By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) has reminded the incumbent government the ‘Health Levy bill’, which was passed by the Cabinet in 2019 but is yet to be implemented.
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, Khalil Ahmed, Program Manager, SPARC said, Pakistan’s economy is unfortunately unstable, the idea of a health levy was to increase the prices of sugary drinks and tobacco products so that they are out of reach of children and it would have generated revenue.
The Health levy on sugary drinks and cigarettes would have generated Rs. 55 billion in revenue which could be used for healthcare infrastructure. As a result of the lack of implementation of the bill, the country lost Rs. 55 billion last year.
He further added that the COVI-19 pandemic made everyone realize that our existing resources are insufficient to hostage any health emergency. Revenue generated from the health levy could have been utilized for pandemic control and guarantee better health for our people.
Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association said that the Federal Cabinet approved the health levy bill last year in June, despite the approval of the Prime Minister and cabinet the said bill is yet not implemented. Nevertheless, this bill has been going back and forth between FBR, Healthy Ministry, and Finance Ministry.
He further said that the FBR has stated in writing that it doesn’t have any issues with the implementation of a health levy. Yet not taking it utterly, the postponement in implementation of the bill is intolerable, it shows that public health is not a priority matter for our government.
Col (retired) Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation (HDF) said that the under-aged are the most affected group from tobacco consumption. Therefore, we anticipate that the government will take instant notice of the delay in implementation of the health levy without being ill-advised by the FBR and take necessary steps to safeguard the health of millions of children in Pakistan.
He demanded an investigation to determine why the decision of the federal cabinet to impose a health levy on tobacco could not be implemented and also demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice.
He said that due to the delay in implementation of the health levy, the national exchequer suffered a loss of Rs. 55 billion. The COVI-19 pandemic made everyone realize once again that our existing resources are inadequate to counter any health emergency. This amount could have been utilized for pandemic control and guarantee better health and living standards for our citizens.