Summary: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reports that more than 95% of commercial goods in the Mesoamerican region are transported overland using the Pacific Corridor. This traffic represents approximately 6 billion USD worth of goods on a highway which runs from Puebla, Mexico to Panama and crosses six national borders. The problem with the Pacific Corridor is with unreliable, inefficient and substandard infrastructure. In 2008, to upgrade the inadequate infrastructure, the IDB launched a ambitious project called International Goods in Transit. According to the report, the results of the project were outstanding: average time to cross a border was reduced from 62 minutes to eight. The project also succeeded to reduce the number of documents that traders needed to submit to border control agencies. The two reviewed files are available for download at: Interoperability at the Border: Coordinated Border Management Best Practices & Case Studies and Automating the Control of Goods in International Transit: Implementing the TIM in Central America.
Full review: The solution, that the International Goods in Transit project produced, is basically an electronic system for managing and controlling the movement of goods in transit. The system builds on three main pillars that unlock better services at border crossing:
- Process reengineering: the system harmonizes multiple paper-based declarations into an electronic document. This digital file stores all data that customs, migration, and phytosanitary agencies need.
- Information technology: the project created a new intranet system that features state- of-the-art risk analysis and cargo control systems.
- Cooperation: the project promoted cooperation within the country and between the different agencies operating at border crossings in the Mesoamerican Region.
Important lessons learned from the project include the following:
- Political support for harmonizing regulations and processes is critical. Real and full commitment from the highest authorities in every participating country contributes to a cooperative environment based on mutual trust. In the case of this project, the IDB supported the decision of governments to include the project as one of the priorities highlighted in the Joint Declaration of Chiefs of State at the Presidential Summit of Tuxtla in 2008. The choice of the project coordinator is also critical for the success of the project. The coordinator must have good relationships with top government officials and have the support of the participating countries, and naturally of the IDB.
- The project involved large number of stakeholders that have their unique characteristics and interests and operate within their legal remits. The IDB project was designed in a way that changes in national laws and regulations were not necessary.
- All relevant agencies should participate in the coordination and harmonization process.
- Information technology should be flexible and open to modifications.