Gov't should sacrifice Customs duties for education

Gov't should sacrifice Customs duties for education

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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Dear Editor,
It's over a week since the Andrew Holness-led Administration rejected calls for the removal of/waiver on import duties on tablet devices in order to facilitate the shortfall among students, due to the short-sightedness of the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on education by both the Ministry of Education and its stakeholders in the sector.

It should be noted that since the introduction of computers in the 1990s, the successive governments (People's National Party [PNP]/Jamaica Labour Party [JLP]) have been the main obstacles in the creation of a fully digitised society to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

There are untold stories about exuberant Customs duties on smartphones and computers that resulted in items either being “returned to sender” or abandoned at ports of entry. And, within the educational sector, these devices were deemed inappropriate for learning and were often confiscated by teachers.

Now the exposed “underbelly” of the education system requires these devices to facilitate the learning and teaching processes.

The current actions of the sitting JLP Government contradicts its call for the people of Jamaica to embrace the Digital Age, and sends mixed signals from a prime minister who, in September, claimed that Jamaica had been left behind in major industrial developments.

While recognising the economic crunch caused by the prevailing novel coronavirus pandemic, a six-month moratorium on Customs duties could have facilitated the computerisation of the educational sector and further propel Jamaica's participation in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Government of Jamaica needs to prioritise education at this stressing psychological moment in our nation's history. It will serve as a means of empowerment of its people existing in a digitised society by ensuring that every child and household own a tablet computer.

Let us make a sacrifice of our “bellies” to put education first, especially in having access to these computer devices as tools of education.

Dudley C McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester

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