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Through a number of initiatives under the Regulations, Legislation and Process Improvement Project (Regs & Legs), government is well on the way to creating a business friendly environment that is conducive to increased investment, productivity and economic growth.
Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of the Regs and Legs Advisory Committee, Dr. Carlton Davis gave this assurance recently at a press briefing on the establishment and operations to date of the project.
He remarked that government had been “undertaking a sweeping series of reforms across the public sector, despite fiscal constraints under which we have had to operate”. Dr. Davis added that despite these constraints, government had been able to do much more than it would have been otherwise able to do, due to the support and financial assistance of agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department of International Development (DFID), the Japanese government, the European Union, and the World Bank.
He said the priorities of government’s reform efforts had been providing alternative and more efficient forms of service delivery through the creation of eight executive agencies so far, with others in the development process including the Forestry Department, the Passport Office, the Mines and Geology Department, and the Fisheries Department.
The Cabinet Secretary said customer service was improving through the creation of a citizens’ charter along with, the strengthening of policy capacity and mergers and sharing of corporate services. Dr. Davis said government had incorporated performance management as a part of the culture of the civil service and was facilitating business by removing and reducing the hurdles and red tape associated with dealing with the government.
He informed that the first phase of Regs & Legs had been concentrating on the process improvements aspect, which did not require any legislative or regulative changes. “This project represents yet another important initiative to assist firms in carrying out their objectives in an efficient and cost effective manner.the raising of efficiency of the public service and the business facilitation process are among the critical steps that must be taken to enhance competitiveness of our economy, boost investment and accelerate economic growth.”
Dr. Davis pointed out “noticeable improvements” in the public sector such as the Office of the Registrar of Companies (ORC), which recently launched an enhanced website, with new registration services and ecommerce capabilities, which will support its role of assisting individuals to exploit business ideas and explore wealth creating opportunities.
The Regs and Legs Chairman also made note of the National Land Agency (NLA) which brought on stream an electronic land information system that was now making a significant difference in the ease with which members of the public do business relating to land.
When it becomes fully operational, Jamaica Trade Point, an electronic trade facilitation system that functions as a single source for all trade related activities in Jamaica will be a one stop trade facilitation portal, Dr. Davis stated.
The e-government initiative comprises six partners: Jamaica Customs, JAMPRO, the Trade Board, Shipping Association of Jamaica; the Port Authority of Jamaica and Fiscal Services Limited. Persons can now register and renew their exporting licenses, process custom C78 and C82 forms, apply online for trade licenses and certification and pay for custom duties and user fees quickly, using credit cards.
He further informed that already, Jamaica Customs had successfully processed over 300 transactions utilising its new online payment system. Meanwhile, the Shipping Association’s e-manifest will also bring about major cost savings and processing time to clear goods will be significantly reduced. “Being able to receive electronic manifest means that shipments can be processed before the vessel even arrives at our ports,” Dr. Davis commented, adding that www.jamaicatradepoint.com mirrored the sophisticated system used in Singapore which had successfully leveraged similar information technology advancements to streamline and automate the trade documentation processes, making that country a less expensive and more convenient location for trade and investments.
“Apart from the convenience of transacting business online 24 hours a day, the public service is now in a position to offer more efficient services and increase customer satisfaction. The sophisticated trading system will also facilitate production of more accurate trade statistics in a timely manner,” the Cabinet Secretary stated.
In addition, he said, www.buyjamaica.com would greatly assist in improving the marketing of Jamaican products to “a generation of global consumers who are web conscious and will thus be exposed to our offerings in a way in which they are not now at this time.this is all part and parcel of the effort to increase the efficiency of our exporting community and thereby enhance the international competitiveness of Jamaican goods and services”.
The system will also have a component allowing connection to funding sources and technical assistance, which can be accessed at www.fundingoasis.com. This will provide direct access to both local and international providers of such business assistance.
“Clearly this is important work that must be accelerated as the national impact will be profound. Also very critical is the need for us to systematise the approval processes for building development. To this end, we have had a series of meetings at Jamaica House in which all interested parties including the parish councils were represented and steps are being taken, not only in individual agencies, but collectively, in this concept of joined up government, to reduce the beauracracy”.