Thursday, June 13

Dumping heaven for unhealthy food products taking lives of Pakistanis

dumping heaven for unhealthy food products taking lives of PakistanisA dumping heaven for unhealthy food products taking lives of Pakistanis
Chairman FBR and Finance Minister appealed for increasing FED on all sugar drinks.
A country with more than 1100 people dying daily due to diabetes and its complications, over 300 limbs removed every day, the beverage industry is negotiating with Pakistani Finance Minister and Chairman FBR to escape taxes aimed at improving public health. The leading civil society organizations of Pakistan and health professionals rejected such tactics of the beverage industry which is not in the interest of peoples of Pakistan, neither for economy of the country. Government must reject any such investment plan on the name of rural economy and export by beverage industry which leads to killing people and adding miseries by building a huge burden on the health sector and hence, economy of the country. This was said in the joint statement issued here in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The finance ministry in 2023 on the proposal by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination took a strategic decision to increasing FED on juices and other sugary drinks to 20 % to cut down its consumption, and devastating effects on the public health leading to increased hospital expenditure. The decision was widely appreciated by the Pakistani civil society, health professionals and international community at that time. The former Finance Minister of Pakistan, Ishaq Dar committed on the floor of the parliament during the 2023 budget session to further increasing these taxes to 40% in the best interest of Pakistan and the health of country fellow. However, the beverage industry is misleading policy makers through a campaign to safeguard their corporate interest on the cost of lives of people.
“The cost of management of diabetes has increased to more than $2640 million in Pakistan in 2021. Sugary drinks and juices are among the major risk factors of diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, kidney failure and other chronic diseases” said Munawar Hussain, Consultant at Global Health Advocacy Incubator. “The annual cost of managing diabetes is double than what Pakistan is asking to IMF annually for the new program. The research shows that 30 % risk of diabetes is attributed to increased consumption of sugary drinks and juices” he added.
Several National and International organizations including International Diabetes Federation, Diabetic Association of Pakistan, Pakistan National Heart Association, Heartfile, Pakistan Kidney Patient Welfare Association, Family Physicians Association and Pakistan Medical Association has requested government of Pakistan to maintaining and further increasing FED to 50% on all type of sugary drinks to reduce the diseases burden and saving precious lives.
The beverage industry has low taxes in Pakistan as compared to many countries regionally and globally. For example, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, UAE and other gulf states have imposed 50% excise duty on sodas and 100 % on energy drinks. Even India has a higher tax on beverage industry than Pakistan which includes 40% tax in total. Maldives imposed $2.25 litter levy on each litter of beverage. More than 100 countries and states across the globe has already imposed high taxes on sugary drinks to discourage their consumption due to consequences on public health. The low taxes are encouraging the beverage industry to direct their investments to Pakistan as a dumping state and creating serious threats to public health and economy of the country.
“While Pakistan government is taking several measures to stabilize economy, increasing tax on sugary drinks is an evidence based and sensible strategy to not only reduce the diseases burden, but also generate significant revenue for the country” said Sana Ullah Ghumman, General Secretary at Pakistan National Heart Association. While referring to the modelling study done by the World Bank, he said “If government increases 50% federal excise duty on all sugary drinks, it will bring health gain of 8500 DALYs, economic value of USD 8.9 million to public health and USD 810 million average annual tax revenue for the next ten years”
Squadron Leader (R) Ghulam Abbas, General Secretary Pakistan Kidney Patient Welfare Association appealed to Finance Minister and Prime Minister of Pakistan for giving priority to Public health over the corporate interest by increasing tax on sugary drinks including sodas, energy drinks, juices, iced teas, flavored milk and squashes. “The beverage industry uses many tactics to misguide the policy makers to oppose tax increase on sugary drinks and juices. The research from Mexico, South Africa and Peru shows that taxing sugary drinks will reduce the consumption of unhealthy beverages but increase the consumption of heathier alternatives like bottled water and unsweetened milk. Research confirmed that tax on sugary drinks have no net negative impact on economy or on the joblessness in the countries those who increased the taxes.

 

Editor: Kamran Raja