Efforts on to improve business and trade facilitation
GOVERNMENT has officially launched the promised Barbados Electronic Single Window (BESW), which should see an improvement in the movement of goods into this country. According to Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, through the BESW, persons should expect to see a move towards a paperless trading environment, reduced duplication, shorter application and processing times, and a lower incidence of human error. He revealed that at present the BESW is more than 90 per cent complete, as there are some additional forms that need to be integrated into the system. Nevertheless, he said 100 per cent of the system’s basic functionalities are completed and as such, he revealed that full integration of the remaining forms should be completed soon. Addressing those attending the launch at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre recently, Sinckler explained that the BESW will provide a single online interface for the exchange of trade-related documents between the trading community and relevant government agencies. He added that this online interface, which was six years in the making, is one of the deliverables of the US$11.8 million Barbados Competitiveness Programme, jointly funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Government to improve the country’s competitiveness. That programme, he said, sought to address the “key bottlenecks” that affect efficiency of the movement of goods in this country and to shore up other trade and investment promotion activities to promote export development and increase private investment. Speaking more to the BESW, he said that it will allow all transacting parties to fulfil their obligations online from anywhere in the world, and its introduction, the Minister boasted, is to be commended as it is only the second such system in the Caribbean, with Trinidad having the other one. Moreover, he said Barbados is also one of only two countries in the world, smaller than 300 square miles, to have an ESW. “You may recall that less than four years ago, the World Bank in its ‘Doing Business 2012’ Report revealed that only 49 countries and regions worldwide had introduced a single window by 2010. The successful implementation therefore of our single window, four years after the World Bank’s revelation, is therefore a tremendous achievement for the country, and of course a country our size,” he said. The Finance Minister added that with the ESW coming on stream, entries will only have to be submitted once, and will be facilitated by a built-in Trade Document Management System (TDMS). This TDMS, he explained, will also track, manage and store the digital version of all paper-based documents that were previously submitted manually by traders. He added that the system will function as a repository for more than 190 different forms, certificates and licences, which traders expect to eventually retrieve from the ESW. Meanwhile, referring to Barbados’ ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index published annually by the World Economic Forum; and the Ease of Doing Business also published annually by the World Bank in its Doing Business Report, he acknowledged that in each respect the country’s position has slipped over the years, and there is need to remedy that. Sinckler told the audience that as a country heavily dependent on international trade, with over BDS$3 billion spent on imports since 2010 for domestic consumption and production, it is imperative that we commit to simplifying and streamlining existing regulations, behaviours and practices that impact business and trade facilitation. “For example, the Doing Business 2012-2013 Report cited the simplification of customs procedures and the implementation of systems that accommodate the electronic submission of trade-related documents, as “good practices around the world in making it easy to trade across borders”. In this regard, the Electronic Single Window represents one dimension of the response of the Government of Barbados to improve business and trade facilitation,” he stated. Article compliments the Barbados Advocate.
St Lucia Planning Further Tax Cuts
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Saint Lucia of the impact of recent tax reforms, which it says may impact tourist numbers and dent economic growth, reports Tax News. The IMF welcomed the new administration’s plans to lower the tax burden, enhance the efficiency of the tax system, and cut tax compliance costs. However, the IMF said that the decision to cut the value-added tax rate to 12.5 percent from 15 percent from February 1 makes the territory vulnerable to fiscal shocks, and the new airport tax may impact visitor numbers. In its annual report for the territory, the IMF said the territory should focus on lowering barriers to international trade and broadening the tax base. Article compliments IFC Review.
EU to ramp up action on harmful global tax practices
The EU has signalled plans to ramp up its work to tackle harmful tax practices internationally, with the Council working group that oversees implementation of the EU’s code of conduct on business taxation finalising a list of jurisdictions that are considered non-cooperative in tax matters to be published shortly, reports CCH Daily. The code of conduct on business taxation sets out criteria for assessing tax measures that potentially encourage harmful tax competition. It is implemented through a voluntary commitment by member states to peer-reviewed ‘standstill’ (refraining from introducing harmful new tax measures) and ‘rollback’ (abolishing existing harmful tax measures). On 1 February the working group sent letters to 92 third country jurisdictions, requesting information for a screening process which will result in the production of the list ‘in the near future’. In addition, the group has appointed a new chairperson Fabrizia Lapecorella, director general of finance at the Italian ministry of economy and finance. It has also expanded its work to new areas, including anti-abuse measures; transparency and the exchange of information in the area of transfer pricing; administrative practices; links to third countries. The working group says that in these areas, several ‘soft law’ initiatives (ie, rules that are neither strictly binding nor lacking legal significance) have been agreed, whereas it wants to ensure they are covered by its code of conduct.