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United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
10 August 2009
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Building Palestinian sovereignty:
Palestinian customs’ pioneering steps
State-of-the-art web-based system to facilitate trade and inform policy decisions
Ramallah, 10 August 2009 --
A state of the art web-based system, ASYCUDA WORLD, was officially launched by Palestinian Customs today, after years of relentless effort. A special ceremony was held to mark this event at Best Eastern Hotel in Ramallah under the patronage of Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Authority Prime Minster and Minister of Finance, with the participation of Christian Berger, the Representative of the European Commission (EC), and representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the main partners for the Palestinian customs modernization programme.
Out of the 90 countries that use the ASYCUDA system - known in Palestine as TAWASOL - to manage their customs, the Palestinian Customs service is one of the first 10 national customs authorities to adopt the latest version, ASYCUDA WORLD.
This is the final phase of upgrading of the Palestinian Custom´s computerized system within the context of a broad programme for modernizing Palestinian Customs. The use of the upgraded TAWASOL system will help to simplify Customs procedures to the benefit of Palestinian importers and exporters. It also will inform the policy-making process. The modernization programme, which began in 2000, has been implemented by UNCTAD and funded by the European Union since 2003, as part of the strategic vision for building the institutions for Palestinian sovereignty.
It is a source of pride that the customization of the ASYCUDA WORLD system to the unique Palestinian policy environment and its specific needs was accomplished mainly by a team of Palestinian professionals with some support from UNCTAD´s experts.
The new system represents a qualitative shift in the management of Palestinian customs, its ability to use the most up-to-date technology and to build specialized national professional capacities. The system will be running at the Palestinian Customs headquarters and rolled out to all the 13 customs offices in the West Bank. By the end of the year, the system will be fully introduced to the Palestinian Customs´ Vehicles Department and will be connected via the Internet to the Ministry of Transportation to facilitate the business operations of public and private institutions and individuals.
The newly acquired institutional and human capacity of the system is expected to enhance the Palestinian capability for risk management, post-auditing, reduction of fraud and smuggling, and the generation of data to inform public policy and increase customs and tax revenues. The system will make it much faster and less costly for Palestinian exporters and importers to process transactions by allowing them to use e-mail, direct entry and electronic processing of external trade procedures. Palestinian customs clearance agents and private companies engaged in export and import activities can now process customs declarations and related documents electronically on-line from their own premises without having to visit customs offices.
Hatem Yousef, Director-General of the Customs and Excise Directorate, Ministry of Finance, asserted that "This system will improve the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to manage the economy through the adoption of the latest technologies of e-government, especially upon the completion by the Palestinian Customs of the single window/single file system, which started in tandem with this stage of ASYCUDA-TAWASOL system." Mr. Yousef also affirmed the Palestinian Authority´s readiness to manage the flow of passengers and goods through all border crossing points. This readiness was demonstrated during the brief period, 2005-2006, in which the ASYCUDA system was applied by Palestinian professionals at the Rafah border crossing point in accordance with the Access and Movement Agreement.
The ASYCUDA WORLD system offers the technological, procedural and administrative infrastructure for the Palestinian customs system to facilitate Palestinian trade with electronic single-window and single-file processes, in line with international standards and the rules of the World Customs Organization. With this remarkable achievement, Palestinian Customs has taken a leading role in building the institutional foundations for a sovereign Palestinian state and has made a significant contribution towards the emergence of an independent Palestinian state in the future.
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