SLID Webinar on SL Customs’ Operations During Covid-19 | Daily News


 

SLID Webinar on SL Customs’ Operations During Covid-19

The moderator and panellists
The moderator and panellists

The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) – Sri Lanka’s leading member institute for Directors organized a timely webinar titled “Covid 19: Customs Procedures and Practices” with senior officials of the Customs Dept. to discuss the issues faced by the business community during the current Covid-19 pandemic, and the procedures and improvements to be implemented in the import/export process so vital to the smooth functioning of the economy.

The panel comprised of senior customs officials Sunil Jayarathna–Additional Director General of Customs Thilak Arumapperumaarachchi–Deputy Director Customs, Dinesh Silva- Member of the Trade Facilitation Committee of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce representing the import/export business community and Lakshman Silva-CEO DFCC Bank while Rohan Maskorale-Chief Executive Officer of the Shippers Academy moderated the discussion. Over 100 participants from the industry and other stakeholders were present at the webinar.

At the outset of the webinar the officials representing the Customs Department shared their views on how the Department is facing the current situation, as well as the measures required to deal with the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.

“The Customs Department provides up to 57% revenue to the Government and is the key trade facilitation agency for cross border movement. Factors such as the health and safety of the staff and the public at large, and the smooth operation of supply chains which are the backbone of the Country’s economy were a few of the challenges faced by the Department at the outset of the pandemic. Regular engagement was carried out with the private sector and other stakeholder agencies such as foreign missions and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to address their grievances. The Department also conducted a webinar for all SAARC member countries on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreements during the Covid-19 pandemic” said Sunil Jayarathna–Additional Director General of Customs.

Cross border movement, selectivity criterion to facilitate legitimate trade of cargo limiting of 24x7 processes to 8 hours due to the Covid-19 crisis were several other challenges that were faced by the Department. The Department, consequent to discussions with policymakers and stakeholders introduced a new selectivity criteria for cargo by deviating from the routine selectivity of cargo and is currently in the process of streamlining same to facilitate legitimate trade while 70% of essential items were exempted from physical examination to expedite trade. The Department also introduced an interim process to submit customs’ declarations electronically (paperless) to improve efficiencies and provide convenience to the stakeholders at the onset of the crisis.

A call center specifically for BOI related approvals has also been implemented. An email platform for application processing and templates for submission of electronic documents has also been rolled out by the Department to facilitate operations.

“While adhering to health safety measures such as social distancing, digitalization of the Customs Department is happening in the interest of development” he added.

Panelist Dinesh Silva acknowledged the immense efforts taken by the Customs Department to support the smooth functioning of the importation process amidst the restrictions that it had to face due to the lack of vital digital infrastructure. He said that the Department implemented electronic measures such as electronic submissions to expedite the clearing process while emphasizing on the need to urgently address the bottlenecks where the digitalization is yet to be successfully implemented.

Panelist Lakshman Silva said “One of the challenges currently faced by local Banks is the absence of proper documentation from the customers which results in a delay.

Connecting with foreign correspondent banks also takes time due to the ongoing crisis is also a challenge.

We will be able to expedite this in the near future with a new methodology to support imports and exports” he added.

 


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