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March 31, 2000
Customs may work seven days a week
The commerce secretary also hinted that the customs department, which currently functions five days a week, may switch over to the global norm of seven days a week. "But Indian exporters don't bother to send consignments on Sundays and holidays. So if the customs function on these days, an extra cost would be involved."
He said Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran's projection of 20 per cent growth in exports in 2000-2001 is achievable. Talks are on with export promotion councils and commodity boards to ensure this. The southeast Asian and US economies are doing well. So the target is within reach, he said.
Another highlight is the thrust on special export zones to attract huge investments for export-led growth, he told a television channel.
The idea is to help exporters related to the small scale sector to cut transaction costs. Computerisation of the commerce ministry and its departments will make the operations transparent, he said.
Asked if the policy will really help process applications from as many as 300,000 exporters in India, Prabhu said the number of "regular exporters" is much less, so there should not be a problem.
He complimented state government for pressing for special economic zones to promote export intensive units. These, he said, will generate a lot of employment besides making the procedures attractive for exporters. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are the front-runners in the campaign to boost exports. "Now it is upto the central government, especially the finance ministy, to respond positively," he said.
He clarified that the Exim Policy has a limited role to play in boosting the economy. Issues like marketing of exports is outside the purview of the policy, he noted.
Prabhu said separate efforts are underway to extend assistance for the marketing drive. One of the ideas is to have special drives for special markets like Latin America.
He conceded that exporters in India do face a lot of hardship at the hands of government agencies, especially those at airports and ports. Cargo capacity and duty drawbacks at these gateways is a "big problem", he admitted. "Goods can't be moved out quickly. There is general chaos. But this can't be sorted out in the short-term. We will impress upon the finance ministry to allocate more funds so that infrastructure can be improved. The civil aviation ministry is also talking of an open skies policy which will help the exporters and importers," he pointed out.
Regarding exports of services in the healthcare, tourism and software sectors, Prabhu said incentives that are normally extended to other industries are available. "Whatever that is possible will be done. However, each of these service sectors have problems peculiar to the sector. For instance, tourism's problems are related to aviation."
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