Deputy Prime Minister KP Turnquest, right, pictured with Ken Hutton of Abaco’s Chamber of Commerce.
FINANCE Minister K Peter Turnquest yesterday led a delegation to Abaco yesterday to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and the Customs Department to address issues regarding the Click2Clear system.
Tribune Business reported earlier this month of how the Abaco business community had been "extremely upset" over "delays and added expenses" created by the transition to the new digital process.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Finance the meeting between the Abaco Chamber of Commerce and a delegation from the Ministry of Finance and the Bahamas Customs and Excise Department was touted as "incredibly productive" by participating stakeholders, who met at the Office of the Prime Minister in Marsh Harbour on Monday.
The meeting was convened to address pressing issues identified by the Abaco business community regarding the implementation of Click2Clear (formerly the Bahamas Electronic Single Window). Government representatives committed to system improvements that would remedy issues identified by the business community. Acknowledging Abaco's complex commercial ecosystem, both parties recognised the value of on boarding Abaco successfully.
"We are very pleased and very thankful that the government responded so quickly to our concerns. It just shows that going forward we have a serious partner willing to address the concerns raised by the Abaco business community that effect the entire island," said Kenneth Hutton, President of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce. The meeting took place after several weeks of in-depth dialogue between business stakeholders and the project implementation team.
"We are very happy that they brought a high-level delegation: Decision makers who could address critical issues on the spot. Overall, the meeting was incredible productive. Everyone went away feeling satisfied that the government came prepared to ensure their concerns were met. There wasn't a single unanswered question. They stayed as long as they needed to and addressed all of the concerns brought up. Moving forward we look to the continued cooperation," said Mr Hutton, who also praised the local customs officers and those who manage the helpline for the responsiveness.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest, who led the delegation, provided assurance that the Government's goal was to operate a product that can effectively facilitate trade and improve the efficiency of doing business throughout The Bahamas.
"We are thankful that the business community appreciates not only the scope of this project but also the dynamic nature of implementing such a major change. With any change there are going to be some hiccups and a learning curve to adoption, so we appreciate the constructive dialogue that we had here today. From this meeting we wanted to identify a clear path forward to address the specific challenges of the Abaco business community. We feel confident that this was achieved and thank the Chamber for inviting us here," said Minister Turnquest.
The most pressing issues included system improvements to reduce the repetition of data inputs, improved summary reporting for individual importers, the fluidity of processes around bond reconciliation and releases, and the automation of data uploads.
"We have additional Customs officers on island and they are going to be here until we feel confident and certain that the importing public - the business community of Abaco - is confident, efficient and able to effectively utilize the system. We want to assure the Abaco business community that Customs is here to work with them. You are our partner and an important stakeholder. We are here to serve you ad we won't leave you until we are sure you have done the job well," said Comptroller Geannine Moss.
Attendees at the meeting representing the Government included Minister Turnquest, Financial Comptroller Marlon Johnson, Comptroller of Customs Geannie Moss, Superintendent of Customs Jasmine Hudson, Project Manager Tamico Brice, Communications Consultant Noelle Nicolls, Maxine Duncombe Senior Deputy Family Island Administrator. Ken Hutton Abaco Chamber of Commerce President and Jeff Beckles, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce President were joined by about sixteen local business people. These business stakeholders are estimated to represent approximately 70 percent of all imports into the Abacos.