KINGSTON — The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is reporting that this year, textbook prices have increased by an average of five per cent over July 2010, remaining below the inflation rate of 7.2 per cent.
This represents a one per cent improvement over the similar period for 2009-2010, and four per cent over the previous period (2008-2009).
Speaking at a joint press briefing with Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness on August 22, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton pointed out that from the parents’ perspective, this is positive. “Hopefully, they will see some savings in procuring texts for this academic year,” the Minister said.
Dr. Tufton, who hosted the briefing at the Ministry in New Kingston, pointed out that when the figures are dissected, at the primary level in specific categories, there is a more consistent price movement in and around the five percentage point.
However, the Minister noted that at the secondary level, “there are outliers to those price increases above five per cent, and indeed well above the inflation level, which for us at the Ministry and the CAC is some cause for concern, particularly because those price increases occur in core subject areas at the secondary level – Mathematics and English."
For example, he said that the Oxford Mathematics for the Caribbean saw increases of 15 per cent for book one, 10 per cent for book two, and 17 per cent for book three; Module in Social Studies showed a 15 per cent increase; while in literature, the Pocket Oxford was 10 per cent and the Silver Sword, 15 per cent.
Dr. Tufton said these price variations required closer analysis, but pointed out that some of these books are sourced externally and exchange rate fluctuations could account for some of those price adjustments.
Based on the price range, he said the Ministry will be publishing the names of the locations surveyed, and the various textbook prices.
“That will give the public better particulars on where they can go in their immediate area to get the best possible prices…it will stimulate some competition among those who provide these products in the marketplace,” the Minister stated.
The CAC surveyed some 56 book stores between July 25 and 29, using 123 textbooks to do comparisons. Twenty-three of the outlets were in the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMR), including Portmore and Spanish Town; and 33 were from other urban areas.
In rural parishes, price increases were at the four per cent level, and five per cent in the KMR. Twelve per cent of books had reductions between 10 and one per cent, and two per cent had reductions between 11 and 20 per cent.
The annual textbook survey aims to provide consumers/parents with information in making their purchases; and present researched evidence regarding textbooks as critical consumer items.
Persons may visit the CAC's website for full details of the report at: www.cac.gov.jm.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter