An independent Senator is again appealing to Government to increase the excise tax on sweetened beverages – this time by a further 20 per cent.
Stressing that obesity and non-communicable diseases were “an extremely serious problem”, Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies Faculty of Medicine Sir Henry Fraser said he believed an increase in the tax to 30 per cent would better encourage Barbadians to consume less sugary drinks.
“I therefore use this forum to make a plea, while approving this bill, that we should forthwith, immediately look towards legislation that will increase it by a further 20 per cent, which we can expect both to help the coffers and to make a difference to the calorie consumption,” he said in the Senate today during the reading of the validation of the Excise Tax Bill.
It was back in June 2015 that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had imposed a ten per cent tax on sweetened beverages in an effort to persuade Barbadians to consume less sugar.
The excise tax, which took effect on August 1, 2015, was applied to the cost of locally produced and imported sweetened beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices. The tax is levied on the value of the product before the Value Added Tax is applied.
At the time Sinckler had announced that the tax should generate in excess of $10 million in revenue for the remainder of the financial year 2015/2016. He had also promised that after two years it would be reviewed to determine how it affected the behaviours of producers, importers and consumers and whether it should be extended or intensified.
Three months after the tax took effect Minister of Health John Boyce reported that it was not having the desired impact, as Barbadians were still drinking large quantities of their preferred sugary beverages.
Barbados TODAY investigations had revealed also that at the end of the first six months of the tax taking effect only $2 million was actually collected by the Treasury.
However, the island’s leading beverage manufacturer Banks Holdings Limited had said that its business had suffered “a definite hit”.
Addressing his colleagues in the Upper House on Wednesday, Sir Henry, who has been calling for the tax to be increased to 30 per cent since its implementation, said it was “very sad” that the recommendations from himself, as well as several other individuals and organizations for the tax to be increased were ignored even though the tax had raked in only some $8 million, according to reports.
“For a $4 drink ten per cent is 40 cents. And most Barbadians now don’t concern themselves with any coinage less than a silver dollar. People literally ignore the nickels, dimes and 25-cent pieces. Therefore that 40-cent increase, based on the feedback that I have had from two supermarkets and others I deal with, it does not appear that there have been much of an impact on consumption,” the medical practitioner said.
“I would like to think that we can now make a 20 per cent addition. We can improve the Government coffers and we might have a significant impact on the consumption of soft drinks by young people, especially children,” he contended.