The government has chosen to use the lull in international trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to bring its Customs facility administered by the National Board of Revenue on par with global standards, so that it may facilitate a smoother, more efficient trading process to help the economy bounce back faster once health concerns are overcome.
Several measures like upgrading ASYCUDA World, National Single Window, Automated Customs Risk Management, Authorized Economic Operator, etc. have been undertaken by the state’s revenue collection agency to modernise Customs.
The Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) is a computerized system designed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to administer a country's customs. UNCTAD's aim was to build a computer system to assist customs authorities all over the world to automate and control their core processes and obtain timely, accurate, and valuable information to support government projections and planning.
"The country's economy has come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic halting the rapid progress of the economy. In order to overcome this situation, there is no alternative to upgrading Customs to international standards to facilitate import and export trade," it is stated in a budget document for 2020-21 fiscal.
It said that if these measures are implemented in due time, the ease of doing business ranking of Bangladesh will improve, the investment will be facilitated, and the wheels of the country's economy will be further accelerated.
Besides, the Customs Modernisation Strategic Action Plan 2019-2022 has been adopted to facilitate trade and commerce in the country.
According to the document, modern scanners are being set up at customs ports and customs stations. The National Single Window (NSW) project has been taken up to connect all stakeholders in a single platform. It will provide the facilities of One-Stop Service for import and export.
Full implementation of the modern and technology-based NSW project will speed up trade and reduce business operating costs.
This will be an important step in the implementation of cross-border paperless trade. With the introduction of the Advance Ruling program, importers or new entrepreneurs can now be certain of the H.S. Codes and Rules of Origin of their products before importing them.
The National Single Window (NSW) by 2022 would speed up the export-import process by bringing the services of 39 public and private agencies under an integrated system.
After implementing the system by 2022, import time will be reduced to two days and export to one day. Currently, it takes eight days for releasing import goods while export goods need five days through different customs in the ports.
According to the NBR, a total of 319,000 importers and exporters are expected to be benefited from reduced time and cost for trade once the system becomes operational.
The Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) system has been introduced to ensure faster delivery of goods, enabling traders to avail of the Fast Track facility.
An AEO trader is a party involved in the international movement of goods with a record of satisfactory compliance to World Customs Organization (WCO) standards or an equivalent supply chain security standard certified by, or on behalf of, a national Customs administration. Achieving AEO recognition indicates supply chain security.
In addition, the government has taken IT-based risk management and post-clearance audit activities to speed up the delivery of goods for all but risky persons or organisations.
"If we can implement these projects it would be a great help for us for revenue collection," a senior NBR official said.
He said that automation would give a boost for the revenue collection as well as reduce the hassle for the export and import activities that ultimately will bring positive results in doing business.
The total revenue collection target for the proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal is set at a steep Tk 378,000 crore where the NBR will contribute Tk 3,30,000 crore. The revenue from non-NBR sources was estimated at Tk 15,000 crore, while non-tax revenue at Tk. 33,000 crores.
Of the grand amount for the NBR, Tk 103,945 crore will come from income, profit, and capital tax, while Tk 125,162 crore will be contributed by VAT, the supplementary tax will provide Tk 57,815 crore, Tk 37,807 crore will come from import duty, Tk 55 crore from export duty, Tk 3,686 crore from the excise duty and Tk 1,530 crore as other taxes.