Mr. Selwyn DaSilva – Comptroller of Customs and ExciseThe Customs and Excise Department will join the World Customs Organization in commemorating International Customs Day on Thursday, January 26, 2023. This auspicious day is held annually to recognize the vital contributions of customs officials in maintaining border security, collecting revenue and facilitating international trade, as well as highlighting the working conditions and challenges officers face in executing their duties.
This year's celebration is held under the theme "Nurturing the Next Generation: Promoting a Culture of Knowledge-Sharing and Professional Pride in Customs." The theme has important significance for us as the challenges confronting us go well beyond our traditional role of collecting revenue. Pressure to keep up with the complexities of international trade has seen the Customs retooling to take on new roles of trade facilitation, implementation of government economic and social policies, automation of the customs procedures and ensuring the nation's frontiers are safe and secure for all its citizens.
As we pause to recognize the critical role of the Customs Department in sustaining economic viability, we must reflect on the contributions made by each and every customs officer in dealing with the unprecedented challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic and its fallout and the aftereffects of the explosive eruption of the LaSoufriere volcano. They placed country before self and demonstrated true heroism in a colossal way. Such commitment and dedication ensured the supply chain at no time whatsoever was interrupted; ensuring that the release and clearance of essential supplies, materials and relief goods were efficiently facilitated.
Over the last twelve months, the Department has accomplished much to be proud of. Working collaboratively with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and the Attorney General’s Office, brought about the implementation of the latest version of the CARICOM Common External Tariff based on the Harmonized Commodity and Description Coding System (HS) 2022. Technical assistance received from the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), has seen the implementation of a Performance Management System that is being used to manage output of the Department. Ongoing assistance will also see the implementation of a new Customs Bill in the third quarter of 2023. The Department for the first time can facilitate the payment of taxes and duties using debit cards resulting from the recent installation of a number of point-of-sale terminals at every cash point on the mainland with those at the out stations to come on stream this year.
Futuristically, the success of the Department calls for a transformation towards holistically embracing technology. Modernization and organizational transformation have always been central themes in the SVG Customs Administration. Information Communication Technology must be utilized in all facets of the Department, from the processing of declarations and internal operations, to management decision-making. The Department must be data-driven to meet the challenges of the changing times to guarantee sustainable achievements in revenue collection. Notwithstanding, the necessity of having the political will, administrative support, collective ownership, effective legislative framework and skilled staff, will benefit the state in the following ways:
This year's slogan reflects our efforts to make our human resources the centerpiece of the transformative process. The logical next step would be empowering this generation through proper knowledge management, creating a Customs environment that fosters knowledge creation and sharing, maintaining high productivity levels while minimizing mistakes. A consistent and coordinated communication plan is a tool that can be leveraged to raise the profile and image of the Customs and foster professional pride in the organization.