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The prices of most textbooks have increased below 15 per cent, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), has reported, in its Annual Textbook Survey.
The Report also notes that this a commendable effort by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ), to keep the prices down, in the face of rising production costs worldwide.
“We can confirm, in the face of a 24 per cent inflation rate over the last 12 months, from June to June, that the book prices reflect largely an increase below 15 per cent. Some 84 per cent of secondary books were below 15 per cent and in the rural area, 77 per cent reflected increases below 15 per cent. The raw data reflects a conscious effort on the part of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica to hold strain in the face of what is happening nationally and internationally,” said Director of Research at the CAC, Hugh Taylor, at a press conference at the Pegasus Hotel on August 15.
He said that with rising prices in critical areas, such as food and utilities, there is the likelihood of challenges for parents and their budget for education. The survey was conducted in collaboration with 63 book stores, 26 from the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) and 37 from the rural areas, with consultations with the Ministry of Education.
“The survey this year is of special significance, in that we are caught up in an environment of national and international price increases. We have experienced, over the year, fluctuating currency movement and so it is important that we look at the findings in that context,” the Research Director said.
Mr. Taylor pointed out that the aim of the survey is two-fold. “We aim to provide information to consumers who need to make informed decisions quickly, and secondly, we present researched data, in the face of anecdotal reference, if it is needed,” he said.
Chairman of the CAC Board, Richard Fontaine, said that the survey is one strategy to provide vital information regarding the prices and availability of texts used in the primary and secondary levels, through the length and breadth of Jamaica. “Given the importance of education and the relative cost of books in equipping students for the new school year, we at the CAC have found it instructive to examine the data collected, rather than to rely on references,” he said.
Research Officer at the CAC, Racquel Chambers, said that books provided by the Ministry of Education, are not on the survey and most books that are rented at the schools, are not on the survey as well.
“The consultation that took place in 2007 indicated that the prices represented here are for 17 core subjects and there are 120 books on our survey form, 89 secondary level texts, and a few tertiary are included in that, and 31 primary level texts,” she said.
Mrs. Chambers said that the CAC, made every effort to ensure that parents got the information early.
Director of the BIAJ, Glynis Salmon, said that the survey, “was well informed, very well researched and the analysis was very well reasoned.”
She commended the CAC for outlining the efforts of publishers, distributors and the BIAJ, in holding strain the 15 per cent increase, despite the more than 20 per cent increase in most, if not all, areas of textbook production.