Automated System for Customs Data briefly called as ASYCUDA is an innovative, efficient and effective method for customs procedures adopted by any modern custom authority world-wide. Way back in 1981 UNCAD had a request from the secreatiat of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) to assist in the compilation of foreign trade statistics in their memebrs states.While doing the job they observed that without the expertise and involvement of customs administration and automation and modernisation of the customs procedures, it would not be actually possible to get proper data and compile foreign trade statistics in an appropriate manner. As such, the system has been introduced and over the years, ASYCUDA technical development unit has designed and developed most sophisticated automation system and tools that ensure faster processing of documents, automatic verification and accounting of customs declarations.
In fact, countries world-wide entering the ASYCUDA world operations because, the connectivity has made customs procedures accurate, transparent, reliable, faster and easier and as a result all the stakeholders in the internatonal trade can reap the benefit out of it. By the connectivity, scope for tax evasion is protected which contributes in the economic development of a country. It aims at collecting revenue in an appropriate manner and helps generating detailed information about foreign trade transactions which can be used for economic analysis and planning. It helps to run import and export business smoothly and as such is cost effective and time worthy. Trade and commerce got momentum in the countries where ASYCUDA connectivity is fully implemented.
In short, entering ASYCUDA world facilitates effective management of customs clearance process, improve calculation, collection and accounting of customs duties and other customs related functions, speed up the clearance of goods and combat trade-based smuggling, help getting accurate information and timely management of custom procedures and thus ensures economic activities smoothly.
Data reveals that it is the single largetst technical cooperation programme in UNCTAD and now more than 90 countries worldwide are using the method by 19 languages. Different countries worldwide - in the Asia and pacific region, America, Europe and Africa are the users of the automated systems for customs data. Among others major user countries are Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, Iran, Lebaon, Malvides, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Iran, Vietnam, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Where money laundering is a threatening issue in the international trade, adoption and use of the automated system in the customs procedures can act as an effective tool towards combating trade-based money laundering. With its connectivity import and export data can be checked through online system. Thus it helps to get any export and import data easily and as such businesses run smoothly. It protects any probable attempt of tax evasion in any form by the criminal groups. Thus it contributes to growth and development of the economy. The system acts as a tool in protecting the act of terrorist activities like militancy, drug abuse, human-trafficking and many other misdeeds and ensures environmental development and economic prosperity.
It is encouraging that Bangladesh has already entered in the ASYCUDA world with the adoption of smart, efficient and effective customs clearance procedures by the National Board of Revenue. In order to provide quick and quality service NBR follows norms and standards in line with the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation), WCO (World Customs Organisation) and the United Nations.
Over the years many reforms and changes have taken place and more are underway to make the customs formalities correct, simple and easier.
NBR is doing everything possible for completing all procedures of import and export through online using the platform as a part of building digital customs. Henceforth, all stakeholders involved with international trade and customs proceudres will be conneted digitally with the platform so that importers and exporters get all the services from a single point in minimum time and cost. The implementation work of National Single Window is goining on. VAT online project would launch online VAT registration programme to facilitate the traders to submit online VAT return. Custom Bond Management would come under automation to protect misuse of bond facility. ASYCUDA will act as single window covering government agencies, different Ministries, Central Bank, Commercial Banks and financial institutions, insurance, EPB, agriculture, food and drugs, statistics dept. And other stakeholders are such as carriers, freight handlers, seaport and airports, land customs, trade bodies, etc.
Moreover, with full implementation of e-government for national single window, trade and commerce will boost up and it will contribute toeconomy, health and environment. The developing of NBR-net is underway to operate centrally from one location with all the custom houses/stations connected through fiber optic/radio link/internet ensuring uniform practice in all stations and also working for connectivity of all stakeholders through internet under the ASYCUDA world system and introducing data exchange system, establishment of connective between customs stations and other relevant government agencies and private sector bodies through exchange of information and communication, electronic custom value declaration etc. These developments will bring a radical change which will contribute significantly towards smooth foreign exchange business and thus growth and development of the country.
It needs to mention that Bangladesh Bank’s existing online reporting system of import and export data has created the avenue for adopting and implementing the automated customs data in an appropriate manner. Now all the import and export date is reported to Bangladesh Bank online online reporting system. As a result there exists no scope for any fraudulent use of LC, delay in settlement of import bills or matching of bill of entry, misuse of EXP and keeping outstanding of export bill repatriation for an indefininte period. Online monitoring system has made customs formalities for clearance of imported goods transparent, faster, easier and economic.
Bangladesh has already upgraded from low income country to lower middle income country as per World Bank’s estimate and has the aspiration to reach middle income country by 2021. As a member country of the United Nations, the country is working to achieve the SDG targets by 2030 and it has a vision 2041. Bangladesh has always expressed solidarity with the policies and strategies of the UN and other international institutions/bodies with regards to upliftment of any development programme of the country. In line with this, Bangladesh has rightly entered ASYCUDA world operations for innovative, effective and efficient customs clearance process. The early this is implemented the better it is.
The writer is an Assistant General Manager, Sonali Bank Limited, International Trade Finance Division, Head Office, Dhaka. (The views expressed in this article are of the writer’s own and in no way reflects the views of the institution where he works).