PANAH Proposes Govt To Introduce 20 Percent Tax On SSBs Causing Serious Diseases


PANAH proposes govt to introduce 20 percent tax on SSBs causing serious diseases

RAWALPINDI, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 6th Jun, 2021 ) :Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) on Sunday proposed a 20 percent tax sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) to be imposed by the government as its high consumption was one of the major causes of obesity and non-communicable diseases.

The PANAH made the recommendations in a jointly organized workshop with the National Coordinating Ministry of Nutrition, Ministry of Health and consultant food Policy Program (GHAI) in collaboration with senior journalists on "Loss of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSB) and Importance of Taxation" which was hosted by Sana Ullah Ghumman from the PANAH, here held.

The workshop was participated by senior journalists editors, bureau chiefs, magazine editors and others to mull over the pressing issue and lay out workable solutions to curb the menace of increasing health complications appearing due to higher consumption of SSBs.

Speaking on the occasion, General Secretary and Director Operations of Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) Sana Ullah Ghumman said the finance bill 2021-22 was close to be finalized and expected to be tabled soon in the Parliament.

"It is high time to help government functionaries like FBR, Ministry of Finance and political leadership to identify policies which may be very useful to reduce miseries of the people and provide double advantage to government," he added.

He said"high consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages is one of the major causes of obesity and related NCDs like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, some types of cancers, and tooth decay." He said as per WHO, 58 percent of total deaths were contributed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In other words, approximately 2,200 people die every day due to these deadly diseases in Pakistan. According to NCDs Steps Survey of Pakistan (2014-15), more than four out of ten adults (41.3 percent) were obese or overweight, while 37 percent had hypertension. Similarly, every 4th adult (26 percent) was suffering from type 2 diabetes as per second National Diabetes Survey of Pakistan conducted in 2016-17.

According to the International Diabetes Federation 2019, Pakistan has the 4th highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 19 million cases. The impact of this high burden of obesity and related NCDs was evident. It resulted in increased mortality and morbidity, healthcare costs and productivity losses, which ultimately impacts the economy of the country.

According to a study by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) in 2015, "Almost 16% of the country's total health budget was spent on the management of diseases related to overweight and obesity as a direct cost which makes almost 0.

4% of the GDP. The estimates of indirect cost of overweight and obesity is 1.9% of the Country's GDP. The total direct and indirect cost of overweight and obesity is estimated to be Rs. 428 billion." Sana Ullah Ghumman, said that to reduce health care costs and NCDs, it was important to discourage the consumption of these SSBs. Raising taxes on SSBs was an evidence-based first step to reduce obesity and disease burden of related NCDs, and increase revenue for the country.

National Coordinator Nutrition Ministry of Health Dr Khawaja Masood Ahmed said though beverage industry claimed paying Rs 70 billion tax which was an exaggerated number. As per FBR's year book 2019- 20 the total sales tax and FED by the beverage industry estimated to be less than Rs. 38 billion.

"The consumption of SSBs is growing, which was resulting in increased rates of obesity and related diseases in the country. As per the National Nutrition Survey 2018, the number of overweight children has doubled in the country as compared to 2011. Similarly, the percentage of obese and overweight women of reproductive age has increased to 38 percent in 2018 as compared to 28 percent in 2011. These figures are daunting and indicate the need for an immediate policy shift from government," he cautioned.

He added that the existing tax rate on these beverages in Pakistan was much lower (13 percent FED on aerated water, only 5 percent on juices, syrupsetc, 17 percent sales tax) than neighboring countries like India where it was 40 percent.

Consultant Food Policy Program (GHAI) GHAI Munawar Hussain said the finance bill 2021-22 was about to be finalized so it was high time for Pakistan to increase tax on SSBs to reduce the disease burden and increase revenue. There was strong public support for the government increasing taxes on SSBs to reduce obesity and related NCDs.

Pakistan Health Research Council has recently conducted a nationally-representative opinion poll in 2021 in collaboration with Pakistan National Heart Association to gauge public support for increasing taxes on SSBs. The opinion poll data showed that nearly 78 percent Pakistani adults support increasing taxes on SSBs, he underscored.

A series of questions and answers began at the end of the workshop, during which a large number of journalists expressed support for the implementation of the Sugary Drinks (SSB) practice and the efforts of the National Coordinating Ministry of Nutrition, Ministry of Health and Consultant Food Policy Program (GHAI),after which a group of journalists and people belonging to different schools of thought were photographed.