One would think it should not have to take a University Professor to see that placing tax on books is not the wisest decision. One should not need a degree, or multiple degrees in education to conclude that such a decision is ‘a step backward’. However, according to the Chaguanas Chamber is Commerce , author, historian and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Professor Bridget Brereton, reportedly spoke out on Government’s decision to impose VAT on books, criticising the move. It does not require being a University lecturer, but being one certainly lends more credence to making the case as to why the move is a bad one pn the part of the government.
In a letter published earlier this week in the press, Professor Brereton said, “"Everyone agrees that we don't read nearly enough, from children in school to students in the universities to the general population. At The University of the West Indies (The UWI), we've noticed for years now that our students' reading skills, and willingness to tackle books as opposed to a few paragraphs on the net, have declined significantly. And how often do we find homes, otherwise well-appointed and lavishly furnished, without any books except perhaps a Bible/Gita/Qur'an. Why then make books even more expensive than they are already? VAT will be applied to all literary books—this means novels of all kinds, modern and classics; volumes of short stories, plays and poetry; non-fiction books (biographies and autobiographies, works on social and natural sciences and history, books about art and music).”
She went on to say, “Do we want to reduce their market by making their books more costly? I really wonder if this decision has been well thought out. I can’t imagine the revenue gains will be large. But a message will certainly be sent out: that this Government is not interested in encouraging the population, from school kids to senior citizens, to read, buy, collect and share books.”
In ending, she posed the question, “I wonder what former prime minster Eric Williams would have thought—that great reader, writer, scholar and collector of books who founded the People’s National Movement (PNM) exactly 60 years ago?”
No one was able to get a quote from the Father Of the Republic from beyond the grave but we know that he spent a large part of hispolitical life trying to ensure free education for children of all walks of life in an attempt to encourage education as a route out of poverty.Any additional burden inflicetd on those seeking further knowledge would arguably be against what he would have envisioned.