introduce the Single Window and the ‘Integrated Declaration’, IT Systems of both the Government Departments and private sector agencies had to be changed. The whole exercise has been coordinated well and all this was made possible due to unstinting efforts put in by the officers of Directorate General of Systems and Single Window team.
The Single Window system is a crucial implementation of trade facilitation measure for goods’ clearances at the country’s points of entry and exit. Efficiency in the import and export procedures would save large sums of money for the importers and exporters due to reduced trade-related costs and delays. By requiring all participating Government agencies to publish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and timelines, the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary has set benchmarks and goals for all related Regulatory Agencies. In order to work collaboratively with the agencies and industry stakeholders, port and central level Customs’ Clearance Facilitation Committees (CCFCs) have been established to simplify and streamline their inter-agency procedures and documentary requirements for import and export of cargo.
According to the Chairman, CBEC, Shri Najib Shah, the time and cost associated with import and export clearances has been a matter of concern for the Government. In order to reduce the transaction costs and decrease cargo release time, a number of steps have been initiated by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in last two years.
A significant leap in this direction is the launch of the Customs’ Single Window clearances. Shri Shah added that there was strong willingness and support from all stakeholders for the Single Window project. The Department’s outreach program and enthusiastic private sector participation helped the department to launch the project in a timely manner.
How will SWIFT help:
· It will provide a single point interface for clearance of import goods.
· Replaces 9 separate documents with one Integrated Customs Electronic Declaration
· Facilitates trade by reducing Dwell Time & improving Ease of Doing Business
· Reduces Documentation & Cost of Clearance
· Brings 6 participating Government agencies on a single platform
· Eliminates need for tax-payers to interact separately with these agencies.
SWIFT will indeed go a long way in order to take the new trade facilitation initiatives of the present Government to new heights in times to come.
*D. S. Malik is Additional Director General in PIB.