Health vs soft drinks

Permanent Secretary of MHMS, Dr Tenneth Dalipanda
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War against NCD takes a turn as Ministry targets sweet beverages

By Mike Puia

THE Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is taking another approach to fighting Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country – it is going against ‘soft drinks’.

The Ministry plans to impose tax on soft drinks. These are sweet sugar beverages that have flooded Honiara shops, including many in the provinces.

In his presentation before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday, Permanent Secretary of MHMS, Dr Tenneth Dalipanda said soon the Ministry will present a paper to the Economic Reform Unit (ERU) to look into this plan.

Mr Dalipanda said work on this paper has already started. It is expected the paper will be ready by June.

He said the plan is to increase the price of sweet beverages in shops, so that someone paying for a soft drink will have to pay more.

The tax will see an increase of about 30 percent from the current prices of drinks.

Yearly, statistics from the National Referral Hospital (NRH) indicates the high number of patients diagnosed with NCD.

Sugary carbonated drinks are risk factors that are often present in childhood, adolescence and youth.

NCDs which include heart disease, strokes, cancers and lung disease often result in premature death.

Dalipanda said they hope imposing tax on these sweet drinks will make people think twice before they buy one.

He said it will also benefit the government in terms of collecting much needed revenues as whatever tax charged will be paid to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

Dalipanda said once this tax-plan works well; the Ministry might look at imposing tax on other goods that are categorised as NDC risk factors.

He added their fight against NCD is financially supported by the Tobacco Fund that was created under the Ministry’s Health Promotion Division.