The government took yet another step towards improving trade and transhipment as well as the island’s economic competitiveness and finances with the launch of a new Customs system on Wednesday, August 13.

The latest technology in customs administration – the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) – is a computerized system designed to aid the process of Customs reform and its modernization.

ASYCUDA is expected to yield significant “improvements in revenue collection, facilitate speedy clearance of goods and customs processes and, according to Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, “will go a far way in supporting government projections and forecasting through the Ministry of Finance and Planning”.

The system utilises a single interface for government trade regulatory agencies, external stakeholders and brokers for verifying data and generating accurate reports. It means goods will now be moved within a shorter time from the ports to the broker, essentially cutting down on the waiting period while significantly reducing import and overall business costs.

Acknowledging the current obstacles to doing business at Customs, keynote speaker, Minister of Finance, Planning and the Public Sector Dr. Peter Phillips commended the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) for taking the bold step towards implementing the system.

He said the Ministry of National Security could also benefit from a similar system as it would serve to “boost government revenues”.

“It will improve compliance at the ports, result in a simplification of the processes and see the reduction in waiting time,” he said.

Noting the timeliness of ASYCUDA, the finance minister said government understands that the capacity to compete is set by the international marketplace. But, he said, the government was committed to the task of “enabling stakeholders in order that they may produce”.

Dr. Guy, in noting the benefits to be realized revealed that of 150 countries in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index, Jamaica ranked 70, up from 118 in 2007.

He said the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) is “exploring” the Port Community System, which will rival ASYCUDA upon implementation.

Also at the launch were Minister of Industry, Investment & Commerce Hon. Anthony Hylton; mission director, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner-Jones; retired commissioner and CEO of the Jamaica Customs Department, Major Richard Reece; Jaime Mendoza and Yannick Goujon, ASYCUDA regional advisor and regional coordinator for the Americas, respectively; and Kingsley Henry, manager, cargo imaging unit, JCA in Montego Bay.

ASYCUDA is set to rollout in February 2015 and will bring Jamaica on board with over 80 other countries utilizing the system.

The JCA and PAJ are agencies of the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing.