Interview: Kaddour Bentahar
What steps is the Algerian Customs Agency taking to modernise its operations and encourage increased investment in the country?
KADDOUR BENTAHAR: Today we are witnessing the globalisation of the economy in Algeria. This is due to the opening up of the market and the development of trade flows across a very large geographic area, along with a diversification in our trading partners.
Nationally, we have a policy that promotes diversification, as we are actively seeking to shift away from the economy’s dependence on hydrocarbons revenues. With this in mind, we want to develop economic intelligence services within the agency that intelligence will serve to strengthen our financial position, by providing us with access to meaningful analysis and forecasting. This in turn will allow us to look for new opportunities and develop skills related to risk analysis in order to fight effectively against fraud and financial crime.
With respect to the finance law, we have just introduced additional incentives related to inward processing arrangements. The first measure allows Algerian producers to negotiate and engage with foreign producers as part of the 2016 draft finance law. For the second measure, we wish to eliminate the fragmentation of the authorisation process, instead providing a universal process, with the aim of easing the administrative burden.
Furthermore, Algeria is currently negotiating its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and there are instruments provided by WTO membership that interest us. Therefore, we are trying to be forward-looking and transpose these initiatives into our upcoming legislation.
In what ways can the Algerian Customs Agency assist companies that wish to export?
BENTAHAR: Exporting can provide economic benefits for companies. For instance, I cited the example of the inward processing arrangements that we are putting in place, resulting in a compensating product. This is a regime that is more export-oriented, which is beneficial because it allows companies to better manage their cash, while also increasing their ability to access outside markets.
We have also just set up “drawback” legislation. Drawback is a measure that is related to the Kyoto regime. It enables a company to start exporting, and to obtain a reimbursement when it markets its product. We then reimburse the business for the tax duties that were paid on the quantities exported ahead of time, either on just the goods or on the inputs used in their production.
How have recently introduced measures reduced Customs clearance times?
BENTAHAR: Progress has certainly been made in this department. For authorised economic operators (AEOs), processing times average only one hour and 40 minutes. Their status allows them quick and efficient Customs clearance. There are currently 200 AEOs, and we expect that number to double by next year. For those who have not yet been approved, there is currently a waiting period of eight days for a clearance time. In the near future, we expect to reduce this number to five days for imports, and a maximum of two days for exports.
How is the Algerian Customs Agency addressing the issue of border coverage?
BENTAHAR: Given the size of Algeria, there is a great deal work to do, with regards to this issue. As part of our national development project we are building 78 monitoring stations, of which 11 have already been built. This project will ensure better border surveillance. We are focusing on the eastern and western borders at first, and we are working closely with the military and intelligence services on this issue.
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