Visit to State Customs Committee

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The Belarusian customs service should be one of the key elements of the economic security of the state; it should guarantee efficient control and prevent cross-border crimes, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as met with the senior personnel of the State Customs Committee on 3 April.

The head of state listened to the reports on the operation of customs bodies, the fulfillment of instructions. In 2015 the State Customs Committee fulfilled the target to collect customs duties in the amount of about Br45 trillion by more than 103%.

The President was made familiar with the operation of the information and computation center of customs bodies, attended the exposition of customs control devices. Aleksandr Lukashenko was told that the introduction of modern technologies helped improve cooperation with the customs agencies of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Special attention was drawn to the training of personnel for customs bodies. The President urged to work out a clear-cut mechanism of selecting future specialists, improve the system of university training.

Apart from that, the head of state said that it is inadmissible to provide tax preferences for the import of goods that are also produced in Belarus.

After that Aleksandr Lukashenko met with the senior staff of the State Customs Committee and customs bodies. The President remarked that when appointing new chairman of the State Customs Committee in 2014 he expressed wish to hold such a meeting and to discuss major priorities of work taking into account the fact that in present conditions the customs service should cope with various important tasks and functions.

“Open and export-oriented Belarusian economy is under the influence of drastic negative changes of the external economic environment. In this very complicated situation the customs service should be one of the key elements of the economic security of the state, guarantee effective control and prevent cross-border crimes. To fulfill this responsible mission, customs authorities should be an example of probity, loyalty to their service duties,” the head of state stressed.

The President touched upon the issue of personnel administration. “Today the state takes resolute measures to enhance performance discipline. The responsibility of senior executives for the results of work has been toughened. It is necessary to continue relentless fight against the manifestations of corruption in customs bodies. The situation at the Oshmyany customs service showed that the recent reduction in the number of crimes committed by the workers of customs bodies seems to have relaxed senior personnel of customs bodies and the State Customs Committee,” the head of state stressed.

According to the head of state, boosting foreign trade requires more efforts given the current international situation. The President believes that these efforts should include the improvement of customs control, collection of duties, enforcement of bans and restrictions in respect of goods moved across the border.

“The customs bodies should enhance the efficiency of commodity distribution networks, protect the domestic consumer market and optimize the conditions for boosting exports and capital inflow,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state believes that the potential of the customs service is not used to the full. Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized: “Under current conditions you should raise the quality of your work to a qualitatively new level. The customs bodies should be fully engaged in the development of our economy, upholding the national interests and supporting domestic producers.”

“Increasing export by diversifying it is one of the most important tasks today. It is necessary to direct merchandise flows to new promising markets without losing the existing ones. It is necessary to effectively exploit the advantages granted by participation in regional and global integration processes,” the head of state noted.

According to the President, although Belarus traditionally enjoys tighter economic ties with Russia, the bilateral trade turnover has dropped.

“We should explore the eastern direction, in particular, it is necessary to step up participation in the Economic Belt of the Silk Road project of our strategic partner China. Export should be promoted by agreements on setting up free trade zones with countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The President remarked that the customs service had reserves to improve the replenishment of the state budget. Optimizing preferential customs charges, which directly influence the replenishment of the state budget, is one of them.

“Last year you analyzed the preferences granted to economic operators with regard to customs charges in detail,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Although the overall volume of granted preferences has dropped by Br3 trillion, the size of preferences granted to various economic operators with regard to the value added tax has increased and accounts for up to 80% of the total sum of customs preferences. Nobody tracks the operation of these economic entities except in some cases.”

The head of state stressed that the customs service should be more insistent in defending its opinion before the government and should minimize the domination of preferences over real economic effects. The relevant instruction had been given to the Council of Ministers.

The Belarusian President said that it is essential to raise the investment and transit attractiveness of the state. “Legislation which ensures the freedom of transit, favorable geographic location, a well-developed network of motorways and railways, robust border and logistics infrastructure, competitive tariffs are needed to successfully fulfill this important task. The safety and speed of goods handling are important, too. These are the main areas of focus for you. Transit starts from the border,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state believes that, unfortunately, not all tools have been used within the framework of international integration. First of all, it is essential to develop the country’s transit potential. Last year the volume of transit via Belarus fell for the first time since 2009. According to the President, it is attributed to a number of negative trends in the global economy and the dislocation of the security balance in Eastern Europe. “However, even a slight decrease should be perceived as an alarming signal which requires prompt systematic measures,” the President stressed.

In his words, in the present situation it is needed to create new conditions for the promotion of Belarusian transit to get maximum benefits from the geographical location. For this purpose, it is essential to attract investments to implement large-scale infrastructure projects to set up modern logistics centers. Aleksandr Lukashenko attended the opening of one of such centers in November 2013. Back then he gave an instruction to implement the program to develop the Belarusian logistics network for the period till 2015 in full. “We must support this promising industry,” the head of state is convinced.

In his words, the high quality level of customs services in Belarus allows setting up ‘virtual borders’ for goods. The head of state believes that this will become possible since the Belarusian customs service will be getting information about the goods before their arrival or departure, in some cases before they are loaded on the transport vehicle.

“In any case, our customs service provides assistance to Belarusian enterprises in their international trade and in the transit of their products. First of all, this assistance is about easing the administration, reducing the number of customs documents, an electronic document management system, and reducing the time and financial costs,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He also praised the service for the active use of information and telecommunication technologies.

The President highlighted the issues of customs infrastructure development. He stressed that during his visit to the SCC in 1994, the committee’s office was in the doorway of an apartment house in Partizansky Avenue. Most of the crossing points on the border were trailers in an open field. The officer's salary was hardly over $15. Now customs authorities work in decent conditions. A lot of money has been invested to ensure that the situation has changed fundamentally.

"A coherent architecture of road checkpoints has been developed to ensure the intensive movement of transport. We have been working to increase their capacity, including through international technical assistance programs,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“However, border queues are still a problem. The President is regularly briefed on the matter. These issues should be addressed both through the efficient cooperation with the neighboring countries and the improvement of the work of the customs bodies at all the levels. It is time we introduced an electronic queue management system. If it is a solution to the problem, then we should do it immediately,” the head of state stressed.

To ensure that the customs bodies should focus on the fulfillment of their main duties, the government has planned a handover of road-transport border checkpoints to the local executive authorities following the President’s instructions. “It should be done as quickly as possible,” Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded. In his words, apart from the infrastructure development at border checkpoints other measures should be taken to speed up goods traffic across the border.

Belarus has done a lot to improve the system of customs control on the border, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. The introduction of the systems of risk management, electronic declaration, preliminary information helps reduce the time spent on customs procedures on the border. Apart from the distant control over the movement of goods using mobile scanners, these efforts will ensure high efficiency of control and raise the throughput capacity of border checkpoints.

According to the President, the accumulated experience of automobile, sanitary and quarantine control shows that customs bodies can cope with all control functions.

“In line with your reports, the customs service is eager to implement such projects as “management coordination on the border”, “one-stop service”. On the whole, I support your initiatives. But it should be done as quickly as possible,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Speaking about the fight against crime on the border, the head of state remarked: over the past years there has been a steady increase in reported crimes and other offences in customs. "But the number is not important,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “First you need to identify the contraband and other threats that can cause serious damage to the economy of our country,” he added.

Given the special significance of the problem, the customs authorities should concentrate on identifying the channels through which narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including the so called spices, get into Belarus. “You must act together, in cooperation with the Interior Minsitry and the State Security Committee,” the head of state said. According to him, in the conditions of intensive goods and transport traffic there is a need to utilize the full potential of technological tools, to make a more active use of K9 service.

The President noted the State Customs Committee has professional and close-knit personnel. It is important to use this resource efficiently. High professionalism, crystal honesty, competence and responsibility of civil servants should be the main criteria for the appointment of new workers.