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The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) in the Finance Ministry is getting tech-savvy by the day. It has gone in for an electronic database of Customs tariffs to equip itself for better policy making on the import tariff front.

The electronic database, which would also be accessible to trade through the Internet soon, covers 11,000 tariff codes, import policy, non-tariff barriers, country preferences and import and export values and quantity for the two years 2006-07 and 2007-08. However, the online access of the database would come only at a price for trade and industry.

Launching the database, in a CD version, here today, the Chief Economic Advisor, Mr Arvind Virmani, said that the online database project was a step in the direction of the DEA’s overall attempt to improve the inputs for policy formulation. “An online database will make it easier for us to analyse as data is available conveniently. Many a times the requirement is urgent and looking at many published resources (books) was time consuming,” Mr Virmani noted.

The online database on Customs tariff is a public private partnership (PPP) project involving the DEA and the Academy of Business Studies. The Government has paid for the digitisation of the Customs tariffs and would benefit from free updates on a daily basis. There will also be royalty income to the Government on any income generated by Academy of Business Studies by allowing access of the database to trade and industry.

“The online database will be based on published data (DGCIS) available on imports and exports. It is not going to generate data on imports or exports. It is only putting the data there along with tariff data for research and analysis purposes to make it convenient. Earlier, you could get all this in different books. Now you will get it online. That is the advantage,” Dr Virmani told reporters here. Dr HAC Prasad, Senior Economic Advisor, Department of Economic Affairs, said that the Revenue Department can add on to the work that DEA has done by giving the actual revenue or Customs collections (item-wise at 8-digit level). “We can build on this database further. In the WTO negotiations, this will be useful because we have a common code at the six-digit level. The inter-linking of the codes will help us look at the bound duty and what levels of commitment we can give at certain stage,” Dr Prasad added.

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