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Editorial:Digitization of Customs Will Bring More Transparency in System

Port Wings, 21 March 2018:

As part of the “Ease of Doing Business” initiatives, the Central Board of Excise & Customs, Government of India has taken up implementation of the Single Window Project to facilitate the trading across borders in India.

With the implementation of e-SANCHIT, Indian Customs moving in a new direction, which would bring more transparency in the system that often referred as “dark web” by the trading community.

The ‘India Customs Single Window’ would allow importers and exporters, the facility to lodge their clearance documents online at a single point only. Required permissions, if any, from other regulatory agencies would be obtained online without the trader having to approach these agencies.

The Single Window Interface for Trade (SWIFT), would reduce interface with Governmental agencies, dwell time and the cost of doing business. CBEC had already executed major projects to automate Customs clearance processes and provide electronic data interchange (EDI) with all agencies. SWIFT was the natural next step. The objectives of SWIFT are in line with key programs of Government namely ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’.

With the implementation of the single import declaration or the Integrated Declaration for all import regulatory information requirements with effect from 01st April 2016, information required for import clearance by government agencies concerned will be integrated at a single entry point, i.e. the Customs Gateway (ICEGATE).

The Single Window system is a crucial implementation of trade facilitation measure for goods clearance at the country’s points of entry and exit. In order to work collaboratively with agencies and industry stakeholders, port and central level Customs Clearance Facilitation Committees (CCFCs) have been established to simplify and streamline their interagency procedures and documentary requirements for import and export of cargo.

The Single Window project will reduce time taken in obtaining clearances with other government agencies, by reducing human interface, and by increasing transparency. By introducing a system of risk-based selectivity of import and export consignments, all participating agencies would able to focus on high-risk consignments while facilitating the clearance of low-risk cargo. Further measure are underway to eliminate hardcopy documentation by allowing trade to submit digitally signed electronic versions of the supporting documents and print outs.

Stakeholders from trade and industry have actively contributed to the success of SWIFT by providing valuable guidance in the initial stages of the project.

After SWIFT was launched, the industry participants used social media very effectively by connecting with all participants on a real-time basis to report problems and relay solutions almost instantly. The concept of Single Window being a single interface to regulatory authorities is a very attractive one for industry. SWIFT provides a tangible path to that goal. Therefore, the industry has welcomed the move. In implementing SWIFT, there was close Customs-business partnership. There was frequent and open communication between the project team and trade. In the project, social media was deployed effectively to maintain instant communication, feedback and positivity. To a large extent, problems were solved in a collaborative environment and with a spirit of co-operation. Perhaps, all of this is also a new experience. Let us see how the new e-SANCHIT system reduces trouble for the trade and brings in more transparency to the whole process.

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