The state-of-the-art Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), developed and implemented by UNCTAD, is playing a key role in Palestinian attainment of international Customs standards and in addressing the Palestinian Authority’s determination to facilitate trade.
The European Commission has thus far funded two phases of ASYCUDA’s work with the Palestinian Authority.
ASYCUDA has helped the Customs and Excise Department of the Palestinian Authority to introduce comprehensive modern procedures of international standard and thus facilitate trade. One of the best illustrations of this is the successful implementation in November 2005 of a fully automated Customs facility at the Rafah Crossing.
The adoption of ASYCUDA has led to improved control by Customs over trade transactions, and has played a key role in enabling the Palestinian Authority to automatically review and audit the revenues from Palestinian imports, collected by Israel and transferred to the Palestinian Authority, as stipulated by the 1994 Paris Protocol.
One tangible effect has been the transfer of additional revenue to the Palestinian Authority as a result of amended declarations for used vehicles. The statistics for 2008 led to an increment of $10.3 million, with those for 2009 showing an increment of almost $32 million. Based on these facts, and on the continuous improvements to the Palestinian Authority’s Customs services, it was agreed by all the parties concerned that Palestinian Customs rather than Israeli Customs would carry out the final assessments for used vehicles.
The Palestinian Authority uses the most recent version of the ASYCUDA software. Being web-based, this version of the ASYCUDA system allows Customs administrations and traders to handle most of their transactions – from Customs declarations to cargo manifests and transit documents – via the Internet.
More recently, the Palestinian Authority launched ASYCUDA Direct Trader Input (DTI), as part of the Palestinian commitment to administering trade policies that are in line with international best practices and the recommendations of the World Customs Organization. The adoption of DTI means that Palestinian traders are now encouraged to directly process Customs documents from their premises, which minimizes the administrative burden and decreases costs.
The next phase of the ASYCUDA project is to evaluate what has been achieved and to continue developing tools to deal with the dynamic world of international trade. The Palestinian Authority considers it important to continue supporting the Customs modernization process as prerequisite for a healthy and stable economy.
Specifically, the next phase is designed to:
- Continue developing expertise within the Customs and Excise Department to ensure local capacity to independently run the ASYCUDA programme, specifically by training new IT personnel hired by the Ministry of Finance and assigned to the Customs and Excise Department to develop and support new features of the ASYCUDA software.
- Develop and implement innovative, electronic-based Customs procedures enabling the Customs and Excise Department to carry out Customs checks and post-clearance audits; extend the use of risk management; and follow international best practices.
- Integrate ASYCUDA training programmes into the activities of the Palestinian Public Finance Institute (supported by France), providing training material and local trainers.
- Facilitate links between businesses and Customs, and contribute to the development of Customs brokers, in order to maximize the use of ASYCUDA.
- Create new opportunities to improve Customs controls, in coordination with Israeli Customs, through data interchange protocols.
- Continue to develop an interface between the Palestinian and Israeli Customs services.
Founded in the early 1980s, ASYCUDA is UNCTAD's largest technical cooperation programme which now operates in over 80 countries and territories. Its main objective is to help Customs administrations put in place modern and reliable systems in order to facilitate trade.