Can delaying the tax on sugary drinks be a double-edged sword? -Pakistan

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KARACHI: Civil society organizations criticized the “mini-budget” and made suggestions to the Ministry of Finance and the National Assembly. Delaying the tax on sugary drinks is a double-edged sword, which damages public health and the country’s economy.

This was said in the media discourse of civil society organizations here at the local hotel organized by the National Heart Association of Pakistan (PANAH). Sana Ullah Ghumman, Secretary General and Director of Operations of PANAH moderated the event. Munawar Hussain, Food Policy Program Consultant at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Prof. Dr. Abdul Basit, Secretary General, Diabetics Association of Pakistan and others address the workshop. The media session brought together a large number of representatives of civil society organizations working on child health, nutrition and child rights, Director of NCDs Dr Samrah Mazhar, Coordinator of the Pakistan Academy family physicians Dr Ghulam Raza, National Coordinator of the Child Rights Movement Zohra Naqvi, Secretary General Burhani Murtaza Burhan Foundation, Lawyer Ikhlaq Awan, President Fatima Malik Welfare Trust Fatima Malik, Senior Journalist Khalid Chud, Professor Rashid Sidhu, Dr Ayesha Sana, Coordinator Women Wing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Islamabad Rohi Hashmi and other civil societies and a large number of journalists participated.

The Civil Society Alliance meeting began with the recitation of the Holy Quran.

Sana Ullah Ghumman, Secretary General and Director of Operations of PANAH welcomed the participants. He voiced concern and said delaying the tax on sugary drinks would increase obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases in the country. He said that sugary drinks are a double-edged sword, harming people’s health, increasing mortality and hitting our country’s economy. Director of NCDs Dr. Samrah Mazhar said that sugary drinks are not our priority in life, we have to choose healthy diet, taxes will deteriorate the situation of diabetes and other NCDs in the country. We need to ensure access to insulin and other treatment services to control diabetes.

Lawyers Ikhlaq Awan and Roohi Hashmi said our lawmakers and policymakers should consider raising taxes on all types of sugary drinks, from flavored milk to sodas, juices and energy drinks. However, he welcomed the tax increase on flavored milk in the “mini-budget”. Burhani Foundation Secretary General Murtaza Burhani and other participants said flavored milk contains a high amount of sugar and increases childhood obesity and other diseases. He shared that overweight and obesity are risk factors for 13 of the 15 major types of cancer, increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may reduce the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases

Munawar Hussain, food policy program consultant at Global Health Advocacy Incubators, said fiscal policies play an important role in setting public health priorities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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