Customs

December 31st, 2014 Sections: Economy, Government and Politics
Logo of the Customs Service

Logo of the Customs Service

Today is the Professional Holiday for workers in the Customs Service of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The day was established in 2006 in order to create and ensure the continuity of traditions in the Customs Service and the date was chosen to commemorate the signing of the decree “On the formation of the State Customs Inspectorate of the Kyrgyz Republic“, by the then President of the Republic, Askar Akayev, in 1991 … and which established the service of the new Republic.

Customs procedures, tariffs, etc. are regulated by the Customs Code, other relevant legislation and regulations … as well as international treaties and other customs provisions of international law.

The procedures for moving goods and vehicles across the Customs Frontiers of the Kyrgyz Republic include:

  • Inspection of documents and information
  • Verbal questioning
  • Clarifications
  • Inspection of goods and vehicles
  • Customs inspection
  • Personal inspection
  • Special marks or identification signs for certain goods – in those cases provided for in the current legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Audit

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The authority in charge of customs regulation in Kyrgyzstan is the State Customs Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic.   The role of the Customs Committee is to:

  • play a significant role in the formation of the new market;
  • protect the economic sovereignty and security of the country;
  • enhance the integration of the Kyrgyz economy with the world economy;
  • protect the rights of citizens, businesses and government bodies, and
  • ensure their compliance with the obligations in the field of customs.

Unfortunately, the service has a reputation for corruption. In a public opinion survey reported by the International Republican Institute in 2014, in answer to a question asking respondents to to assess the level of corruption in a variety of government institutions, 52% said that they considered the service “very corrupt”, 33% as “somewhat corrupt”, 4% as “somewhat not corrupt” and 1% as “not corrupt at all” – with 10% saying that they didn’t know or refusing to answer.

Actually, I have some sympathy with that last option – even if it seems like a “cop out” … we, for example have had very little contact with the Customs Service and so I would have had difficulty in answering the question without relying on hearsay.

Although that might be appropriate in Transparency International‘s Corruption Perceptions Index … it seems inappropriate when being asked to make a personal assessment.

Apparently, according to other surveys, about two thirds of businesses report that the system is pervaded by the need for “irregular payments”, (undocumented extra payments, bribes – or simply “gifts”), connected with obtaining clearance of shipments, be it imports or exports.

It doesn’t that the complex bureaucratic procedures often lead to delays … and the reason for these irregular payments.

The government, with the support of international donor agencies, have made serious attempts to address the issue.

Most notable, in 2012, the then Prime Minister, Omurbek Babanov, sacked all the staff in the country’s two international airports, threatening the staff that replaced them with dismissal if the situation hadn’t improved within a month.

There have also been attempts to encourage foreign trade and investment by increasing the level of transparency and streamlining both the tax and customs regimes – including designing and implementing a “single window” system.

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