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KARACHI: All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) has urged the federal government to ensure uninterrupted port operations (24x7) to avoid containers backlog during Eid holidays.

It was stated by the senior vice chairman APCAA Arshad Jamal while presiding over the meeting to address issues raised during the Covid-19 situation in the country.

He stressed the need for evolving comprehensive strategy to reduce business costs and ensure speedy clearance of consignments under 24x7 facility at ports.

Furthermore, he said that presently the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had reduced the office hours to 9am to 2pm with 50 percent work from home policy till May 17, 2021, in the light of the decision taken by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Islamabad. However, the customs department has not taken any measure to minimise human interaction at the customs house during the existing extraordinary Covid-19 situation.

He said that the customs department should allow WeBOC access to its officers working from home under NCOC guidelines and facilitate the trade in the consignment clearance.

Moreover, he said that the WeBOC system had an option to conduct a hearing process through skype; however, the customs department, instead of rolling it out during a pandemic, still asking taxpayers to visit the customs house for the purpose.

“There are reports that federal government has planned to go for complete lockdown from May 8 to May 16 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 spike. Therefore, it is requested to them to issue special directives to the banks to open branches for at least four hours everyday except three Eid holidays for the collection of duty and taxes,” he said.

“If the banks were not issued such special directives, then the containers backlog after Eid holidays is expected to reach 1000 containers at each port, and would take at least two months to come to normal position,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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