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Doing business – Barbados moves closer to Single Electronic Window

Article taken from The Barbados Today – Wednesday October 6, 2021

After years of promises and struggle to fully implement an Electronic Single Window (ESW), Barbados is finally set to have the system put into operation with the hopes of significantly improving the doing business climate.

On Tuesday, Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds signed a contract with Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Rebeca Grynspam, paving the way for the implementation of an ESW in Barbados.

A special unit is to be put in place by November 1, 2021 to oversee the implementation of this project which has a timeframe of 30 months and a cost of some $2.5 million.

Officials are hoping that it will result in significant improvement in the ease of doing business climate in Barbados by reducing clearance times, increasing efficiency in the movement of goods and harmonizing data while reducing costs.

The ESW allows for the facilitation of electronic submission of trade and transport related documents using an online platform.

This allows for the exchange of appropriate documents between the relevant government agencies and the business community and individuals.

Symmonds told the brief signing ceremony, a side event of the UNCTAD 15 conference in Bridgetown, that doing business in Barbados has been a “burdensome process” over the years and this system would help to change that.

“This is critical for our competitiveness, this is critical for our business facilitation efforts,” he added.

He added that the ESW would eliminate the process of having to move physical documents from one government department to the next.

“Effectively, what we are now doing is having one platform which will be a seamless place. A one-stop for the business person, whether micro, medium or large, that one-stop allows for all those government departments to interface with each other online in real time as opposed to the way in which we did everything else,” he said.

It is expected that some 28 public sector agencies will be added to the system and public sector workers are to receive training.

In February 2017, then Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the launch of an ESW system, which he said was about 90 per cent ready and would link some 50 government departments and agencies.

That system, a US$11.8 million investment, formed part of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme, which started in 2011. At that time, it was revealed that US$10 million of that investment was a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and government provided the remaining $1.8 million.

Symmonds, who was speaking at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Tuesday, said while the ESW platform has not been difficult to conceive over the years, it was the administrative will that had “bedevilled us as a country” as well as the legal and technical requirements that resulted in the delay in the full roll-out of such a system.

“I do believe that it allows for us to do our business of government a lot more efficiently.

It allows for us to treat to private enterprise a lot more efficiently and in a way that ensures competitiveness,” said Symmonds.

“It is also going to be tied into the ASYCUDA system and the Bridgetown Port community structure, so that again this interface is seamless and detailed in nature. It is, put simply, a onestop shop for the consumer and the investor. I think that is really an important step in the right direction,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grynspan said the system should allow the Barbados private sector to increase its competitiveness while increasing revenues.

“UNCTAD is convinced that setting up an Electronic Single Window for trade is critical,” she said.

“No doubt this will help not only the private sector at large but also very small and medium entrepreneurs that will find it easier to understand what is the process in how they can get included in the supply chain and export activities of the country,” said Grynspan. (MM)

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