Customs has its own reliable instruments
Transit attractiveness among country’s major economic resources
Full use of our transit potential depends very much on the efficiency of our customs procedures. These have the power to ease the path of exports, raising the amount of revenue flowing into the budget. Of course, customs officers need to be vigilant in detecting smuggling, promoting the transparency of transit trading routes through Belarus, as discussed by the Belarusian President recently with the State Customs Committee.
Fixed inspection unit at Privalka border checkpoint
The border is a zone of enhanced responsibility, bringing with it many temptations. Unsurprisingly, the President began by telling customs officers about the huge responsibility they bear. As Mr. Lukashenko stresses, instances of corruption and bribery break public trust in the state. The struggle must be uncompromising. The President told the State Customs Committee, “We must create an atmosphere of intolerance to such offences since any case of bribery — even a one-off instance — defaces the whole customs service in the eyes of the public.”
From this foundation of honesty, other tasks can be achieved, with the promotion of exports and their diversification standing to the fore. Of course, this is a task for the whole Government but the State Customs Committee can ensure the speed and comfort of cargo transportation, meeting Belarus’ obligations within the Eurasian Economic Union (and fully satisfying its own domestic interests). It can contribute to the development of our eastern trading avenue, actively participating in China’s Silk Road Economic Belt project.
Enhancing the budget is a traditional task of the State Customs Committee but the President warned against an excessive show of effort to detect violations, since this might damage our transit image. He believes that optimising the system of customs privileges may be the way forward. As the State Customs Committee’s Chairman, Yuri Senko, reported, the latter generate up to 35 percent of all customs payments. In this respect, duties are reduced on materials imported for use in domestic production. Mr. Lukashenko has asked that this issue be properly studied, emphasising that privileges should not exceed the economic benefit of the end result.
Belarus’ transit attractiveness is among its major economic resources, deserving to be steadily developed. In many respects, this falls under customs’ responsibility: particularly, speed of processing. Customs needs to play its role in promoting investments into major infrastructure projects, dealing with the establishment of modern logistical centres.
In recent years, much has been done to develop customs infrastructure. As the State Customs Committee asserts, it now not only meets all needs but ensures safety for increased transportation flow. From time to time, queues are registered at border checkpoints, being a problem remaining to be solved. Clearly, forward planning is necessary; if holdbacks appear because of partners, better co-ordination is vital. Infrastructure and quality control are links in a single chain. Such initiatives as the Co-ordination of Border Management and the One Stop Shop have received the President’s approval, with the demand that they be realised without delay.
The border must be governed by the law and must present an obstacle to smuggled goods, including low-quality products from third countries, transiting through Eurasian Economic Union member states. Transparency of internal borders should not be viewed as an excuse for complacency among border officers. Recruitment, training and staff motivation to work honestly are essential components in efficiency. At present, salaries are limited but bonuses can be awarded for detection of illegal trafficking from which budget profits are gained.
By Vasily Kharitonov