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LETTER OF THE DAY - Book-tax regime will be a bureaucratic nightmare

Published:Wednesday | May 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I am appalled at the taxation decision of Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, an educator who made his accomplishments through the reading of books.

He was one of the young intellectuals around Michael Manley who formed a progressive thinking political architecture of the People's National Party of the 1970s that significantly transformed the socio-economic framework of this country through free education and other progressive implementation of ideas.

Dr Phillips says the Government is working on an arrangement with the education ministry so that parents/students do not have to pay the impending 16.5 per cent GCT on textbooks.

This proposal has several implications regarding cost and availability. There is also a bookshop industry comprising a few large wholesalers/retailers and more than 500 small operators dotting the island, employing several hundred persons who are definitely going to be affected unless they diversify into food shops and haberdasheries.

The rising cost of books will impact on education and the upward social mobility of the poor. I listened to Dr Phillips, and I heard a man who is determined to make a difference in his lifetime in Government for this country. Dr Phillips is definitely not a 'skin-teeth' man who goes about hugging, kissing and lyrically loving the poor, which most politicians are adept at doing.

However, I am confident that he will rethink this tax on books, as well as not interfere with a well-oiled national distribution network.

Administrative headache

I don't want him to go down in history as the man who turned back the hands of time by implementing and maintaining a tax/disincentive on literacy, reading, progress and education.

This proposal will create an administrative nightmare incurring new levels of bureaucracy, adding security problems to schools, and some unemployment among what is mainly struggling, small black-owned businesses. No member of the economically powerful 25 or so families controlling more than 80 per cent of Jamaica's wealth can be found among the book industry.

In 2009 when the previous Jamaica Labour Party Government pushed a book tax, I believed it was absolute madness, and I maintain that perspective under the People's National Party in 2012, considering Jamaica is not at the top of literacy levels among CARICOM countries. A tax on books would be national sabotage.

MICHAEL SPENCE

micspen2@hotmail.com

Liguanea, Kingston 6