JIS News

The Government of Jamaica (GoJ)/ Inter American Development Bank (IDB) Information and Communications Technology Project, has made significant impact in enhancing efficiency in personal and corporate transactions through access to modern electronic means, thus reducing transaction costs and increasing the use of technology in the public and private sectors.
As contained in Ministry Paper 57, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday (June 1) E-payment at Jamaica Customs has improved the collection of custom fees and other duties, with an intake of more than $1 billion recorded up to December 3, 2004. This volume was almost thrice the $366.4 million received for the previous fiscal period.
In addition, since the Trade Board Information System (TBIS) import module was piloted in July 2004, some 6,783 applications for motor vehicle import licences have been processed electronically and more than $17 million in licence fees have been collected.
Also over the period, 368 commodity licences were processed at a cost of $597,300, while the online facility has been introduced to seven car dealers and one commodity importer.
Meanwhile, in December 2004, the introduction of online services in key fiscal agencies commenced with the launch of the Jamaica Tax Portal Services and the e-Jamaica website.
This pilot phase of this segment of the project allowed for the payment of property taxes, traffic ticket collections, General Consumption Tax (GCT) demand notice, special consumption and betting taxes, hotel licences fees and travel agency charges.
In April of this year, the Constant Spring and King Street Inland Revenue Offices were equipped with terminals to allow taxpayers to access the online systems at no cost, while customer service staff were trained to introduce the system to taxpayers and assist them in the online payment.
Introduced last year, the GoJ/IDB project is aimed at preparing Jamaica for the networked world in order to increase competitiveness, diversify exports and expand productive employment. It aims to promote enhanced efficiency in personal and corporate transactions, through access to modern electronic means, thereby reducing transaction costs and increasing ICT use in the private and public sectors and civil society.
Initially a five-year capital project funded through GoJ budgetary support in the amount of US$3.4 million, and a loan of US$17 million from the IDB, the project was re-scoped and the loan component was revised to US$8.5 million.
It contains a number of elements including an e-government component designed to reduce transaction costs incurred by citizens and businesses. This component will also increase efficiency and effectiveness in fiscal and trade agencies.
There is also a fiscal agencies element, which provides for the financing of hardware/software and some consulting services to web-enable six fiscal agencies. The next phase of this segment will support the implementation of processes in: General Consumption Tax (GCT); Special Consumption Tax (SCT); Pay As You Earn (PAYE); Education Tax (ET); Corporate and Self-Employed Tax; National Health Insurance; and HEART transactions.
In the area of trade facilitation, the project provides for the integration of the trade processes operated by JAMPRO, Jamaica Customs and the Trade Board Limited. Some US$200,000 worth of equipment is being purchased under the Trade Facilitation arm of the project.
The Institutional Strengthening aspect entails the strengthening of the MCST focusing mainly on the Ministry itself, the Central Information Technology Office (CITO) and legal reform; seminars for legal personnel such as judges and lawyers to facilitate their dealing with e-commerce and telecommunications issues; a training plan for the MCST, catering to the executive management group and training of general staff.
In addition, technical assistance will be provided to CITO in order to bolster its capability to implement and periodically update the ICT strategy, develop a monitoring system, and formulate action plans for the introduction of ICT in sectors such as education, health and agriculture. To that end, CITO is in the process of recruiting a strategic planning specialist.
Further reforms to the legal/regulatory framework for telecommunications will also be facilitated. Such reforms will enhance the existing framework to ensure that the significant benefits gained since liberalization commenced, are consolidated and deepened.
The legal and institutional reforms under the project will address the feasibility of establishing a regulatory framework that is appropriate for the dynamic telecom environment in Jamaica. Issues to be considered include: Delineating responsibilities more clearly between the telecommunications regulator and the Fair Trading Commission (FTC); redefining the concept of universal access; empowering the regulator to establish service level standards; improving the legal/regulatory regime for interconnection; and rate re-balancing.
Meanwhile, under the community outreach arm of the project, it is proposed that the MCST and the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) will work as partners to establish e-service access points targeting export centres across the island. It has also been proposed that revenue centres could be prospective locations for e-service Access Points.
The Human Capital Development element of the project will provide training for personnel to operate the online help facility in support of e-government.

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