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The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has recognized that after war and civil strife there is now an enormous need for the reconstruction of infrastructure and the provision of basic services to the people of Afghanistan. Therefore, Afghanistan Customs Department (ACD) is working hard to fulfill their obligation to raise the current level of revenue collection and the scale of the trade volume and its potential for revenue maximization. Additionally, they are working on modernization of ACD to serve as a tool to facilitate trade and business to encourage investment and made a major contribution to the creation of a beneficial economic and social development.
In order to exercise best practices, Afghan customs Department made 5 year plan and started working on that since last 2 years, the plans are to enhance the current level of revenue collection and improve import and export clearance procedures. The simplification of Customs clearance procedures and the renovation and construction of physical infrastructure are started to have a standard Customs department which allows for proper and effective Customs control. The ACD also worked on reorganizing Headquarters and Regional Offices and enhanced their capacity to a level where senior management is fully in control of Customs activities. Functioning Customs offices, both in the centre and in the provinces, are seen as a prerequisite for a fully functional and modern Afghan Customs. Customs Training Academy is one of the major steps to enhance the customs officer’s capacity up to international level.
Introduction of new technology to Afghan Customs, able them to fight corruption and to have full control on imports, exports and transit. The best technological introduction is ASYCUDA, by which you can track the shipments and his status. Afghan Customs are taking major steps to bring their data statistic to the international level by introducing internationally recognize data base experts to enhance the quality of import and export statistics.
Afghan customs is also active member of WCO (World Customs Organization) and has an observer status in WTO (World Trade Organization). Afghanistan customs is playing key role in regional organizations working for trade facilitation.
Introduction of Customs Reform
Customs reform and modernization is a sine qua non for economic progress and security of Afghanistan. The reform process will ensure efficiency in collection of revenue and prevention of illicit, dangerous or undeclared goods from entering into the country. With better revenue realization, the Government will be able to meet its commitments to deliver its multiple objectives (better security, economic growth, democratic polity, pluralistic society and market based economy). Better quality of customs service will improve trade flows.
The Afghan Customs department has a lot of tangible achievement in last few years of reforms in the field of Automation, legislation, capacity development, control, infrastructure development and enforcement. The basic thrust of reforms is to develop a customs system that minimizes leakage in revenue collection through rationalization of laws, procedures and automated processes. This system will help facilitate clearance of goods and reduce contact of officers with trade, thereby reducing the scope of corruption. In addition adoption of automated processes and international best practices for international transit of goods through its territories will help make Afghanistan a land bridge of the region.
The reform process will see the strengthening of the enforcement machinery of department that will create deterrence to duty evaders and curb smuggling of goods including narcotics and environmentally hazardous goods. The department will take enforcement action against non-compliance by importers and exporters. By developing a strong intelligence network the department will be able to play a major role in coordination of intelligence with other security agencies.
The approach of the reform is not to confront the traders but to enter into a partnership with them for better voluntary compliance of laws and which will benefit the traders by reducing their transaction costs.
Customs due to its nature of operations has a large body of officers and the organizational issues are very important. The reform process aims at improving the organization so that it will have the correct structure, logical definition of roles, fair recruitment system, service conditions, Accountability, conduct and disciplinary rules, training support and a built-in mechanism for promotion of ethics in the staff.
Afghan Customs Department, like all other Customs Administrations is in the process of delivering on its core activities as mentioned above. However, ACD may carry out other essential activities such as protection of consumers, interdiction of dangerous goods, collaboration to fiscal audits and collection of other taxes at source.
Customs operations are spread over a large geographical area and many customs offices. There is a shortage of office buildings working space and equipment. The plan seeks to meet these requirements and their creation at an early date.
The Afghan Customs Department has been entrusted with the additional responsibility of creating and operating Customs Infrastructure facilities, though such activity is not within the core competence of any customs organization. In view of the existing poor facilities, creation of physical infrastructure of terminal buildings and cargo handling equipment assumes urgency in the interest of trade facilitation. The reform program addresses the need for such infrastructural development and suggests an autonomous body with necessary technical skills to assume the civil works procurement and management of these facilities.
Afghanistan Strategic Importance
Afghanistan is strategically placed between the Middle East, Central Asia and the sub-continent. As a land-locked country it is dependent on the transit of goods from its neighbors to develop trade. Pakistan and Iran are the two main countries from which Afghanistan can access sea ports. Afghanistan is a land bridge between these two major countries of Central Asia; on one side, the Port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea and on the other, the Port of Bander Abbas in the Persian Gulf.
The Pakistan corridor connects the Pakistani ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and a new port of Gwader with the Afghan border crossings at Torkham and Spinboldak. The Iran corridor connects the Iranian ports of Cha Bahar and Bandar Abbas with the Afghan border crossings at Zarang and Islam Qala.
In addition, the routes through the Central Asian Republics (CAR) connect Afghanistan to the Russian Federation as well as to European and Pacific ports via Tajikistan (border crossing at Sher Khan Bandar), Uzbekistan (border crossing at Hayratan) and Turkmenistan (border crossing at Torghundi).
Due to this strategic geographical position, Afghanistan also has the potential to become a link providing Pakistan and Iran with a direct route to the CAR and providing the CAR with its shortest distance to obtain access to the sea, in comparison with the routes to the Black Sea, Europe and China. The Trade and Customs Working Group (TCWG), in its meeting held at Bangkok (Oct 2004) under the Central Asia Transport and Trade Forum (CSATTF) organized by the Asian Development Bank, identified the following two corridors as the focal point for development:
South-North Corridor connecting the Pakistani ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwader with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan while West-East Corridor connecting the Iranian ports of Cha Bahar and Bandar Abbas with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Afghanistan understands its geographical importance and is aware of the responsibility which rests on its shoulders in regard to trade facilitation in the region. Keeping in view the gigantic task ahead, Afghanistan Customs has undertaken a substantial reform program with the sole aim of creating an environment conducive to trade and industry development, not only for itself but for all the countries in the region.
For more information, please Visit: http:// www.customs.gov.af