The Human Development Foundation (HDF) urged the government to consider implementing the health levy on cigarettes and sugary drinks on immediate basis to generate the much-needed pool of revenue for fighting the current situation of disease burden.

Azhar Saleem, CEO HDF said last year, the government announced health levy of Rs10/pack of cigarettes and Re1/250ml of sugary drinks.

However, health levy, approved by the Cabinet, was not presented at the Financial Bill 2019-2020, and therefore it was not implemented.

He stated that approximately four billion packs of cigarette were being sold in Pakistan annually.

If the health levy is imposed on cigarettes, the government will generate approximately Rs40 billion per year, in addition to the existing tax revenues.

The same is the case with sugary drinks.

According to 2013-2014 survey, Pakistan produces 2.063 billion liters of soft drinks per year.

If Re1/250ml health levy is imposed on soft drinks, it will help generate eight to 10 billion rupees annually.

He further added that the government needed to adopt a futuristic approach and channelise the additional revenues into situations where financial setbacks were faced, such as the current coronavirus pandemic.

He stated that in the current situation of coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan would have to face its aftermath with worsened economic condition putting heavy burden on the budget.

The expenses are being incurred in fighting this calamity, and the economic activity has been damaged.

This additional 40 to 50 billion rupees will continue in lessening the financial crunch that the country is facing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020