Ministry of Education and Printing Presses Lock Horns on Printing Textbooks

The Ministry of Education in Egypt and the printing presses locked horns over a recent decision of the ministry. According to the new decision, the Ministry will be from now on inviting tenders for printing textbooks instead of directly allocating it to the printers. The statement has created a stir among the printing presses, who think it as an unfair move from the ministry.

According to press reports from Egypt there are about 117 printing presses, both government and private, who are engaged in printing textbooks. It is estimated that about 280 million books was printed this academic year, while the volume to be printed will rise to 350 million by the next academic year.

Printing presses were taken by surprise when the Ministry of Education cancelled the printing project for the academic year 2013-2014, and later announced that the printing job will be distributed only on tender basis. According to a statement issued by Khaled Abdo, Chairman of the Egyptian Chamber of Printing and Packaging Industries, in Al-Wafd newspaper, the new stipulations set by the Ministry of Education is a clear violation of Tender law No.89 and would lead to the withdrawal of more than 80 presses, who were earlier involved in the printing.

Abdo said that by adopting the tender style, only printing presses that have the production capacity to print the required amount of books will be eligible to participate in the project. He said that this would exclude smaller presses from the process and also doesn’t provide sufficient time for presses to print the ordered lot.

Khaled Abdo stated that the terms of the ministry recommends the presses to print 5 million books within 115 days and added that there is no printing press that can deliver this huge quantity within the stipulated period. The presses that will participate in the task will require a provision of 65,000 tons of paper, when the total paper production in Egypt is only 40,000 tons. This means that the additional 25 per cent has to be imported, which would incur an additional cost of US$ 70 million, in view of the rising foreign exchange rates.

Abdo added that printing presses has decided to stop printing textbooks for next year and explained that the chamber has also filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education to cancel the tender.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Saeed Srouji, a spokesman from the Ministry of Education in a press statement said, “Earlier by allotting the print orders we could meet only a specific percentage of textbooks at a time. Now the Ministry of Education has decided to invite a public tender to print the textbooks in order to unify this process. This is just an administrative decision and aims to develop the economic resources of the ministry. We do not have any political goals in mind.”

The spokesman said that the conditions of the tender have been modified so that more printing presses can take part in it. He pointed out that they should have sufficient industrial record and should provide letter of guarantee to participate in the process.

He added that with the new decision in force, participants would be carefully selected and they would be screened based on quoted price and printing facility. Mohammad informed that only 70 presses would be invited to participate in the project, and they will have to print the required quantity of 355 million books. He said that each press will have to print 5 million books and that the ministry will send technical committees to preview the presses and to assess their capacity of printing books on time.

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