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KARACHI: A pre-budget seminar “Importance of fiscal policies to curb sugar sweet beverages” organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) in collaboration with Diabetic Association of Pakistan was held at a hotel in Islamabad.

The seminar, hosted by General Secretary PANAH Sanaullah Ghumman, was attended by a large number of civil society representatives, journalists and media personnel.

On the occasion, Munawar Hussain, Consultant Food Policy Programme at Global Health Advocacy Incubator; Prof Abdul Basit, General Secretary Diabetic Association of Pakistan; Mubarak Ali Sarwar, CEO AGHAHE, National Professional Officer Nutrition, WH; and Dr Noreen Aleem Nishtar, Chairperson Heart File Dr Saba Amjad, Dr Noreen Arshad from UNICEF, Chairperson Nation Development Organization Tehseen Fawad, Vice President PANAH Squadron Leader Ghulam Abbas, Tanveer Nusrat, Former Commissioner Income Tax Abdul Hameed, Roohi Hashmi, and a large number of people belonging to different schools of thought and journalists participated.

Speaking on the occasion, General Secretary PANAH Sanaullah Ghumman said that an increase in excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages could help Pakistan to fight non-communicable diseases and keep people healthy and alive. “We are thankful to the International Diabetes Federation, Diabetic Association of Pakistan, National Commission on the Rights of Children, Federal Tax Ombudsman and all those who sent recommendations to the Finance Minister, Chairman FBR and other policy makers to increase excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages.”

He said all those organizations sent letters to the Finance Minister, Chairman FBR and other policy makers during the months of April and May 2022. “I urge PM Shahbaz Sharif and Finance Minister to consider increasing tax on a wide range of SSBs including sodas, juices, energy drinks, flavoured milk, iced teas and other sugary drinks. Munawar Hussain, Consultant Food Policy Programme at Global Health Advocacy Incubator said that fiscal policies had an important role in setting priorities for public health and nutrition. He said that increasing taxes on sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods was an evidence based strategy to reduce their consumption, obesity, diabetes and other NCDs.

He mentioned that the World Bank had recently concluded the impact modelling of SSB tax in Pakistan. “The study indicates that progressively increased excise taxes on a wide range of sugar sweetened beverages will mainly reduce diabetes in the country. The decrease in heart disease will also be significant. The study indicates that the government can collect significantly high tax for next 10 years if FED is progressively increased on SSBs.” He urged Finance Minister Miftah Ismael to consider increasing tax on a wide range of sugar sweetened beverages.

Prof Abdul Basit, Secretary General, Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP), said more than 400,000 people were dying every year due to diabetes or its complications in Pakistan. “Our Pakistanis spent more than 2,640 million USD on diabetes during the year 2021, which is a significant threat to our economy. DAP, PANAH, WHO and other expert organizations are trying to make this realize to policy makers for adopting emergency measures to curb the diabetes in the country.”

He said that International Diabetes Federation’s President Andrew Boulton and President-Elect Dr Akhtar Hussain sent letter during first half of the May to the Finance Minister, Chairman FBR and other policy makers for increasing excise tax to minimum of 20 percent on all type of sugary drinks to cut down the consumption and help dealing with diabetic emergency in the country.

He said Prof Jamal Belkhadir, Chairman of IDF MENA region also sent recommendations to the Minister Finance and other key policy makers for increasing FED on sugar sweetened beverages in Pakistan.

The civil society and health experts expressed their hope the government will increase Federal Excise Duty on a wide range of sugar sweetened beverages in the upcoming budget of year 2022-23.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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