The World Customs Organization’s theme for International Customs Day 2021 truly encompasses what customs formations all over the world have been through in a post-Covid world.
The onset of Covid-19 has set up a new milestone in global history where the future will see the last century as a post-cold war, post-9/11 and a post-Covid world.
The ability of corporations to develop supply-chain networks was the basis of globalization. The very foundation of this dynamic world has been threatened by Covid-19 as countries on the bottom of the supply chain began to close down as a method to deal with the rapidly spreading virus.
Not only did this raise a point on the fragility of the supply chain network, it once again highlighted the importance of developing seamless trade systems, automated risk management systems and international coordination between different customs authorities to ensure that trade activities continue.
Critics and analysts all over the world agree that the impact of Covid-19 on trade and related activities shall be long-lasting and continuous efforts will be needed to recover from both the visible and unseen losses occurred.
Customs authorities all over the world have been working throughout the pandemic. In Pakistan, Customs activities were marked as frontline mandatory operations by the government.
The staff continued to ensure smooth supply of goods such as medical equipment, protective gear, sanitizers and masks. Customs vigilance ensured that counterfeit, illegal and smuggled items were deterred. In the course of these activities, many personnel lost their lives to the virus.
1,483 epidemic events in 172 countries were tracked by the WHO between 2011 and 2018 and certain recommendations on the preparedness of governments were made. Pandemics are not the only risk that supply chain networks face in the world.
There are cyber-attacks, national disasters, wars and maritime threats that need to be taken into account before formulating any policies. The preparedness of different customs organizations in the world under the auspices of WCO reinforced the commitment of customs personnel that were already working under the pressure of the government for matters related to revenue collection.
The current times prove that Customs authorities should be involved in strategy and policy making because their preparedness includes a regional PESTLE Analysis of the business and work environment.
Covid-19 is a harbinger of renewal and speeding up processes related to modernization of Customs. The Pakistan Single Window, a project pioneered by Pakistan Customs, will be rolled out in the country tentatively in June 2021, making inter-agency coordination and strong linkages- a possibility.
Cooperation and communication can change the reactive strategies into proactive functioning thus also contributing to the overall economic well-being of the country.
While the world was putting up a fight against the pandemic, criminals saw this as an opportunity for fraudulent activities. Using the fear amongst people as a driving force, offenders all over the world have attempted to introduce counterfeit and substandard equipment and protective instruments in the market.
In order to ensure that genuine supply chains were not affected, WCO launched an Intellectual Property Rights module on the CENcomm platform. Pakistan Customs is also in the process of uploading data onto this platform to contribute to the process of information sharing.
Customs Administrations all over the world have shown commendable resilience to the challenges presented since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic. Quick responses and non-standard solutions through automated processes have made it possible to continue routine activities- with improvisation.
The need for a secure and contactless border has never been highlighted so strongly before. The environment in which customs operates is gradually changing. In order to keep up with the fast pace of these changing dynamics, customs authorities must vow to keep improving. Adaptability and learning will be at the core of this improvement.
In the long term, more programs like the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Program will have to be introduced even for air cargo. This will reduce unnecessary delays and rerouting of cargo flights. It will take a long time for the aviation industry to recover from the impact of Covid-19.
The pandemic has made the world realize that air cargo has been crucial during the provision of health and safety supplies to different parts of the world. For them to remain functional a balance will have to be created between enforcement measures and facilitation so that the economic impact on cargo flights can be reduced.
This will include dropping some quarantine regulations, training employees, introducing improved risk management systems and establishing quick response procedures. Preparedness for any unpredictable situation in the future is the key to effective Customs operations. This is a commitment that is endorsed on this International Customs Day.