Customs revenue badly hit by COVID

The decline in revenue collections for governments through its border agencies was a major topic of discussion at the Oceania Customs Organisation’s 22nd Annual Conference, held virtually for the first time in its history. 

“The significant drop of Customs revenue collection as a result of lower trade volumes and decline in tourism was a common impact felt by the OCO members and that measure to raise revenue remained members’ priorities in the post-COVID-19 environment,” it said in its communique.

OCO Chairman and Comptroller of Cook Islands Customs Service Xavier Mitchell noted the forceful impact of COVID-19 on operations but stressed the need for customs organisations to continue to facilitate trade and “earn revenue that is needed now more than ever for our governments.”

Not only has the coronavirus pandemic spawned new health and economic concerns for these organisations, it has also added to existing problems faced at the borders.  

“Not only do nations have to protect themselves from COVID-19, there are emerging threats within the Customs environment such as the trade of counterfeit goods, illicit financial flows, trafficking of people, drugs and weapons, and money laundering that require strong focus,” Mitchell said.

“We need to continue to strengthen collective actions to effectively manage the regional security environment.”  

According to its communique, the top priority for OCO’s work plan, which has been approved for the next two years, will be revenue mobilisation. 

The meeting was attended by heads of customs and representatives from Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia (also representing French Polynesia and Wallis & Futuna), New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Northern Marianas, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Timor Leste. American Samoa and Kiribati were not able to attend.