Five countries of the former Soviet Union- Azerbaijan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-are receiving assistance from the IMF in strengthening their customs administration through a project financed by the Swiss Federal Office for Foreign Economic Affairs. The goal of the project is to help these countries improve their revenue performance, further liberalize international trade, respond to demands from international business for improved service, and introduce modern technology to assist customs control and facilitate trade.
In April 1998, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus and Swiss Minister of Finance Kaspar Villiger signed an agreement under which Switzerland provided a $2.5 million grant to finance IMF-executed technical assistance projects in these five countries. Project activities were launched at a seminar organized by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department and held in Geneva from May 26 to June 3. Staff from the department delivered presentations, covering the role of foreign trade taxes, regional economic integration, new trends in the organization of customs administrations, preshipment inspection services, import control procedures, trade facilitation, import valuation, approaches for fighting corruption, computerization, and strategies for customs reform.
Other speakers represented the World Trade Organization, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the European Commission, and the Swiss and Turkish customs services.
Customs administrations are usually responsible for collecting revenue, administering trade policy, and reducing illegal imports and exports. Although revenue from import duties is generally falling in developing and transition economies, the revenue collection role of customs administration is not diminishing because revenue from other taxes on imports, notably sales or value-added tax, can be substantial. The challenge for customs administrations in the global economy is to have effective customs controls while at the same time reducing the costs imposed.
The experiences of modern customs administrations in industrial countries provide a model for a reform...