According to statistics, only 2% of KADS1M are used at bookstores since its implementation
By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK & SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Graphic By TMR
The government’s move to replace the 1Malaysia Book Voucher, or Baucar-Kad Diskaun 1Malaysia (KADS1M) has not yielded the desired result.
The government had issued book vouchers worth RM250 to every university and college students to reduce their burden.
However, only a very small portion of the RM70 million allocation for such students was actually spent on books.
Malaysian Book Publishers Association (Mabopa) president Ishak Hamzah said KADS1M, which was also used as a debit card for students, had an adverse impact on the local book industry.
“According to statistics in debit transactions, only 2% of KADS1M were used at bookstores since its implementation,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
“Established publishers who usually recorded around RM400,000 to RM600,000 of sales through book
voucher transactions during book festivals, only gained an average of RM10,000 during 2017’s Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair.”
In 2017, the government had scrapped the BB1M and replaced it with a cash offer, distributed through an account with Bank Kerjsama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd due to the misuse of the book vouchers through the voucher-to-cash exchange.
“Since the book voucher was implemented, there were cases such as illegal cash-voucher exchange transaction happening in universities, but that barely caused a dent on publishers and bookstores,” Ishak said.
Due to BB1M limitations in some cases, students opted to exchange their vouchers for cash.
MPH Bookstores Sdn Bhd COO Donald Kee added that the introduction of KADS1M last year saw the company recording about a 20% decrease in average sales.
“When the book voucher was first introduced in 2012, our monthly sales did improve by 50%, but it eventually slowed down over the years due to the illegal exchanges by non-booksellers.
“Last year was the worst as our sales only increased by an average of 30% on a monthly basis,” he said.
National Book Council of Malaysia director Abdul Wahab Ibrahim said a control measure needs to be put in place to allow the publishing industry to benefit from KADS1M.
“There is no doubt that publishers and bookstores were losing out when the government adjusted the mechanism of book assistance distribution.
“However, there is a way to ensure the allocation is spent right — by imposing a measure of control to limit the spending to just books and education-related materials.
“The voucher was already a means to control student spending as it could only be used at bookstores and book fairs,” he said.
Abdul Wahab added that the National Book Council of Malaysia had requested for a more practical system to distribute the allocation.
“We had proposed a digital wallet system to be developed, which students can only use it in bookstores or at book fairs, but the government was not in favour of the suggestion,” he said.
Abdul Wahab, who is also a part of the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair organising committee, said the fair only received 1.8 million visitors last year, despite having recorded an average of more than two million visitors previously.
“On a yearly basis, only 10%- 20% of profits from bookstores were derived from the general public and book lovers. And that also applies to book fairs, where only 20%-30% visitors pay without the book vouchers,” he said.
He said book publishers are very much dependent on the book vouchers as it has been the bookstores’ major profit driver since it was introduced.
Despite the prime minister’s announcement during the tabling of Budget 2018 that the government will reintroduce the book voucher, the Ministry of Higher Education stated it will continue to distribute the allocation through the students’ debit cards.
“We have been informed by the Ministry of Finance to keep distributing the allocation through the debit card, as we already have a major portion of the students’ data,” it said.
The BB1M was introduced by the government in 2012 as an incentive for higher learning students to increase their spending on books and to encourage reading habit among youths.
In 2012, book vouchers worth RM200 were distributed to each local student in the public and private local institutions of higher education, matriculation and Form Six.
A year later, the government increased the amount to RM250 each and the initiative spurred the local book industry as the vouchers had to be spent exclusively at registered bookstores for books and education-related items.
Since its implementation, the government had spent RM1.9 billion in such allocations.