Clint Chan Tack
FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert on Tuesday said challenges faced by business owners to clear goods from customs are being addressed.
He also said Government is not going to introduce any legislation to deal with interest rates and service charges applied by commercial banks.
Imbert gave these responses to questions raised by Opposition Senator Wade Mark in the Senate.
He said the Customs and Excise Division has upgraded its electronic management system to Asycuda version 42.2. This software, he said, is “provided at no cost to the user, allows for the seamless transfer of information and the development of electronic documents, and it provides for transparency at all levels of the cargo reporting and releasing processes.”
He continued, “I am told that after some initial teething problems, the users of the system are in fact enjoying the benefits of greater transparency and the seamless transfer of information and the development of e-documents.
“I am told by Customs that shipping agents were required to update their XML (extensible markup language) files and this information was given to them in September. Unfortunately not everybody did that.”
Through communication between users of the system, his ministry, Customs and various business organisations, Imbert said, “I am advised that most of these teething problems have been resolved.”
On the issue of additional cost to business owners, Imbert any such costs “will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
When Mark asked if business owners can more easily clear their goods from Customs, Imbert replied,”I am advised that the system is functioning at a level which will allow normal operations to continue.”
Later in the sitting, Mark asked if Government would introduce legislation to deal with interest rates and service charges applied by commercial banks, in order to help small and medium-sized businesses affected by the covid19 pandemic.
Imbert replied, “The ability of the Central Bank to set interest rates and margins is already contained in the Central Bank Act and has been in the law for many years.”
He said TT and all countries around the world have taken measures to contain the spread of covid19.
Imbert said the closure of TT’s borders and non-essential businesses because of the pandemic would have created some adverse social, economic and financial consequences.
“As a result we established a safety net for the most vulnerable and for businesses.”
He reiterated that some of those measures include accelerating the payment of VAT refunds, issuing VAT bonds and zero-interest government guarantee loans.