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Aug 4, 2017

Customs Builds Trust with Belizean Importers and Brokers

There was once a local political campaign slogan that read, “It’s all about trust.” But with a less-than-stellar reputation for corrupt practices and a poor record for ease of doing business, most Belizeans seem resigned to the idea that they must sometimes do shady things to get what they want. Whether true or not, the current administration staked its reputation on lifting that veil and in one of its most important corners, the Customs and Excise Department, there has been some success. Aaron Humes reports on the expansion of the “Trusted Trader” Program.

 

Raquel Waight, Supervisor, Risk Management Unit, Customs and Excise Dept.

“When you think of voluntary compliance it sounds more [like] enforcement, so what we decided – let’s use a more friendlier name, like the Trusted Traders, whereby traders would feel more a part of a business relationship, per se, with Customs and themselves, and like we said, the Trusted Trader speaks for itself – when you say Trusted Trader, people don’t have to wonder what is Trusted Trader because the name says it all.”

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The Customs Department took a bold risk a few years ago with the establishment of what was called a pilot voluntary compliance program. A select group of traders and brokers received their shipments with no intervention, and agreed to later voluntarily comply with releasing information on their shipments. Some thought it wouldn’t work, but two years later, among the forty-one companies who participated, it is reaping the benefits.

 

Terrence Lennon

Terrence Lennon, UNCTAD

“At the start of the program, the only issue was really the change management, getting persons to embrace the whole concept, and you may have heard Miss Waight say earlier on that initially people were skeptic: would people actually voluntarily disclose after Customs have trusted them? And so we were able to build that trust and thereafter, persons started to comply.  The VCP members, those who were chosen to be part of the program, when we looked at the value of the goods that they imported over that two-year pilot period and the revenue they paid, they recorded a seventy-eight percent increase over the previous period for that, and that is pretty impressive. The revenue as well has been performing in double digits and that has been sustained over a period of four years, so even prior to the VCP, under the ASYCUDA World program, we have been seeing some very impressive figures in terms of revenue collection, and of course that makes us very proud of what Belize Customs and Belize as a nation has achieved.”

 

Officer Waight is on her way to Antigua and Barbuda next week to speak at the launch of a similar program in that country, which Lennon says will be based on the Belize model. With the revamp, participants can expect fewer hassles at the office and less opportunity to work under-the-table deals.

 

Raquel Waight

Raquel Waight

“One of the major benefits of this program is having less Customs intervention, whereby we are trying to give eighty percent ‘green lane’ – this means that members of the program will enjoy eighty percent of their shipments coming into the country, leaving directly from the port to their premises without Customs being there to do any check whatsoever. That is one of the major benefits, the other benefits is cost reduction – we want to make sure that in doing trade we want to bring down the cost of doing trade; we also want to have benefits in changing relationships that we have with businesses and that is the business aspect of it. Where Customs is concerned and the government, the benefits are the increase in revenue – we want to be able to improve the efficiency of not only collecting revenue, but to increase the amount of revenue that we are responsible for collecting.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Forms for the program are available online at the Customs Department’s website.

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