Members of the Advocating for Health (A4H) coalition have commended Ghanaian legislators for their resolve to pass the Excise Duty Amendment Bill.
The coalition, which is made up of the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana NCD Alliance, Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Ghana Public Health Association, is of the view that the passage of the Bill was a step in the right direction to help protect and save lives.
Parliament on March 31, 2023 approved three major tax bills targeted at bolstering the sustainable generation of domestic revenue for the country.
The bills are the Excise Duty and Excise Tax Stamp (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Income Tax (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2022, and the Growth and Sustainability Levy Bill, 2022.
The trio, which were passed under certificates of urgency, are projected to complement the government’s efforts to raise more than GH¢4 billion annually.
The Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, which will impose a 20 per cent tax on cigarettes and e-smoking devices, as well as sweetened beverages, spirits and wines, is projected to rake in about GH¢400 million annually, while the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill will generate about GH¢1.2 billion.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the A4H in Accra last Thursday, the National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance, Mr Labram Musah, said the Excise Duty Amendment Bill would help to prevent diseases as well as improve health outcomes.
For him, health taxes improve health, pointing out that over 80 countries have passed similar laws that are meant to protect their nationals from contracting NCDs.
He said the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, when passed into law, would have positive outcomes, encouraging President Akufo-Addo to assent to the Bill.
“We are firmly in support of the Excise Duty Bill because the benefits are huge and we commend the government through the Ministry of Finance for introducing the bill and our Members of Parliament for voting for public health and not industry argument and profit,” Mr Musah said.
In addition, he noted, “The international community were delighted when the government included in the Budget Statement imposition of Excise Taxes, and were even happier when the Bill was passed in Parliament on the night of 31st March, 2023.”
“We all will be much happier if the President signs it with speed to concretize the President’s current position as a global leader and an advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Co-chair of the Presidential Group advocating the NCDs and the SDGs,” he said.
Mr Musah said people should not misconstrue the Bill to be something designed to collapse businesses but an action that would help to promote healthy living in Ghana.
He said the Bill would force industry players to reformulate their beverages that would prioritise the health of their consumers.
He was of the view that although the Excise Duty Amendment Bill would not stop people from consuming sugar sweetened beverages, it would help to regulate it formulation and consumption.
“The industry should also know that no one is calling for the banning of products but strict regulation of the content,” he said, adding “We commend our MPs for voting for public health.”
Mr Musah also urged all Ghanaians to support the passage and implementation of the Excise Duty Amendment Bill into law.
The A4H Project aims to identify a realistic legal pathway to enact SSB tax in Ghana and also to generate, curate, and avail evidence to support advocacy, scholar activism, and counter opposition from food & beverage industry actors among others.
Also sharing his views, a member of the coalition, Mr James Mckeown Amoah, said NCD put a lot of strain on the government budget and needed to be addressed, expressing the hope that the introduction of the Bill would help to do just that.
“…the government is paying huge sums of money for the treatment and care of obesity and its related diseases, when lives and money could be saved with preventive tax policies on SSBs, tobacco and alcohol.
“As the healthcare costs and deaths linked to these health-harming products keeps increasing, this is the right intervention to protect young people, promote health outcomes, and guarantee sustainable financing for public health service delivery,” he noted.
Mr Amoah said because sugar sweetened drinks were available everywhere and were not expensive, their consumption was high, which often lead to diseases.
He said about 80 countries have added taxes on sugar drinks to discourage their consumption, citing Mexico and South Africa as examples of countries with such laws.
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