‘National Single Window’ for trade to be established in one year: Afzal

ISLAMABAD, Mar 7 (APP):Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan Wednesday expressed the confidence that a National Single Window (NSW) for trade would be established within a period of one or two years to process all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements efficiently under one umbrella.

“It (NSW) will take one or two years to start as Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has been authorized to complete the task. Funds are pouring in. The Window’s lead department is the Customs and its all sort of requirements will be fulfilled,” he said while talking to media after addressing the inaugural session of a two-day conference on establishment of NSW for trade here.

The moot, jointly organized by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and FBR, was attended by more than 100 government officials from key trade regulators to better understand the challenges involved in institutionalizing the initiative, ‘National Single Window For Trade.’

Currently, the minister said, Pakistan had around 42 departments regulating imports and exports through the Customs, and the new initiative would help get rid of typical time-consuming file work, adding, under the one window operation each department would upload the ‘single sourced databank’ and all the required information would be shared with all the concerned departments.

“For example, customs duty, port charges and federal excise duty will be fed just by one click, and all will be cleared within minutes. Our cost of customs clearance is 200 percent higher than others, and this initiative will not only save time and money but also bring national efficiency and increase tax recovery ratio,” he said.

Afzal said the NSW would also help increase profitability of entrepreneurs, which would ultimately increase tax recovery ratio and expand tax-base, adding “We are far behind of the world as this initiative should have been adopted 10 years before, but it is never too late, we are stepping into it which will be a superb integrated, computerized and electronic system, providing great scope for the country’s information technology sector to further flourish.”

He said a number of such initiatives were about to take place in the country, and “If we have to increase our exports rapidly, move forward step by step with the world and get growth beyond eight percent, this NSW initiative will be greatly helpful for the purpose.”

Commenting on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, the minister said it was the facilitation and infrastructure through which additional electricity was arriving, efficient sea connection achieved, information technology sector getting further strength and efficiency of railways improving.

“The CPEC is a physical infrastructure for real time movement of goods, and the NSW is of its facilitation, and we are switching over from paper to paperless mechanism. These are the pillars of Pakistan’s development as one (CPEC) is the hardware and the other (NSW) is of its software,” he remarked.

Earlier, addressing the conference, the minister said the NSW was one of the most critical reform efforts initiated in the trade-related public sector, which has the capacity to transform and modernize traditional way of doing business by introducing various trade- related processes and procedures in an automated and paperless environment leading to significant saving to Pakistan’s trade in terms of time and costs.

“This development will have a positive impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector regulatory bodies,” he said.

The initiative would expedite the process of cross-border trade, enabling businesses to expand their operations and the government to reduce unnecessary documentations.

FBR Chairman Tariq Mahmood Pasha in his opening remarks highlighted importance of the initiative and its various aspects for promotion of trade.

Country Director World Bank-Trade Facilitation in Pakistan Patchamuthu Illangovan said Pakistan was located where Central Asia, South Asia, Far East and Middle East come together, terming Pakistan a ‘true global trading hub.’

He urged that Pakistan would have to increase its ratio of trade to GDP by taking advantage of its strategic location and improving trade, adding “Our experience from South, East and Asia and elsewhere is that economies grow faster with better trade regimes.”

He hoped that the National Single Window should turn into a joint single window at the international level, wishing that the NSW initiative would be a moment of turning around for Pakistan’s performance in export sector.

He said the World Bank was ready to support Pakistan in increasing its exports performance and wanted to see its trade to GDP ratio at around 60 percent in near future.

Acting USAID Mission Director Helen Pataki said “For Pakistan, boosting exports and enhancing the competitiveness of Pakistani industries is integral to overcoming the current trade imbalance. By making trade simpler, the NSW will unlock Pakistan’s economy.”

She said Pakistan could achieve its great commercial impact potential by streamlining and simplifying rules and regulations for doing business. “The USAID and Pakistan have partnered to capitalize this potential by establishing the NSW for trade and customs duties. We are working together to streamline Pakistan trade and customs procedures.”

She said the NSW concept had already stimulated trade in many other countries and achieved desired results of increasing business activities by adopting paperless mechanism.