KARACHI: Civil society and health professionals rejected the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (OICCI) recommendation to seek tax waiver and resisting imposition of health levy on sugary drinks and juices. The policy makers at FBR and Ministry of Finance should give priority to public health rather than corporate interest.
This was stated by the group of health professionals and civil society representatives while addressing the pre-budget session of parliamentarians, civil society and health professionals organized by Pakistan National Heart Association at local hotel in Islamabad which was presided over by Major General Masood-ur-Rehman Kayani (retd), President of Panah Prof Dr Shakeel Ahmed Mirza, Khawaja Masood Ahmed, Sanaullah Ghumman and Munawar Hussain and others were also present on the occasion.
The diabetes has turned in to new public health emergency in Pakistan. As per International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) Atlas 10th Edition, Diabetes or its complications are estimated to be killing nearly 400,000 people annually which are roughly 1100 people a day. There is a sharp surge of diabetes in the country. The number of people living with diabetes in Pakistan has increased from 19.4 million in 2019 to 33 million in 2021, turning it to third highest in the world. The IDF report also reflected that the cost of managing diabetes has increased to $ 2640 million in 2021 in Pakistan which is growing threat to our economy. Similarly the heart disease stands among the top killer in the country.
These diseases are now growing among the young population, adolescent and children, which is a matter of great concern.
It is well established through evidence that high consumption of sugary drinks is one of the major causes of diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs. It raises concerns among public health experts and might hinder the Government approaches to reduce dietary causes of the disease burden in the county. Therefore, it is important to pay attention and take immediate policy actions to decrease consumption of sugary drinks. Fiscal policies have primary importance in this regard.
Globally implementation of progressive taxes on sugary drinks have proven high impact on decreasing consumption and thereby reducing overweight/obesity and related NCDs. Currently more than 50 countries have implemented taxes on sugary drinks as part of their strategy to reduce obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Pakistan may learn from Saudi Arabia’s experience who imposed 100 percent tax on energy drinks and 50 taxes on sodas in 2016. The WHO and World Bank also recommends to implement higher taxes on sugary drinks as part of a comprehensive package of interventions for tackling obesity and related NCDs.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022