Hylton says enforcement of antiquated customs laws hurting businesses, consumers
Opposition Spokesperson on Industry, Investment and Global Logistics, Anthony Hylton

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Opposition Spokesperson on Industry, Investment and Global Logistics, Anthony Hylton, has expressed deep concern over what he deemed as the failure of the Holness Administration to modernise Jamaica’s customs enforcement, border protection systems and improve Jamaica’s trade facilitation.

“The failure of the government to use well established and predictive data analysis tools and related smart technologies to enforce border measures at our seaports and airports is hindering our economic growth. This practice is both time consuming and costly, and in turn puts upward pressure on food and material prices, inflation and interest rates, fueling a recessionary environment,” Hylton said.

In a statement Monday, he charged further that "during the recent Christmas season the JCA [Jamaica Custom Agency] announced enhanced inspection measures, which involved more invasive procedures and intensified physical inspection of imported shipping containers and barrels. This resulted in significant slowing of the clearance of goods for households and businesses”.

Hylton emphasised that considering Jamaica’s national security interests at the border, there are high-technology scans and trackers which could be employed to enhance efficiency and mitigate the risks of small and medium-sized enterprises suffering significant loss of sales and revenue.

The Opposition spokesperson continued that even while this was going on during the peak season, the JCA served notice of an increase in the bond payable on each imported container of goods to $3.5 million, under an enhanced enforcement programme. This amount was subsequently reduced and implementation delayed to January 1, 2023.

Hylton said implementing both sets of measures at the same time, based on an antiquated 1941 Customs Act and 1955 Regulations, did harm to Jamaica’s business competitiveness and was the main reason for port congestion over the Christmas period. As a result, Hylton called for the early passage of the 2020 Customs Act and Regulations, which will provide for greater use of technology in mitigating customs revenue risks and boost customs efficiency.

Hylton added that while the need to protect the customs revenue was important, facilitating and building efficient trade and a resilient supply chain were of equal importance.

Consequently, he strongly urged the government to move quickly to pass pending customs legislation, and to roll back or further reduce the general bond rates charged on containers in favour of increased use of data analytics and technology.

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