Fortifying Economic Frontiers – Daily Times
In this global open market economy driven by capitalism, the world as a whole has produced immense wealth over the past three decades or so, much of it attributable to the wealth produced by international trade. Global trade constitutes nearly 58% of global GDP, and it is thanks to this colossal wealth creation that we are witnessing an increase in per capita income and a reduction in poverty in the world. While the World Trade Organization sets the parameters for international trade, it is the World Customs Organization, through its 183 member states, that ensures smooth cross-border trade while keeping the world safe, secure and peaceful. Like other customs administrations, Pakistan Customs has been tasked with performing extremely important functions that are sometimes even more essential than enforcing global trade rules. It is Pakistan Customs who remain on the front lines at borders, seaports, airports and highways to protect our country from the threat of smuggling, drugs, currency, alcohol, pornography , etc the smuggling of goods to protect our industry and therefore secure jobs. It is on the strength of this protection and the growth of our industry that we can dream of a Pakistan where exports become the mainstay of our GDP, bringing in valuable foreign exchange to meet our growing import demands. It is very reassuring to see that Pakistan Customs, with the help of other law enforcement agencies, was able to thwart smuggling at a considerable level, which was a huge challenge for the country. . Therefore, Pakistan Customs is responsible for ensuring safe transit routes through our territory connecting our ports, airports and land customs posts to countries in the region, and connecting Pakistan to Central Asia and beyond. FBR aims to enable Pakistan to become a logistics hub by connecting the three economic corridors that cross Pakistan; CPEC and the other two economic corridors of the Central Asian republics via Torkham and Chaman.
Global trade constitutes nearly 58% of global GDP, and it is thanks to this colossal wealth creation that we are witnessing an increase in per capita income and a reduction in poverty in the world.
Pakistan Customs has made it a mandate to embrace technology and is very aware that without digital transformation we would remain vulnerable and uncompetitive. This year, the WCO’s theme for International Customs Day is “Scaling up the digital transformation of Customs by embracing a data culture and creating a data ecosystem”, which envisions a data-driven business culture as an basis for modern customs administrations. This theme is not only in line with initiatives that have already been undertaken by Pakistan Customs, but is what FBR is constantly striving to achieve. It is undeniable that the role of Pakistan Customs is constantly evolving and they have risen to the occasion to respond to the changing nature of border management. Pakistan Customs serves as the guardian of Pakistan’s borders against the movement of contraband goods, as well as a major revenue contributing agency. Pakistan Customs handles legitimate annual trade worth over US$80 billion. In the financial year 2020-2021, Pakistan Customs recorded a growth of 20% in the collection of customs duties in addition to collecting 45% of the total revenue collected by FBR from all duties and taxes at the stage of import. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, in addition to showing a 45% growth in customs duty collection, Pakistan Customs collected at the import stage 51% of the total revenue collected by the RBF. Recognizing the importance of technology and the role played by a data-driven culture, Pakistan Customs has undertaken several initiatives to reduce costs and increase the ease of doing business. The most important of these is Pakistan’s Single Window, which provides a single entry point for all regulatory requirements related to import, export and transit, in accordance with international best practices. It is very important to mention that once completed, the Pakistan Single Window (PSW) project will integrate more than 74 government entities and port communities into a single platform, which will be a giant step towards facilitating imports. and exports and a game changer for trade facilitation in the region.
Similarly, to further facilitate the ever-increasing volume of international trade, the Compliance Risk Management (CRM) regime has also been strengthened. The CRM regime is the management of compliant and non-compliant merchants based on risk assessment criteria. It has been successfully implemented across Pakistan and covers all types of air, land and sea freight. Upstream, the CRM depends on an automated risk management system (RMS) for fast clearances; while upstream, the General Directorate of Post Clearance Control was created to help undertake audits aimed at preventing tax evasion without detaining cargo at ports and borders. Its effective implementation has enabled Pakistan Customs to increase the rate of low-risk cargo passing through the green channel this year from 44% to 54% in imports and from 75% to 85% in exports and has contributed to Pakistan’s improved global ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey increased from 171 in 2016 to 111 in 2020 according to the Trading Across Borders Indicators. He has also worked with our international counterparts to foster a culture of collaboration between Customs administrations; and I have great pleasure to share that Pakistan Customs has successfully inaugurated the Air Cargo Screening Unit (ACCU) at Islamabad International Airport under the Container Screening Program (CCP) of the Pakistan Customs. UNODC-WCO, being the third airport to do so after Jinnah International Airport, Karachi and Allama International Airport, Lahore. The unit, including Pakistani Customs officers, received UNODC and WCO training on profiling, risk analysis, targeting and data mining in an inter-agency setup and will certainly play an effective role in stopping the illicit loadings tactfully concealed in a seemingly legitimate device. consignment.
It is important to mention that a separate National Targeting Center (NTC) branch has also been established as a national one stop shop for the application of all LEAs under the leadership of Pakistan Customs for the integration of combat against smuggling with a central database. The Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS) at Torkham, Chaman and Wagha border crossing points under the Asian Development Bank funded CAREC-RIBS program with Pakistan Customs as the implementing agency principal is another step taken. The project aims to realize the vision of the Pakistani government to become a transit hub for efficient regional connectivity and improved trade by linking the CAREC region to the sea as well as to the economies of Southeast Asia. In addition, the National Nuclear Detection Architecture (NNDA) has also been put in place to prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials.
Pakistan Customs is the leading anti-smuggling agency working proactively to reduce smuggling in addition to fulfilling its international obligations to stop the movement of illicit goods. The recently adopted anti-smuggling governance model is an excellent example of inter-agency cooperation that has yielded positive results, thereby increasing government revenue at the importation and local industrialization stage. In the month of December 2021, contraband goods worth Rs 4.3 billion were seized. Similarly, in July-December of the current financial year 2021-22, illicit goods amounting to Rs. 28 billion were seized, including non-customized vehicles (NCP), betel nuts, tissue , cigarettes, auto parts, electronics, POL products, gold/silver bars/jewelry and other miscellaneous goods. He seized five large consignments of narcotics in Torkham in the past three weeks, worth an estimated Rs 1540 million. Seized narcotics containing heroin, hashish, opium, ice, etc. were concealed in special cavities of the POL tank trucks and in the floor of the trucks. Anti-social measures were also initiated by Pakistani customs, resulting in the seizure of 26,466 bottles of liquor. In a nutshell, Pakistan Customs, armed wing of FBR, continues to fortify Pakistan’s economic borders day after day.
The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!