Saturday, January 01, 2005

Impending higher prices for books
About a fortnight ago, the Inquirer reported that House Bill 3105, one of Malacanang's proposed revenue bills, seeks to impose a 10-percent value-added tax (VAT) on the "sale, importation, printing and publication of books."

The imposition of this tax would, of course, mean pricier books, thereby further discouraging, according to National Book Development Board Chair Dennis Gonzales, the reading of books in this country. But what is especially absurd about the proposed tax is that it will spare locally printed publications and imported magazines and newspapers, which means FHM, Philippine Tatler, Vogue and Cosmopolitan can retain their old price tags.

I can understand how their media clout can explain the exemption of our local newspapers, but exempting imported fashion magazines is inexplicable, a seeming perversion of our public priorities. Over at InMediasRes, we were all indignant when we heard about this impending VAT; books in the Philippines are expensive now as they are. Imagine my consternation this morning when my internet surfing yielded this news reporting that Brazil is eliminating taxes on the production, sale, and importation of books precisely to encourage reading among its people. (Brazil now has gorgeous people, must they be more well-read too?)

Because of economic mismanagement, there is no question that our government needs more sources of revenues fast. But would it ever be reasonable to stave off financial crisis at the expense of our brains? If you too are concerned, do write the two chairmen of the Congress's committees on ways and means: Sen Ralph Recto (telefax No. 834-8974) and Rep. Jesli Lapuz (telefax no. 931-4955). Unfortunately, the two legislators have no e-mails so you must dispatch your letter through the old-fashioned fax machine.

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