Long delays in customs clearance worry businessmen

April 18, 2024

Amir Saeed

Importers and exporters have expressed concern over long delays in customs valuations, often resulting in unjust payment delays and increased detention charges. The current review time of Pakistan Customs is 30 days. Speaking to WealthPK, Iqbal Hussain, President of the Gilgit-Baltistan Importers and Exporters Association, said that customs valuation fluctuations caused uncertainty in industrial planning, production, exports and imports of goods. He pointed out that digitisation had changed the outlook of shipping and customs, lessening the need for upfront payments. ‘‘It is crucial to reduce customs review time from 30 days to as low as possible to give relief to exporters and importers to promote trade and industrial development in the country,’’ he opined. Iqbal further said that customs officials took a lot of time to examine the containers, thus delaying the clearance process and lowering the value for both the exporters and importers.

“It also promotes malpractices,” he said, demanding Pakistan Customs to start a one-window facility for the business community with the help of the State Bank of Pakistan, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and the Direct Participation Programme. Speaking to WealthPK, Farhat Begum, President of the Women Chamber of Commerce, Diamir division, said that the business community should be facilitated in the timely clearance of goods at ports. She also called for making timely refunds. She pointed out that there was a lack of coordination among departments, especially at border points, creating a substantial backlog. She said the customs department needed to improve the online complaint mechanism to respond quickly and resolve the grievances of importers and exporters. “For smooth working of the department, a special coordination desk must be set up for the convenience of the business community.

Such desks should also be set up at trading centres and industrial areas.” Ms Farhat further said that the absence of a container terminal regulation body, late refunds, unjust demurrage charges, lack of digitalisation, and insufficient investment in container scanners were hindering the smooth working of the customs department. “The frequent issuance of valuation rulings by the Directorate General of Customs Valuation is stressing out the business community as it disturbs their operations,” she said, adding that such rulings should be issued only if there was a strong need to review certain items. “The existing trust deficit between the business community and the customs department should be bridged.”

Credit: INP-WealthPk