Pakistan set to implement single window system for trade

Updated 15 Jul 2020

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The dwell time to clear cargo lasts for days as compared to hours in other countries. — Reuters/File
The dwell time to clear cargo lasts for days as compared to hours in other countries. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The government is all set to comply with the World Trade Organisation provisions to implement Pakistan Single Window (PSW) to streamline cross-border movement of goods and regulatory bottlenecks.

The government has set a deadline of 2022 to put in place the whole system which will be implemented at a cost of $67 million. This will not only improve the ease of doing business but also enhance controls through integrated risk management.

A senior customs officer told Dawn on Tuesday that the first phase of the PSW will be ready by the end of the current year, which will cover 80 per cent volume of various licenses, permits, certificates and other documents currently issued to regulate trade.

The PSW programme includes phased establishment of an ICT-based platform involving simplification, harmonisation, and automation of regulatory process related to cross-border trade. It also includes implementation of a port community system to facilitate related logistics.

The World Bank estimates in ease of doing business report that economic operators incurred $500 million more costs in Pakistan than their counterparts in South Asia to comply with the government’s regulations on imports, exports and transit trade in 2020.

The dwell time to clear cargo lasts for days as compared to hours in other countries.

The government has already introduced the PSW Bill 2020 in the parliament on June 8. Its operation will commence soon after the approval of the bill, which according to the customs officer was developed with consensus of all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Federal Board of Revenue is also completing the process of converting the eight-digit Pakistan Customs Tariff to 12 digits. The need for NSW was felt in the wake of the realisation that the country lacks effective regulatory controls at borders and ports in line with international standards

With several dozens of regulatory authorities working in silos and in a paper-based environment, management of external trade is inefficient and opaque.

Pakistan under its obligation to the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation decided to implement NSW in October 2017.

According to customs, the PSW will establish, maintain and expand ICT-based NSW platform, Port Community System, Trade Inform­ation Portal, Integrated Risk Mana­gement and Unified Registration, etc. None of these currently exist.

The PSW Company has been incorporated under Companies Act, 2017 with seed money provided by Customs from its GD fee fund. Unlike Pakistan Revenue Automation Ltd, the PSWC will work on a cost-recovery model without burdening the government while being accountable for the product rollout. A high-level steering committee chaired by a finance minister with relevant federal secretaries and president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry is empowered to review every decision before implementation.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020