By Ntombi Mhlongo
The Kingdom of Eswatini has taken another giant step in terms of creating easy-to-use digital platforms meant for making the facilitation of trade easy.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg officially launched the implementation of what is known as the e-Advance Ruling Tool which will be used by the trading community to electronically submit requests for advance rulings.
According to the minister, such an initiative will not only create an enabling environment for trade but will also attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The tool will also be used by the Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) customs officers to review, assess, deliver, and publish the advance rulings.
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The advanced ruling system will be a means to provide decisions on the classification, origin, and valuation of commodities before their importation or exportation.
This initiative is meant to add certainty and predictability to international trade and help traders to make informed business decisions based on legally binding rulings.
Making his remarks, the minister highlighted that trade and customs play an interlinked and critical role in creating conditions for economic development across frontiers.
He said both the Ministry of Finance through the ERS and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade have a huge responsibility to facilitate trade hence making a real difference in people’s lives by helping to deliver jobs, growth, and development that trade supports.
“This means that Eswatini should leverage on trade facilitation and explore opportunities, and ensure maximum benefits are derived. This further links with the overall objective of the government’s road map whose overall objective is to stimulate economic growth and increase employment creation. Therefore, such tools are meant to create an enabling environment for trade and further attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI),” he said.
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Elaborating, the minister said it is important to understand intended benefits when embarking on reform and modernisation initiatives and that they are defined and monitored so they can be realised.
He said the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified 12 trade facilitation indicators, which, when applied in total, could potentially lead to a total reduction in trade costs of 10 per cent.
“In a study that was conducted on the impact of trade facilitation measures on trade costs, OECD identified that the Advance Rulings System was the most impactful single trade facilitation measure. For Advance Rulings alone, the impact on trade cost was estimated to be a reduction of around 5.4 per cent. These figures are a testament of the fact that this tool has the potential to significantly improve international trade,” he emphasised.