ISLAMABAD: As part of the trade facilitation agreement, the National Single Window (NSW) to manage external trade will be operational by 2021, said Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi on Tuesday.
The proposed window will provide a comprehensive solution for imports, exports, transit trade, trade through border customs stations and air cargo. Moreover, under the system, all 48 regulatory bodies will retain their respective powers while their functions will be carried out through electronic access to the NSW.
The NSW — to be completed at a cost of $163 million — will simplify procedures and improve predictability and will also eliminate the need for physical engagement between traders and regulators.
Talking to a select group of journalists, Zaidi said the government is committed to adopt e-governance system and NSW is a step forward in that direction.
He went on to say that NSW and other automation related initiatives by Pakistan Customs are manifestation of the government’s commitment to reform and modernise the governance system.
He said that with support from development partners particularly the USAID, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank Group, and UK Department for International Development, the FBR is confident of meeting its reform objectives.
Highlighting the importance of the NSW, World Bank Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan said the project would help facilitate trade. However, he suggested the FBR to consider outsourcing NSW to a third party on the ground that he did not want to see yet another state-owned-entity surviving on cash from the government.
NSW, implemented in around 50 countries in the world, has become a core instrument to facilitate trade and implement electronic business.
Member Customs Operations Dr Jawwad Uwais Agha, who was also present at the occasion, said that Pakistan’s global ranking under cross-border trade-related indicators of the World Bank’s ease of doing business survey for 2019 has improved by 29 positions due to efforts taken by the Pakistan Customs.
He further added that as per World Bank report, the business community in Pakistan incurred more than $400m extra cost as compared to average costs for import and exports in South Asia during last year.
Answering a question, Agha said he is optimistic that NSW will help ensure transparency, reduce corruption and reduce dwell time of containers at ports besides facilitating traders.
The implementation of NSW comes at an opportune time as the country is moving towards major economic and trade initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation and Community Investment Tax Relief.
The draft legislation for NSW has been prepared while the functional, revenue and technical models are expected to be finalised by June. Though the government has allocated funds in the upcoming Public Sector Development Program, Pakistan Customs is currently providing funds from its own resources to fast-track the implementation of the project.
Project Director Muhammad Imran Khan said the business model for execution and operation as well as alignment of participating departments has been approved by the steering committee in April.
He added that NSW will facilitate electronic submission, risk-based parallel processing and issuance of regulatory approvals relying on data/process harmonisation while using modern technology. The port community system will help transform the logistics side of external trade.
In addition to business-to-government interactions, the NSW will strengthen and reinforce business-to-business, and government-to-government relationship.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2019