Millions of students across the country could be forced to study without textbooks in the next academic year as the government has miserably failed to stabilize the price of locally manufactured paper.
Speaking in this regard, Chairman of Publishers and Booksellers Association of Pakistan and Pakistan Association of Printing & Graphic Arts Industry, Aziz Khalid, said that publishers would not be able to publish textbooks if the government does not control the price of paper.
Aziz lamented that local paper manufacturers have been continuously increasing the prices of locally made paper. Within a space of several months, the prices of local paper have increased by 200%.
He added that locally made paper is inferior to imported paper. However, the per kilogram price of local paper has been increased by Rs. 100 since January this year. Each week, the price per kilogram is increased by Rs. 5-8. Aziz clarified that the publishers cannot use imported paper in textbooks due to high taxes.
As a result, local publishers have stopped buying paper for textbooks. While it could force millions of students to study without textbooks, it could lead to the complete collapse of the textbook publishing industry in the country.
Aziz also urged the government to reduce taxes and duties on the imported paper to ensure the publishing of international quality textbooks. In the annual budget for FY 2021-22, a 10% regulatory duty was imposed on uncoated woodfree paper. The duty was imposed despite a massive 39% already existing anti-dumping duty on the same item.
Earlier this month, textbook publishers in Lahore had announced to halt operations due to soaring prices of paper. President Lahore’s Traders Association, Khalid Pervez, had also warned of an acute shortage of textbooks in the city.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also taken notice of the delay in printing textbooks caused by the incompetence of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB). The mismanagement of PCTB has forced millions of students in the province to enter the new academic year without textbooks.