The new gas tax added in the latest Jamaican national budget is bad but when you tax reading material including text books this has to come from a government that has gone mad and is intent on helping the poor to get poorer. Christopher Kennedy, president of the Customs Brokers Association calls it “a retrograde step”. At the same time legislating illiteracy above the present 25 per cent is idiotic economics and politics.

No well thinking person in Jamaica should ever contemplate putting a tax on reading material/books. I call on Mr O Bruce Golding prime minister of all Jamaica, the Minister of Finance Audley Shaw and Mr Andrew Holness Minister of Education to immediately give and support instructions to remove the General Consumption Tax from books/reading material as this is a bad idea. Our present government like a People’s National Party government when faced with a similar dilemma listened to reason from the then Jamaica Labour Party in opposition along with other interest groups and rolled it back to exempt status.

The book industry in Jamaica needs a stimulus package to encourage the manufacturing of books locally. Currently most of our literary material is not printed in Jamaica even when the content is of Jamaican origin. Books are printed in China, Singapore, Korea, India Thailand, United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Trinidad. The book industry should be made a tax exempt industry from raw material to final product under a Book Industry Incentives Act. We are talking about export earnings, import substitution and the creation of jobs. Karl Samuda, Minister of industry, Investment and Commerce let me hear you on this one: “Read Jamaican build Jamaica .”

Most books get to the consumers through the more than 2,000 bookshops island wide which are responsible for the movement of books through the corners and crevices of Jamaica. This industry employs at least 50,000 persons directly and indirectly. A GCT on books is not only a threat to education and national development but a threat to the livelihood of many by forcing out the majority of small entrepreneurs by putting financing out of their reach and leaving the under half a dozen large operators to monopolize the business.

It can be reasonably concluded that a tax on books is outright madness, and as Franklin McGibbon, chairman of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica points out, it would present an administrative nightmare at all levels. A book tax is definitely not in the interest of a nation where reading should be encouraged at all levels not only in churches but in homes, on the corners, on the buses, at the beach etc. Taxation should not be used as a hindrance but as a tool for encouraging growth, development and building a nation, or, are we building a hut?