Why the implementation of a Single Window system should be a priority for Namibia
The Single Window (“SW”) system is described as “a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.” This is the globally accepted definition of the SW system. Article 10.4 of the the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) Trade Facilitation Agreement (“TFA”) has encouraged its member states to establish a SW system. This is because the main purpose of a SW system is to provide a platform that allows for the exchange of information between traders (national, regional and or global) and government agencies to streamline relevant information on trade procedures. This platform allows for traders to submit and obtain trade documents such as (but not limited to) import and export permits; licenses; commercial invoices; and custom clearance documents. The biggest advantage it provides is for a more efficient and faster processing of trade related documents through the usage of a single-entry point submission point.
According to United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) Recommendation and Guidelines on establishing a Single Window if effectively implemented a SW system can provide the following benefits:
- “For Governments it can bring better risk management, improved levels of security and increased revenue yields with enhanced trader compliance.”
- “Trading communities’ benefit from transparent and predictable interpretation and application of rules, and better deployment of human and financial resources, resulting in appreciable gains in productivity and competitiveness.”
National and international trading stakeholders have long since supported the establishment of a SW system as it offers a simplified solution, whereby government agencies that deal with the movement of cross-border goods provide a streamlined and more efficient system that meet the needs of business (i.e. ease of doing business), while still maintaining the appropriate regulatory controls. Due to the cost and complex software requirements to develop a SW system, developing countries such as Namibia do not necessarily have to develop high-tech information and communication technology system because at the most basic level, with the cooperation of all national agencies and authorities, it can be implemented in a manual environment. The concept of a SW system has been promoted by several international organisations such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (“UNECE”) that are concerned with trade facilitation.
In Namibia, there is a lack of sufficient communication between the private and public sector. The private sector has for long felt as though policy drafters and regulators do not implement efficient mechanisms to create a more simplified and efficient business environment. By establishing a SW system, Namibia has an opportunity to gain huge financial benefits and increased financial revenue. This is possible because by establishing trade facilitation tools such as a SW system, government authorities and agencies can collaboratively by data and analyse industry value chains thus positioning themselves in being able to identify hidden revenue opportunities. By creating a SW system, it also reduces the costs of maintaining a paper-based system that due to its complexities creates delays in trade procedures that increase costs where otherwise it can be reduced.
To conclude, the TFA further establishes the requirement that “Each Member of the WTO shall ensure that its authorities and agencies responsible for border controls and procedures dealing with the importation, exportation, and transit of goods co-operate with one another and co-ordinate their activities to facilitate trade.”. Furthermore, the SW thus places greater responsibility on national authorities to manage the SW system and to ensure that the participating agencies provided with access to the information or are actually given the information by the managing authority. Such co-operation is cooperation is crucial for implementing a SW system.
The SW would eliminate the need for the traders to submit similar information to several different border authorities or agencies. As mentioned above, this inter-alia provides transparency of the complex regulatory processes in Namibia that govern the movement of goods and transport and greatly reduces the risk of corruption.
Petrus Shoopala – Trade Policy Consultant, NTF