23.03.2005 Regional News

Go beyond declarations and conventions - Aliu

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Accra, March 23, GNA - Vice-President Aliu Mahama on Wednesday charged member countries of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to go beyond mere declarations, conventions and communiqu=E9s and formulate action-oriented programmes that could transform customs administration. He said the WCO should be able to collaborate with governments, the private sector and other players in the commodity industry to develop and implement appropriate strategies to enhance trade and investment, protect logistics supply chain and ensure efficient service delivery. However, the WCO policies and programmes should reflect the specific circumstances of individual countries and create a favourable platform for mobilizing global partnerships that met the needs and aspirations of member countries.

The Vice-President said this in an address read for him at the opening of the 10th WCO Regional Conference of Directors-General of Customs West and Central Africa Region in Accra. Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi read the speech.

The three-day conference is on the theme: "Security and Trade Facilitation: A Challenge for Customs Administration in the 21st Century," and brings together heads of Customs administrations from 22 West and Central African countries.

Vice-President Aliu called on the WCO to be at the forefront in enforcing standards to ensure that customs processes and procedures were cost effective, accessible, timely and appropriate. He said increasing volumes of goods and passengers demanded faster clearance of goods and the need to apply new technology to customs processing.

While it was important to maintain customs barriers for effective control over international movement of goods and people, the Vice-President noted, it was also important to scale down the number of these barriers in line with protection of revenue, property and the community.

He stressed the importance of improving the operational environment and conditions of service of Customs Administrations, saying these were prerequisites to facilitate private investment that could transform economies of member countries.

"The WCO must look for innovative and pragmatic ways of creating effective partnerships for growth and development of member countries, especially the less privileged ones," he added. Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Deputy Minister of Finance, urged Customs Administrations to redefine their role in the growing threat of global security.

They must also ensure the integrity of the tax system by reducing fraudulent practices at the entry points and harbours. Brigadier Richardson Baiden, Commissioner, Ghana Customs, said the marked improvement in revenue collection world-wide was a clear testimony to the important role being played by Customs Administrations as key partners in economic development. However, continuous good performance required that customs officials exercised the highest professional standards, showed transparency, accountability and avoided conflict of interest in the execution of their duties.

The WCO is an independent intergovernmental body established in 1952 to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations and assist to contribute to national development goals, particularly in the areas of trade facilitation, revenue collection, community protection and supply chain security. It has a membership of 164 Customs Administrations Worldwide, which are collectively responsible for safeguarding national borders and process more than 98 per cent of World Trade.

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