ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prevailing dollar shortage is severely impacting the country’s publishing industry which may grind to a halt in March as a result of price hikes and shortages in imported paper and printing materials, a collective of authors said.

Speaking at a press conference organised by Mass Guiding Artists, a collective affiliated with the opposition National People’s Power (NPP), writer Kamal Perera said on Thursday (10) that thousands of jobs in the industry are now in danger as a result of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.

“There is no paper in the market. There are no dollars to import paper.

“In three months, the price of a ream of paper has gone up by 900 rupees. A ream cost about 5,200 rupees in December; it is now difficult to find one in the market even for 6,200 rupees,” said Perera.

Sri Lanka is currently going through one of the worst economic crises in its history, compounded by a severe dollar shortage and rising inflation that some economists have blamed on excess money printing.

According to the writer, there is also a shortage in plates and other equipment used in printing.

He complained that the government is not interested in finding solutions and doesn’t seem to consider the emerging crisis in the industry to be a serious matter.

“The government has no interest in this whatsoever. It is not in the interest of corrupt leaders to have a learned populace,” said Perera.

He called for slashed taxes and other measures to save the industry.

“In former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s time, there was a quota for writers and publishers. They can remove taxes for imported paper. Alternately, they can produce paper locally. There are several factories in our country, but they don’t manufacture paper for book printing,” said Perera.

Perera expressed suspicion that the apparent lack of interest on the part of the authorities could be an attempt to outsource book printing to a foreign country.

“We wonder if a proposal will be made that we outsource printing to China, which is a nation that’s very friendly to this government and is a global leader in printing. Or even to Singapore or India,” he said. (Colombo/Feb11/2022)