Dhaka, Oct 24 (UNB)- Speakers at a programme on Thursday urged the government to reform existing tobacco tax policy to further discourage its consumption, also pointing to the revenue stream it could augment.
They also underscored strengthening the National Board of Revenue (NBR) by reforming its legal framework and enhancing its institutional capacity.
The views were expressed at a program to launch a research report titled ‘The economics of tobacco taxation in Bangladesh’ reported by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Brac University, in the capital. The University of Illinois at Chicago collaborated with BIGD for the research.
BIGD Professorial Fellow Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman presided over the function while former NBR chairman Dr Nasiruddin Ahmed presented the research report’s key findings and recommendations.
Nasir Uddin said the price of tobacco goods is very low in Bangladesh compared to neighbouring countries. So it happens to be within the affordability range of the masses, who are also catered to by tobacco companies’ clever use of a wide range of brands that together have most income segments covered.
“Bangladesh’s tobacco taxation structure is so complex. So it should be reformed soon. The revenue was collected from tobacco products at Tk 22,866.91 crore while health cost stood at Tk 30,570 crore in 2018,” he also said.
That means according to the BIGD’s calculations, the overall cost/benefit to society is almost Tk 8,000 crore in deficit.
He suggested that the government must stop giving awards for “he highest taxpayers” or the “longest serving taxpayer award” or any other recognition to individuals or firms involved in the tobacco industry.
“The government must withdraw all incentives provided to the tobacco industries, including the exemption of the export duty and VAT. The government should enforce the ban on the use of subsidized fertilizer for tobacco growing,” he added.
He recommended that the government should increase biri taxes substantially also, through a uniform specific biri excise tax that significantly raises biri prices and reduces its use.
“The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should take the initiative to raise awareness among the Finance, Agriculture and Industries ministries about Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC - the first World Health Organisation treaty adopted under Article 19 of the WHO constitution.
Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that tobacco is a leading cause of death. So we need social awareness to reduce its consumption. He also urged the government to include the recommendations of the research in the 8th-five year plan.
Sharif, consultant at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), said they want such tobacco tax policy which will increase revenue and reduce tobacco consumption.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said that they are working to fulfill the goal of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to build tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040.
“The Prime Minister is aware to control the tobacco goods’ usage. We hope her goal will succeed by the estimated time. The government completed some activities to control tobacco use and would do further many things in future too,” Mannan also said.