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Members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism have called for political neutrality in the implementation of the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) project to avoid political clashes in the country.
According to them, the novelty project which aims among others things at reducing delays at the ports should be seen as a nation building reform effort that needs all hands on deck.
The members of the committee made the call when they paid a working visit on the management and staff of the West Blue Consulting, the technical partners of the project in Accra over the weekend.
The purpose of the visit was to abreast themselves with the operations of the company after its successful implementation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS).
The PAARS is a modernized system that has been developed by the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) as part of the implementation of the GNSW project to enhance revenue mobilization, improve border security and customs clearance, overcome duplication across regulatory agencies and promote trade facilitation.
Speaking at a short meeting, Prof. Gyan Baffour, a Member of the Committee and Member of Parliament for Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo Region, expressed the need for Ghanaians to support the project to succeed.
He appealed to the West Blue Consulting, the technical partner of the GNSW project contracted by the Government of Ghana to run the five year project to make the technical committee of the project stronger than the steering committee.
This Prof. Baffour who is also a former Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy, explained that a stronger technical committee would provide the steer the committee with their knowledge and expertise to support the steering committee to speed up the implementation of the project.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism, George Aboagye said the committee was impressed with the level of work done by West Blue in the implementation of the GNSW.
Mr Aboagye who is also the MP for Ahanta West in the Western Region, however wondered why the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) was not visible in the project.
But the Chief Executive Officer of the West Blue Consulting, Madam Valentina Mintah explained that; “the project sits in both the MoTI and the Ministry of Finance”.
“They are both on the steering and technical committees. And also IDF which is first to go live on epayment resides in MoTI”, she added.
Madam Mintah emphasised that the technical committee plays a key role and should be strengthened for sustainability of the Ghana National Single Window project.
“Also Customs is the executing body supervised by the Ministry of Finance. The ministry is still more or less policy like the MoTI.”
Earlier, presenting an overview of the GNSW, Madam Mintah added that the first phase of the GNSW project, the PAARS began in September 2015, while additional elements including the tariff calculator are also in operations.
The improvements introduced by the PAARS system are already having a dramatic impact on the time required to do business and the other elements of the programme such as Integrated Risks Assessment, IDF, and e-letter of credit, will have similar strong effects.
She revealed that the successful implementation of the PAARS has increased revenue generation at the Tema and Takoradi ports.
Revenue mobilised by Customs Division of GRA in 2015 increased by 1.66 per cent as a result of the implementation of the PAARS.
The revenue target for 2015 was GH¢8036.23 million and we realized GH¢8169.55 million which is remarkable.
Before the implementation of the PAARS, the Customs Division of GRA hardly achieved its target. Revenue target for 2014 was GH¢7010.32 million and the GRA was able to collect GH¢6865.20 million and in 2013 revenue target was 5993.42 million and it collected GH¢5372.42 million, according to figures from the GRA.
But Madam Mintah observed that after some months of the implementation of the trade facilitation system, it has reduced the cost of doing business at the Tema and Takoradi ports.
GNSW reduces cost and time at the ports
Since the introduction of the GNSW’s PAARS last year, traders are able to access Customs Classification and Valuation Report (CCVR) within 48 hours, she revealed.
In some cases, within an hour that is substantial improvement from the previous situation whereby it used to take traders more than a week or two weeks just to get their CCVR, the CEO stated.
Madam Mintah was quick to add the system has brought some efficiency at the ports, reduced time, reduced corruption, and cost of doing business.
The Customs Division of GRA took over the processing of the CCRV from the destination companies in September last year. The CCRV replaced the destination inspection report also known as the Final Classification and Valuation Report (FCVR). In spite of the successes chalked so far through the implementation of the PAARS, she said there was still more room for improvement.
Ghana ranked 171 in this year’s World Bank’s ‘Trading Across Borders Rankings’ report on the cost and time of administrating procedures and processes for importing and exporting.
Reducing these factors (time and cost) is exactly what the Ghana National Single Window project is designed to address, Madam Mintah noted
Based on the experience of the Single Window implementations in other countries, West Blue estimated that the GNSW project would reduce the cost and time of international trade (import, export and transit) in Ghana by 50 per cent and 25 per cent respectively over the next five years.
Economic benefits of GNSW
This, Madam Mintah explained would have a huge impact on the international competitiveness of Ghanaian business and should other things being equal, result in a strong growth in the country’s international trade performance.
It will also significantly increase the global ranking of Ghana in the World Bank’s ‘Trading Across Borders Report’ from the rank of 171 in 2016 to 121 by 2021. Similarly, the ranking within the Sub-Saharan African regions could increase from 36 to 16, if all things being equal, she stated.
Madam Mintah added that another potential benefit of the GNSW is the likely positive impact on the country’s foreign direct investment prospects.
“Trade efficiency is a key determinant of investment decisions by international business and the positioning of Ghana as a trade efficient and trade friendly country will greatly enhance its attractiveness to such investors”.
Furthermore, she believes that the GNSW is expected boost economic growth of the country, adding that the Single Window would enhance institutional and nation building, improved and effective collection of government revenues, simpler, faster processes for clearance and release, reduced costs of compliance, reduced corruption, reduction in bureaucratic processes, among others.
Instructively, the GNSW project was initiated on 1st September 2015 by the Government of Ghana to enhance the country’s trade and economic development and secure and increase government revenue. It was officially launched in 1st December, 2015.
Indeed, the Single Window concept was developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in 2005 as an effort to simplify, harmonise and standardise international trade procedures and associated information flows between trade and government and within government itself.
UNECE, through its UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), defined Single Window as “a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. If information is electronic, then individual data elements should only be submitted once”.