Abolish VAT on all books,Deputy President Ramaphosa

2015-01-07 06:44

Step into any of the  book stores  across South Africa today and you will find that the average price of a book is R200.What goes into this is the production and marketing costs, profits as well as royalties say retailers.Add to that is government's share by way of value added tax.

The result is that as production costs go up, books get more expensive and are therefore out of reach of a majority of households in South Africa. Remember we have just around 43% households that are functionally poor, that is to say battling to meet basic expenses such as food,clothing and other necessities The result is prioriities demand that books are not a necessity.

Reports show that most schools,especially in rural areas, are under resourced and have no libraries. Even public libraries are woefully under resourced and if one visits them during school days and on Saturdays one would find queues of learners waiting to access books that are in short supply. Online materials and resources such as on kindle are no cheaper. With internet access being cost prohibitive we have another problem vis-a-vis online reading material.

I understand that budgetary allocations make it difficult for libaries to buy and stock updated reading materials.

I heard on national radio Deputy President Ramaphosa chiding learners and children generally for not reading,extolling the virtue of reading as an empowering tool. That is fair comment for the well heeled  but unfair  to the majority considering the fact that 43% of South Africans are unable to buy,let alone read books which are expensive.

Reading goes to the heart of our Constitution.It tangentially impacts on the right to life,human dignity,equality as well as freedom because an illiterate person can't fill in job application forms in the first place.

The solution, as I see it, is for government to abolish VAT on books as well as to negotiate with publishing houses  for the right to reprint books at a cheaper cost on a mass scale and in this way the higher the volume, the cheaper becomes the price of books and the greater is the chance for everyone to access books. I dont see why not. In  India books are mass produced. In countries like Singapore books are tax exempt.

I have another suggestion. Just as there are financial houses, companies , businesses generally and institutions who sponsor sporting tournaments, why dont they in partnership with government sponsor books and reading as well as writing competititions not only for schools but for every one in different age categories. We boast some of the best sporting talents in the world but we lag almost at the bottom in literacy and numeracy so why cant this potential to catapult our nation into a literary savvy nation on par with developed nations be contested?

Makes you think doesn't it?

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