Spacecraft, with their own unique Cayman Customs code, will be assessed at 22 percent. The same for nuclear reactors — 22 percent.
In recent weeks, the Customs Department has put into place a new “harmonized system” that increases the number of codes for imported goods from 221 (under the old system) to about 5,000 (under the new), complete with eight-digit numerical designations.
Transitioning from the local system to the new international one (about 250 jurisdictions currently use it) was, in theory, supposed to eliminate the guesswork in Cayman’s customs process, introduce greater transparency, consistency and efficiency to duty assessment, and allow the government to collect more accurate data on imported products.
That’s not the way things have turned out.
Instead we have a government-induced fiasco on our hands — with businesses complaining that what once took minutes to clear Customs now takes hours, and what once took hours can now take days.
Remember, Customs clearance is central to doing business on an island since nearly everything we consume must be imported.
Air freight and cargo ships are our lifelines, and our economy requires a flawless flow of products, produce, equipment and other goods to function. Inefficiencies in the supply chain cause disruptions down the line, to distributors and retailers, with the extra costs ultimately passed on to individual consumers.
We cannot — we must not — allow Customs to be a chokepoint in the system.
We have sincere sympathy for Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett who only recently ascended to her top post. This scheme was hatched more than seven years ago, and the new law to enable the changes was passed two years ago.
Nevertheless, it is now her mess to clean up — and clean up fast. As she acknowledged in yesterday’s Compass, “The declaration process will take a while for larger importers who have several invoices to process. For those persons with small imports, the process can be just as overwhelming.”
Ms. Bennett oversees a department with at least three critical functions: anti-smuggling enforcement, tax (duty) collection and, what is extremely important, providing efficient customer-friendly service.
We are not encouraged by her characterization of the current state of affairs as mere “teething issues,” nor by her statement that “we are hoping that the online process will allow us to process applications expeditiously in the back office so we can then focus on speeding up the service in the front office at the customer service counter.”
Hope is not enough. Ms. Bennett states that “currently we are doing the best we can with the resources we have.”
We believe her and if she needs more resources to implement the new system, the government needs to do one of two things: Either staff her department adequately. Or scrap entirely the new, mismatched system. (Locomotives?)
Whatever is going on at Customs, it certainly is not a “teething issue.” At the very least, it’s a “root canal issue.”
Please pass the Excedrin. (We’re sure there’s a code for that.)