- Mismanagement, custom evasion are responsible for the deficit
- Congestion at Petrapole port also disrupted the revenue flow
Benapole Custom House has incurred a revenue deficit of Tk312.64 crore in the first four months of the current financial year as the customs house collected about Tk1,184.9 crore against a target of Tk1,497.54 crore.
A breakdown of revenue amounts shows that in October, they collected Tk276.71 crore against the target of Tk329.54 crore. In September, they collected Tk335.76 crore against the target of Tk462 crore.
In August, the house collected Tk332.74 crore against the target of Tk394 crore. And, in July this year, the custom-house collected Tk239.69 crore against the target of Tk312 crore.
However, compared to the first four months of FY2020-21, the revenue collection in the ongoing financial year has increased by Tk54 crore. In the first four months of the last fiscal year, the Benapole custom house collected about Tk1,130 crore.
This financial year, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has set a revenue target of Tk6,245 crore for Benapole Custom House. In the last financial year of FY2020 – 21, the target was Tk6,244.62 crore but the custom house ended up collecting Tk4,143 crore.
Traders said that the mismanagement of the port authorities and custom evasion were contributing factors for the persistent revenue deficit in the port for the last few years.
Mofizur Rahman Sajan, president of Benapole C&F Association, said since the pandemic began, the traders could not import from India as much as they hoped which disrupted the revenue flow.
"The custom house also does not have enough infrastructure to expand trade which is why many traders stopped trading through the land port as they kept incurring losses," he added.
Aminul Haque, vice president of Benapole Import-Export Association, said the custom-house does not have the necessary arrangements to check the quality of the imported goods. It takes over a month to get the goods tested from Khulna or Dhaka, which wastes the traders' time and causes them to incur losses.
"Traders urged the government to set up a branch of Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution (BSTI) at the port long ago and even though a branch has been constructed, most tests cannot be conducted here, which is another reason for the port's continuous revenue deficit," Haque added.
Rezwan Ahmad Murad, an importer, said the weak security arrangement at the port is another reason why the port has been facing such continuous losses.
"Importers have to guard their goods once they arrive at the port. Many have found alternate routes after losing their imports in fire or to thieves at Benapole," he added.
Underlining the various steps taken for the infrastructural development at the port, Mamun Kabir Tarafdar, deputy director (Traffic) of the port, said, "We have acquired new land for a warehouse and are working on the development of roads near the port area."
Tarafdar said the port authority is also working to install CCTV cameras around the port area for enhanced security.
Abdur Rashid, the joint commissioner of Benapole Customs House, said due to the congestion of cargo trucks at the Indian port of Petrapole, cargo vehicles carrying imports have not been able to enter the Benapole port on time during the past few months.
The port faced another congestion a few days ago due to soybean meal exports, Rashid said, adding that such frequent traffics are reasons why the port fails to meet its collection targets.
"Thankfully, we have collected more revenue this year than the last financial year and we hope the deficit will get narrower in the next few months," Rashid hoped.
To restore order at the port, the authority has recently taken various disciplinary measures – including fines and revocation of license – against those committing irregularities, he added.