Pakistan is facing a major paper shortage. The country’s paper association has said that due to the paper crisis in the country, books will not be available to students in the new academic year starting in August 2022. The paper crisis is attributed to the economic crisis, rising inflation, heavy taxation on imported paper and the monopoly of the local paper industry.
This means that the education sector will be affected. A number of students will not be able to obtain textbooks. Moreover, this comes at a time when Pakistani schools and colleges are preparing for the new academic session. School boards in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will not be able to print new textbooks for the next academic year and millions of students will be denied textbooks, Publishers and Booksellers Association of Pakistan said.
Furthermore, the unavailability of textbooks will affect middle-class students. Educational institutions in the country could exploit the parents of the students and force them to pay huge sums to buy books.
What led to the paper shortage?
There are about 18,000 printing and packaging companies in Pakistan. These companies and their supply chain management are now suffering from the wrong policies of the government. Taxes have been levied and along with rising inflation there is a paper crisis in the country. The publishers have warned that there will be a dire shortage of textbooks this year if the prices of locally produced paper are not set.
Publishers are struggling with a shortage of imported paper. This is heavily taxed by the government. Paper importers are suffering from high taxes and local paper mills cannot produce enough paper to meet demand, said Aziz Khalid, president of the Association of Publishers and Booksellers.
Paper prices not fixed
Speaking at a press conference, Pakistan’s leading economist Dr. Qaiser Bengali, that as a result of the severe paper crisis in the country, prices “have skyrocketed”. It is currently very expensive and publishers cannot set the prices of books.
Khalid has said that if the paper prices are not fixed, booksellers will not be able to provide textbooks to the students. He added that the local paper manufacturers are “consistently raising prices. At present, the price of local paper has increased by more than 200 percent, while the quality is also inferior to foreign-made paper,” he told IANS news agency.
“An increase of Rs 100 per kg of local paper has been observed since January. The current situation is pushing the printing and packaging industry into collapse,” Khalid said, adding that there has been an increase of Rs 5 to Rs 8 per kg of local paper weekly. The government has taken “no tangible” steps in this regard.
What are the requirements of the printing press?
The Association of Publishers and Booksellers has demanded that the government lower taxes and duties on paper imports. “By raising the prices of locally produced low-quality paper and levying taxes on good-quality imported paper, the government is preventing Pakistan from entering the multi-billion dollar export market,” Khalid said.
A Pakistani columnist has questioned the country’s ‘incompetent and failed rulers’ asking how they will solve economic problems at a time when the country is stuck in a vicious cycle of taking out loans to repay previous loans. , ANI reported.
Ayaz Amir, while writing for local media outlet Dunya Daily, said: “We have seen the lines of Ayub Khan (former President of Pakistan), Yahiya Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. We have seen the governments of dictators and they all had one thing in common: take out loans to solve the problems and then take out more loans to pay back the previous loan.”
On the other hand, China has made tough deals with Pakistan when it comes to repaying its loans and other investments in Pakistan. In fiscal year 2021-2022, Pakistan paid about $150 million in interest to China for the use of a $4.5 billion Chinese trade finance facility. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Pakistan paid $120 million in interest on $3 billion in loans.
The economic crisis in Pakistan has not only been mishandled by successive governments, it has also drawn extensive loans from China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The country has also taken 13 loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over 30 years, the news agency reported.
— With input from IANS
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