ICMPD continues its assistance to the Lebanese Customs Administration (LCA) and other border agencies in the implementation of modern trade facilitation tools in-line with international standards, through the European Union (EU) funded project Enhanced Capability for Integrated Border Management in Lebanon.
A significant movement towards tangible benefits related to trade facilitation was noted in the course of a series of meetings and workshops recently conducted by ICMPD in varying locations in Lebanon. The meetings, brought together LCA, General Security, the Ministries of Public Health, Public Works & Transport and Economy & Trade, the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) and the Syndicate of Authorised Clearing Agents in Lebanon (SACAL). Professional organisations appreciated an opportunity to discuss issues hindering the smooth flow of goods at borders, face-to-face with the border agencies. The border agencies had an opportunity to learn about clearance obstacles from another point of view. Lebanon is currently ranked 150 in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report (the Trading Across Border chapter), but this can be significantly improved if the appropriate measures are taken in areas such as risk analysis, removal of duplications in controls of goods, minimizing bureaucracy, introduction of effective IT systems, avoidance of manual recording of data, modern systems of sampling, effective laboratory tests, etc. All these issues have been reported by ICMPD in a recent document, with appropriate recommendations suggested for LCA and other border agencies. LCA senior management has taken several measures of improvement including reducing internal bureaucratic procedures; a positive mirror in speeding-up of customs clearance procedures is the expected result of this action. However, the customs clearance system still contains a number of internal procedures that can be either rationalised or removed. At the same time, the implementation of simplified procedures as developed and implemented in the EU could also significantly reduce clearance times. Long release times for goods and repeated controls discourage investors from placing business in Lebanon. Moreover, the efficiency of border controls and sampling of goods is not measured, whilst no preferential systems exist for regular traders who have successfully completed due-diligence. ICMPD has suggested running a pilot project for a Single Window system at Tripoli Port. LCA has accepted this recommendation, stating they will follow the international standards in the implementation of this important trade facilitation tool.