Peace and security essential for businesses

Raza, Director, Transit Trade, Quetta

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has dedicated 2018 to building a secure business environment for economic development by launching its annual theme on International Customs Day 2018 with the slogan “A secure business environment for economic development.”

It is a well known fact that economic development can only take place when business environment in a society is safe and secure. Providing secure environment for businesses is an essential requirement for any thriving economy.

We observe the anecdotal evidence of it every day. Academic research also supports that peace and security are essential for businesses. Neighborhoods, cities and countries that are marred by war or violence are often the poorest of the poor. In simple terms, why would anyone want to invest in an area where that investment is at risk? It is, therefore, in the interest of any country to provide safety to the business.

In the present day and age, security comes in two types; digital and physical. In an age where the goods could be crossing numerous borders en route to their final destination, and the control being enforced through the binary commands, the security of the data involved becomes ever more paramount.

Customs administration of a country can ensure safe and secure business environment by promoting legitimate trade and secure supply chain by eliminating risks and threats, such as the shipment of illicit goods that could endanger peoples’ health, safety and security.

Combating cross-border crime, including the illicit funding of international terrorism through trade activities is also responsibility of the Customs administration. Smuggling, mis-declaration and importation of illegal goods, such as goods that infringe intellectual property rights, can play havoc with a country’s economy. Such activities not only infringe upon rights of legitimate traders, but can also adversely affect national economies and security of the people in general.

An efficient Customs administration thus promotes and facilitates international trade which further triggers economic development in all societies. This can be done by streamlining Customs procedures, reducing all types of risks through use of technology, enhancing integrity and predictability of processes, reducing cost of doing business, and by facilitating the movement of goods and conveyances across national boundaries. Customs can accordingly become a catalyst for economic development of a country by way of creating enabling, safe and secure environment for businesses and by facilitating international trade in a way that society benefits from it.

Pakistan Customs has adopted international best practices, which enhance performance of Customs administration and enhances security and trade facilitation. These measures include integrated Customs control procedures, advance electronic information on cargo, use of modern technology for inspection and tracking of cargo and risk-management system to identify potentially high-risk shipments.

In recent years, Pakistan Customs has developed automated and seamless customs clearance system for imports, exports and transit of goods. The transit trade is almost exclusively being conducted through online automated system further reinforced by satellite tracking systems. The movement of goods is digitally tracked on real time basis and any diversion from the route and any attempt of tampering is quickly recorded and reported to the authorities for appropriate action. The Web-based One Customs System (WeBOC) not only facilitates customs clearance processes but also keeps record of trade and data on real time basis.

The result is an integrated system, which reduces theft and scandals to the lowest level. Previously, there were many reports of pilferage of goods, but after use of technology such occurrences have been eliminated. The safe passage of the transit goods can now be tracked right from the Karachi port up to the entry into Afghanistan through satellite tracking system.

In order to ensure integrity of transit cargo en route and to reduce risks and threats involved, Pakistan Customs has adopted ollowing measures to handle transit trade in a safe and secure manner such as electronic, automated and fully integrated clearance system; transportation of cargo through licensed bonded carriers;  en-route tracking and monitoring through satellite tracking companies; electronic acknowledgment of containers by Afghan Customs through automated system;  system of financial guarantees; real time monitoring of cargo;  risk based physical examination at entry and exit stations; 100 percent examination of cargo on the basis of alerts generated by tracking company.

Though quite a lot of measures have been taken to ensure integrity of transit cargo, yet constant vigilance is required. More investment in cyber security and physical infrastructure is need of the hour to fend off any potential threat and further enhance the operational capacity of Customs administration in Pakistan, which will help in ensuring security of the business environment in the country resulting in sustainable economic growth.

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