DAP calls on government to conduct a public review of the anti-dumping duty on imported newsprint to take into full account the national interests of enhancing the country’s international competitiveness to become a K-economy and to promote a reading culture
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): DAP calls on the government to conduct a public review of the anti-dumping duty on imported newsprint to take into full account the national interests of enhancing the countryt’s international competitiveness to become a K-economy and to promote a reading culture – as both these factors had earlier been excluded.
Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Kerk Choo Ting told Parliament on Monday that the government will not review the anti-dumping duty on imported newsprint despite protests from various parties as it has given sufficient notice about the move and is convinced the duty will prevent unfair trade practices by foreign companies.
He claimed that notices had been given to all relevant parties since January, including 25 local newsprint importers, 15 foreign exporters and producers, the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Malaysian Newspapers Publishers Association (MNPA) informing them of the anti-dumping investigation and provisional anti-dumping duty on newsprint imported from five countries: Canada, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and the United States.
However, what Kerk omitted to mention was that the Ministry of International Trade and Industry had failed to give proper notice to the Malaysian public and the civil society about their right to make representations to protect the national interests against the anti-dumping duty on newsprint by taking into full account the important considerations of enhancing the country’s international competitiveness to become a K-economy and to promote a reading culture in the Malaysian population.
A survey on reading habits conducted by Frank Small & Associates for the National Library in 1996 showed that the average Malaysian spent about 30 minutes a week (or four minutes a day) reading newspapers, two hours a week on magazines, books or comics. They read only about two books a year.
It revealed that 79 per cent of Malaysians read newspapers, 52 per cent books, 47 per cent magazines and 32 per cent comics. Only 28 per cent of Malaysians had visited libraries during the six months before the survey.
Another survey revealed that 80 per cent of university and secondary students are reluctant readers who read to pass examinations.
In the past seven years since the National Library survey, things have got worse instead of better, with the government’s goal of having a Malaysian society that is informed and inculcated with the reading culture by the year 2010 – 10 years before the realization of the vision of 2020 – more distant than ever. The National Reading Month every August to promote the reading culture since 1995 had been a big flop.
The imposition of anti-dumping duty on newsprint, which will lead to costlier newspapers resulting in the cover price increase between RM1.50 and RM1.80 per issue, will further dampen the reading culture. Even more serious, it will be a major setback to the national ambition to enhance the country’s international competitiveness to become a K-economy.
A key prerequisite for Malaysia to become a K-economy is to develop a national philosophy, policy and system of Lifelong Learning and Education as the main engine for sustained national development.
Malaysia should be focusing on policies to promote greater exposure of the people to communication, information, science and technology as through a higher rate of media consumption by the population, instead of adopting policies or measures which will have the opposite result.
Malaysia already lags behind other advanced countries on newspapers circulation per population, as reflected by the following data from the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2001:
Newspapers circulation (Per 1,000 people/inhabitants) - (1996)
Last month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia should emulate Sweden, which has produced world-class products such as cars and telecommunications despite being a small nation.
Sweden’s newspaper circulation per 1,000 people is 445 as compared to 163 for Malaysia. We should be thinking of ways to increase this index instead of imposing anti-dumping duty on newsprint which will have the effect of further reducing this index – just to protect one company at the expense of millions of newspaper readers as well as the national interests of enhancing the country’s international competitiveness by becoming a K-economy in the shortest possible time.
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s decision to impose the anti-dumping duty on newsprint had not taken all the relevant national interest considerations into account and this is why the government should conduct a public review to make up for this failing, giving concerned Malaysians and the civil society an opportunity to have their views heard.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman