The report added: "In an effort to improve the country's status as a high income economy, the government is prepared to help Malay literature writers," he said. And guess who wants to put up the paper? Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd. I will say, no more.
Then on 17 December 2011, The New Straits Times carried this report, “Local young writers are getting assistance from the government to have their literary works published … This would be possible through a RM5 million allocation announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last night …” This will be handled by National Institute of Translation (ITNM). "It will be involved in publishing original works to help promote the book publishing industry and the nation's literary scene," the PM said, adding that it would be renamed Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia.
Its unclear if the two initiatives are linked.
The second one announced by the PM appears similar to the allocation by the National Book Council in Singapore that initially gave money to publishers, but now given to the authors. Or is it the other way round? It doesn’t work in either case. There will be quantity aplenty, but no quality. If one gives it to the publisher, they’ll only want the money regardless of the standard of the work. If the money is given to the writers, there is no incentive for good writing, editing and control by the publisher who will only inflate costs. It will reward mediocrity; the Malaysia Boleh way.
A system that could work would be to have more transparency in book buying by the National Library and other government institutions; to buy and distribute widely the best works. Unfortunately, the buying machinery is so broken and biased, so politicised, with so many vested interests, that it would be impossible to fix.
There will be many who will be quite happy to exploit the situation but for genuine publishers and writers, handouts will be another disaster, another NEP. What they need is fairness and equal opportunity. As it is, we cannot even sell a pencil to a government department without being registered with the Ministry of Finance or going through an ‘approved’ contractor (not that it stops government agencies approaching us for donations for their sports club, hari keluarga or whatever).
** This article originally posted at SilverfishWriters.
What say you?