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Tuesday, 19 May 2020
“We need to look at the postal network as a single territory and its development should be of the utmost importance.”
18.05.2020 - Interview with UPU’s Choy Han Chum, Head of Quality of Service Fund Projects Unit
Q1: Could you please tell us about your career path and your current role at the UPU?
Most of my professional experience comes from the Post. I have worked as part of the senior management team at Pos Malaysia for 30 years, and I consider myself lucky to have contributed to its development. My tenure there helped to deepen my knowledge about the Post because I worked in almost every area of the postal business: Human Resources, finance, operations, international development, regulatory management, business strategy development, and marketing. This experience has been invaluable because it has given me a good start at the UPU and still helps me daily. Now, I am the Head of Quality of Service Fund (QSF) Projects Unit at the UPU and I supervise and manage the QSF programme.
Q2: What is QSF and how does it work?
UPU’s QSF is a funding platform for developing countries that helps them improve the quality of their postal service and contribute to the global postal network. It is also the biggest funding mechanism for projects aimed at strengthening postal infrastructure.
Every four years, the Universal Postal Congress decides on the amount of QSF contributions from UPU members represented by developing and least developed countries. The funding is for postal operators who are far behind the minimum quality standards set by the UPU’s Postal Operations Council. Apart from providing funds for projects, the QSF team helps these countries to formulate and submit their projects for the QSF Board’s approval, and then supports their implementation. As of 31 December 2019, the available QSF capital has totaled 73.8 million USD.
Q3: Why is QSF important for the UPU member countries?
The UPU has always provided a very good vision, goals and plans for its strategic direction. Every Universal Postal Congress puts significant effort into developing and approving the strategy. Then the UPU provides expertise, advice, guidance, and monitoring. However, member countries still need money to take action, for example, to buy the necessary equipment, vehicles or to put in place UPU’s technical products. This is where QSF plays its vital role.
The new QSF model, approved by the Istanbul Congress in 2016, has the goal of improving the quality of service for the global postal network. It also ensures the interoperability of the postal supply chain. The model allows for the funding of the postal infrastructure and the quality of postal services. Their enhancement has to go hand in hand. Countries cannot improve their quality of service, if there is no developed infrastructure.
Q4: What is the future strategy for QSF?
The Istanbul Congress decided that the UPU should establish a Common Fund to recruit the best experts in different fields, for example, in customs, logistics, etc. This fund would allow the UPU to create a talent pool of postal expertise to help all its member countries. The new fund would also allow the UPU to look at every postal business from both a regional and a global perspective, and find ways to address the weakest links, for example certain countries in Africa. Our team develops solutions that are not country-specific, but they work for a specific region. Other regions may require different solutions, but we ensure that these solutions are in accord with one another, and can be integrated to form a single solution that works for the global postal network. This is where we need the expertise and the Common Fund serves this purpose.
The global postal network means that every country serves others by sending them mail at a certain quality level. At the same time, it expects the same quality of service back. If you want the postal network to work for you, you also have to work for the postal network. For example, if a small country like Malaysia takes good care of its inbound and outbound mail, it is already thinking of the postal business at a global level. Therefore, I always say, “Think globally, act locally.”
The future strategy of the QSF is to ensure a sustainable long-term funding stream for UPU member countries. The growth of e-commerce opens up good opportunities for the Post. However, international regulatory requirements in security and customs are becoming more challenging every year. All 192 UPU member countries have different development levels and they cannot show the same level of performance. Countries have to evolve from where they are today, and the QSF aims at decreasing the development gap between them to ensure they meet the minimum quality of service level and play their role in global e-commerce.
Q5: Please give examples of recent successful QSF projects
Since the launch of QSF in 2001, until the end of 2019, the QSF Board has approved 851 projects, 634 of which were completed successfully. Currently, our team manages 223 on-going projects for 165 designated operators. One of the most important ones is the implementation of the UPU’s Customs Declaration System (CDS) for sixteen operators in Africa. This is a regional project led by the Pan-African Postal Union.
Another priority for the QSF team right now is an Electronic Advance Data project. EAD is information about postal items that Posts need to send to customs in advance to simplify and accelerate customs clearance. Approved with a total budget of 2.9 million USD from the Common Fund, this project will involve 74 designated operators worldwide and will be completed by December 2020.
Both projects will allow countries to exchange customs information about postal items they send and receive. They will also ensure that the participating operators meet the U.S. Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act that requires all foreign countries to provide “package level detail” data to the US Customs and Border Protection as of 1 January 2021.
Q6: Is there any message you would like to convey to the UPU member countries?
We need to look at the postal network as a single territory and its development should be of the utmost importance. Every contribution by UPU member countries leads to its improvement. I strongly believe countries cannot approach the future in a fragmented manner and that more integrated thinking is needed. Together, we can achieve good results, if we really set our minds to achieving this goal.