The Tonga Ministry of Revenue and Customs is looking to collaborate with fellow government agencies and local internet service providers to discuss options for dedicated and affordable internet access to traders who are using the ASYCUDAWorld automated customs management system.
This was shared by the Chief Executive Officer of Tonga Customs, Mr Michael Cokanasiga during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) regional workshop in Fiji on Supporting Trade Facilitation, Digitalization and Digital Transformation in the Blue Pacific.
Developed by UNCTAD, the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) is a digital customs management system that covers most foreign trade procedures.
Despite the fact that paper-based systems are becoming obsolete access to stable and affordable internet access continues to be a challenge.
After the ASYCUDAWorld system was piloted in 2021, Tonga Customs availed its facilities to its stakeholders to use the system. “Because of the problems that traders face with the internet, we have 6 – 8 computers all connected to the internet and dedicated for stakeholder training which have also been made available for traders to access ASYCUDAWorld during the inception stage of the project,” Mr Cokanasiga shared.
While the fully fledged deployment of ASYCUDAWorld system occurred in February this year, Mr Cokanasiga highlighted that the change management from manual processes to a digitalized system is a marathon and not a sprint. He added that there have been several lessons learnt as they continue to improve the system and processes. In particular, the CEO shared that in pushing the Tongan customs administration forward, its partners need not be left behind.
“Some of our other ministries and government agencies don’t have automated systems, so that had been a shortfall. But we are continuously building capacities for our customs team, so that we can help our partners,” he noted.
Tonga commenced with the ASYCUDA Project in 2020 but faced a number of challenges along the way, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano to name a few.
Under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus regional free trade agreement, UNCTAD is implementing the institutional strengthening and modernisation of the customs administration of Tonga through the deployment of ASYCUDAWorld.