Country committed to improve trade facilitation: Nirmala Sitharaman

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The Centre is committed to improve trade facilitation for every stakeholder, including Customs Department personnel and those involved in the trading communities, said Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here on Sunday. Beyond construction of a new building, these days emphasis is also given on how energy-efficient the buildings would be so that there is no pollution or disturbance to anyone, she said at an event here.

“I am extremely happy to lay the foundation stone for new office complex ‘Vaigai’ which is aptly named and actually comes out of the commitment that the nation has made to improve trade facilitation”, Sitharaman said at the foundation stone-laying ceremony of new office complex ‘Vaigai’ at Customs House here.

“There was a time when we thought that we have to build office space based on officers, staff and requirements. These days, it is also looking at how green our buildings are going to be, and how energy-efficient these buildings will be,” she said.

“In trade facilitation, the country actually stands to benefit from and also to set standards on the way in which we have our Customs or tax officials and their workplaces,” she said.

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Hailing that the proposed building being set up at a cost of Rs 92 crore would accommodate 11 partnership agencies of Customs Department, she said the building would set a standard in the way it is being constructed.

“Today facilitating import-export agents, women officers and their children are all taken into consideration when we build our offices,” she said.

According to the officials, the new building would also have a refreshment area for women employees and also a creche.

Sitharaman hailed the ‘facelift’ given to the existing over century-old buildings of the Customs Department and said it was thoughtfully done and drives inspiration from the Centre’s ‘Swachch Bharat’ campaign.

“Polishing those credible awards won by the Customs Department and giving them the due shine is very symbolic and also indicative to what extent minute planning has happened so that the old building is also more workable and gives the ambience that is required for everybody working,” she said.

Later, Sitharaman inaugurated Nandavanam — the central revenue quarters of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs at Anna Nagar here.

Sitharaman, on her brief visit, unveiled a plaque commemorating the inauguration in the presence of chairman if Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs Vivek Johri and chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman Nitin Gupta.

Vivek Johri said the new ground-plus-nine-storeyed complex would accommodate 11 trading partners of Customs for faster clearance of import and export cargo once it becomes operational.

The building would be designed like a ‘vessel’ or a ‘ship’ and it would be similar to future constructions that would be undertaken by the department, he said.

The new complex would also be one of the 24 new infrastructure projects undertaken by the Customs Department at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore across the country, he said.

According to a Customs official the ‘Vaigai’ would consist of two basements, stilt and nine upper floors for harbouring ‘Partnering Government Agencies’.

“The project planned on a built-up area of around 1.70 lakh sq ft is expected to be completed by 2024. This is yet another landmark initiative by Chennai Customs zone in enhancing the infrastructure to maximise the trade facilitation and revenue collection” the official said.

The complex would strengthen the Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) initiative launched by CBIC and the integrated services made available to import-export community under a single roof makes it unique in the country.

Named after the ancient river ‘Vaigai’ in Tamil Nadu, the office complex is equipped with state-of-the-art architecture. The elevation of the complex building would comprise a contemporary architecture embedded in latest construction technology.

It would have sustainable features such as enhanced natural lighting, double walls to reduce outdoor noise and a barrier-free environment which would enable universal, inclusive access to the premises, he said.



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