Government intends to implement the Standard Import Inspection Regulations (SIIR), in an attempt to effectively deal with the dumping of substandard goods on Botswana ‘s soil.
The move, aimed at cleaning up the country of substandard and second hand commodities, is expected to have a serious impact on the parallel car marketÔÇöimported cars from Japan and SingaporeÔÇöis expected to come into force by beginning of April this year.
At the recently organized workshop for local stakeholders, the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BoBs) warned that is had now come to the realization that Botswana is now being “used as a dumping site by unscrupulous traders because of her dependence on alien commodities,” adding that it now wants to tighten the rules.
The move is expected to get an overwhelming support from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Southern African Development Community’s trade liberalization arm and the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) which, among other things, want to level trading arrangements between Botswana and its trading partners.
The parallel market has been milking the country and its residents of the hard earned money and under the yet to be introduced system, it will be able to monitor goods entering the country’s borders. That will also try to protect the local talent, such as music and arts-related activities, including film making.
The SIIR workshop attracted quite a notable number of stakeholders including farmers, retailers and government officials from different departments who received the exciting news.
BOBS Managing Director, Elsie Meintjies, said the birth of the regulation “SIIR is a piece of legislation that was gazetted on 12th September 2008 following research carried out in 2003, the contents of which painted a gloomy picture of the quality of imports into Botswana” .
The report indicated that Botswana imports more than 80 percent of its products development meaning that Botswana consumers are more exposed to poor quality products, loss of value for money adding that their health and safety may be comprised.”
While BOBS recognizes that Botswana is a member of the World Trade Organisation – a global organization whose aim is to facilitate International Trade and thereby discourage technical barriers to trade – the same cannot be said pertaining to issues surrounding health and safety of the people, plants and animals as well as other practices because the same body also permits member countries to apply technical regulations to elude hazardous stumbling blocks.
“It is against this background that Botswana, through BOBS, will be implementing the SIIR as of 1st April 2009. The main purpose of these regulations is to reduce importing of substandard goods into this country and also to protect the health and safety of our people, animals, plants and environment and to discourage deceptive practices in line with the international regulations,” Meinjities added.
To avoid duplication of services and systems, BOBS intends to apply the leverage strategy, manning borders which are currently under the hands of BURS and the agricultural permits system operated by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Through this arrangement traders will submit the certification documents to BURS officers as guided by BOBS, instructing the destiny of the goods.
“Should the imported goods not comply with BOBS standards or any other external body with whom we have bilateral agreements, the consignment will not pass through. The aim of this law is not necessarily to punish the traders but to align ourselves to good regulatory practices applied world-wide, which call for the safety of products for consumption,” BOBS director of regulatory compliance, Botsile Kebapetse, said.
Those caught violating the law by bringing in unwanted commodities would earn the wrath of law- whose penalties include among others the revocation of the certificate, the destruction of the products and even imprisonment.
According to the Manager of Testing Services (BOBS), Pilot Masunga, the imposition of this law is destined to bear positive fruit as indications from other countries show a sharp decline with non-conformity traders, thereby indicating most entrepreneurs comply with law- a healthy development to the consumers.
Masunga encouraged the importing traders to undergo testing, saying such an initiative improves the buyers’ and regulators’ confidence in the product.
For this initiative to take root, BOBS management called for concerted efforts amongst the stakeholders.
Whilst embracing the envisaged law, the traders expressed fear they would be complications and delays at the boarders, calling on the management to take officers on the ground on board.
“We do not want to see a situation where one officer would say ‘this’ and the next day the other says ‘that’. This development must be uniform amongst you people,” one participant argued.
Although BOBS intends covering most imported products in the future, there are limited items that require legitimate certification, among such others are cattle feeds, chicken feeds, sorghum, adaptors and plastic bags.