… Relaxes Clearing Procedures At Freeport
The Free Port of Monrovia
Days following series of protests by importers and others, the Government of Liberia through its Inter-agency Trade Facilitation Committee has with immediate effect relaxed its new detailed custom clearing procedures at the Freeport of Monrovia for importers until after the Christmas season.
According to a Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) release issued in Monrovia at the weekend, the decision was reached at the Inter-agency Trade Facilitation Committee (TFC) meeting held with importers at the Head offices of the National Port Authority (NPA) recently.
The committee which includes the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), and NPA, took the decision to find an amicable solution to protesting importers especially members of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs).
At the meeting, members of the SMEs through the Liberian Chamber of Commerce and Liberia Custom Broker Association said the reason for the protest was as a result of the excessive examination of imported commodities which has resulted in extra taxation for their respective businesses and prolong delays in clearing of their imports.
The LRA recently augmented its port trade inspection procedures by inspecting the quantities contained in boxes, barrels, and bundles in imported containers, especially, containers under Destination Inspection (DI).
This decision by the LRA was due to the constant infusion of fake invoices within the clearing process and intentional gross under-declaration of values by some importers or custom brokers; something LRA claims is undermining the government’s ability to raise revenue for approved expenditures under the 2016/2017 fiscal budget, the MFDP release furthered.
The Inter-agency Committee, at the close of the meeting, having analyzed the explanations from the private sector, and with the objective of maintaining a stable economic and political environment during the festive Christmas season, agreed that LRA conducts port trade inspection based on the units of measure of the quantity, and not the contents for the next two weeks to ease importers difficulties during the festive season.
It also agreed that agencies of government responsible for trade facilitation, especially LRA, MoCI and NPA, create the necessary awareness on the process of port trade facilitation at the site of Destination Inspection to improve compliance and understanding of clearing procedures and processes.
It was also agreed that the relevant agencies ensure publication of port trade fees, checklists and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to improve understanding and transparency at key trade hubs for the trade community, consistent with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The committee further agreed that stakeholders’ should utilize engagements of the Trade Facilitation Committee to introduce new or updated regulations, procedures, and actions and processes that impact the trade and business community.
Meanwhile, the committee has emphasized that the decisions reached at the just ended Inter-agency Trade Facilitation Meeting are only meant to provide temporary relief for the importers during the festive season.
The MFDP release also declared that, the Committee has at the same time expressed its willingness to work with partners, Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Liberia Business Association (LIBA), the Custom Brokers Association of Liberia and the International Finance Corporation, to improve the country’s business climate, especially, in preparation for the first quarter survey of the World Bank’s “Doing Business” Report.