On import of books at various levels
Sunday, 15 June 2008

It sounds absurd that in a poor country like ours,  25 per cent tax is imposed on the import of pictorials and drawing books used mostly by the students of English medium schools. Ex-Finance Minister, Saifur Rahman, had first imposed a 7.5 per cent duty on import of books. Now the incumbent Finance Adviser has stretched it from 7.5 per cent to 25 per cent. Maybe, the FA thinks these pictorials and drawing books are harmful for our culture and sense of values.  Human civilization has arrived at a point where sharing of knowledge plays a crucial role in the development of human resources and also other development goals. It has become imperative to keep all the doors and windows of knowledge open. Of course there are books and other printed materials that should be avoided at all costs but not those which are used by the academics to teach their pupils. A society that squeezes access to books by its members is committing suicide. Therefore, we think this issue should be left to our respected academics to decide instead of officers in the finance ministry. There are many respected citizens who are opposed to using English as the medium of instruction in primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. Learning in one’s own mother tongue is infinitely more effective than using a foreign language. But here in Bangladesh the situation is quite different. Over the years there has been a mushroom growth of English medium schools. Even one government turned the cadet colleges into English medium. Within a policy framework that filters import of undesirable books, import of books, especially those used by students at various levels, should not only be free, if possible this should be subsidized also.

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