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No weekly holiday for customs offices at both sides of Benapole and Akhaura land ports

Customs administrations of Bangladesh and India on Monday (21 October 2013) decided to keep open the customs offices at both sides of Benapole and Akhaura land ports seven days a week to facilitate export-import activities between the two countries.
They took the decision on the first day of the two-day ninth meeting of joint group of customs of Bangladesh and India that began on the day at Dhaka, a senior NBR official told New Age.
Customs hours will also be same, from 7am to 7pm, at the both sides of the two land ports, he said.
Customs officials also agreed to exchange information related to import and export to check mis-declaration and under-invoicing that causes huge revenue loss, particularly for Bangladesh.
The meeting also decided to allow free movement of customs officials of both the countries at border port areas to investigate wrong doings in trade, resolve disputes and facilitate trade through formal channel.
They also emphasised on formalising bilateral trade through easing procedures and reducing harassment.
‘Exporters and importers face problems due to differences between working hours and days at both sides of the two land ports,’ he said.
Considering the convenience of the traders, customs administration of the two countries decided to synchronise working hours and days, he added.
From January 1, 2014, customs offices of the two land ports, Benapole and Akhaura on Bangladesh side, and Petrapole and Agartala on Indian side will remain open seven days a week.
Currently, Benapole and Akhaura customs offices remain closed on Friday. On Saturday, customs offices are kept open on limited scale only for releasing imported perishable goods.
Though Petrapole and Agartala also remain closed on Friday, office hours are different at the both sides of the land ports.
Traders will be benefited most due to harmonisation of working hours and days as it will reduce delays in loading and unloading of goods, operation costs and other complexities, officials said.
‘On free movement of customs officials, India has already allowed free movement (without visa) of customs officials of Bangladesh. So we have decided to provide the same facility to them,’ a customs official said.
Home ministry will take steps in this regard, he added.
He said that Bangladesh loses huge amount in revenue every year because of misdeclaration in price and volume of imported goods from India by the importers.
They declare less volumes and less price of imported products for dodging duties, he said.
‘If India provides figure of imported goods and its price that they assessed, we will be able to detect misdeclaration and under-invoicing incidents,’ he said.
For example, he said, importers import 100 tonnes of products from India but they declare 80 tonnes to evade duties. They also declare less price (under-invoicing) to avoid paying full duties.
The meeting also discussed various issues related to bilateral trade, non-tariff barriers and infrastructure development at land customs stations with an aim to enhance trade facilitation mechanism.
NBR chairman Ghulam Hussain led the Bangladesh delegation consisting of officials from the customs administration, ministries of foreign affairs, commerce, home, finance and communication at the meeting while Indian revenue secretary Sumit Bose led his side.

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