Govt To Waive Taxes On Materials For Textbooks
The Government will, by the end of this month, waive duties and taxes on imported paper and other inputs for printing textbooks for basic schools.
In an interview in Accra, the Minister for Education and Sports, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, said “the government will create an operational environment conducive to the development of a high quality and competitive textbook manufacturing capacity in Ghana”.
Consequently, he said, “By the end of June this year, there will be a temporary waiver of taxes on inputs imported for textbook printing, while awaiting parliamentary approval.”
The policy, he explained, would cover only companies which printed textbooks for the government for distribution to basic schools in the country.
According to Mr Osafo-Maafo, his ministry and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning had held a series of discussions on the modalities to be adopted for the exemption of taxes on inputs for textbook printing as part of measures to strengthen the local printing and publishing industries.
The local printing industry is currently disadvantaged by the taxation law which makes its products more expensive.
Another shortfall of the local printing industry is the failure to meet delivery deadlines, contrary to the capacities of their international counterparts.
“For instance, for all tenders for the printing of textbooks for the MOES and even the most current ones opened in April 2005, the foreign printers gave far lower prices than the local firms and are also good at meeting the delivery deadlines set by the MOES,” the minister stated.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the ministry, in November 2003, adopted a Textbook Development Policy for the development and procurement of textbooks for basic schools and identified areas to be tackled to make local printing firms more competitive.
Following the adoption of the policy by all stakeholders, the ministry and its development partners signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at building the capacity of local printers and publishers.
Under the agreement, 60 per cent of all primary and junior secondary texbooks funded by the MOES should be produced in Ghana, using 2003 as the commencement date for a period of five years.
However, the policy could not be implemented in 2003 because a number of modalities, including the assessment of the capacity of local printing firms, removing bottlenecks which placed them at a disadvantage compared to their international counterparts and developing of a new curriculum for basic schools, had to be put in place.
According to the minister, textbooks had not been printed for basic schools for about three years now because of the change in syllabi and the need to develop a new curriculum to support them, among others.
He said in view of the difficulties facing the local firms, it was decided to award the contract to international printing firms to print the billions of textbooks needed by basic schools by September, this year.
Mr Osafo-Maafo further explained that the printing of teachers' handbooks had been awarded to the local printing industry.
As part of measures to strengthen the local printers, the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC) will soon co-ordinate an initial survey of local book printers to determine the local capacity required to meet the specified production targets and price competitiveness.
“The survey would be repeated on a regular basis as a means of monitoring the development of the local printing and production capacity,” the minister explained.
Meanwhile, the President of the Ghana Printers and Paper Converters Association, Mr James Appiah-Berko, has expressed his misgivings about the decision by the ministry to award only the printing of teachers' handbooks to local printers.
He questioned how the members of the association could build their capacity when they had no jobs.