We congratulate President Maithripala Sirisena for saying he has “no cheers” and would stop the 2018 Budget proposal to give big tax incentive to beer manufacturers, though Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has justified it by saying his aim is to reduce hard liquor or ‘Kasippu’ consumption which has reached record levels last year.
Addressing Parliament during the committee stage debate on the allocation for the Ministry of Health, the President said he could not agree with the granting of tax concessions to manufacturers of beer or any other liquor because the government’s policy was to minimise liquor consumption and smoking.
The government also has launched a large-scale campaign against the smuggling of heroin, cannabis and other addictive drugs amid reports that some vultures are peddling addictive substances under the guise of sweets even to schoolchildren.
“Deepening and enriching spiritual values of the people is as important as improving economic indicators such as the per capita income. Similarly maintaining free health and free education services is important. The Buddha said this when he preached that health is the most valuable wealth one could possess,” the President said, while lauding the 2018 Budget proposals as being oriented towards strategic, eco-friendly and all inclusive development.
The President told Parliament he had allowed the Health Minister and other ministers to work independently as it was important for good governance. He recalled how he suffered during his tenure as health minister from 2010 to 2014 and faced obstacles from the highest levels when he tried to implement important policies such as Senaka Bibile’s national medicinal drugs policy to provide quality drugs at affordable prices.
Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne at a recent Cabinet meeting said he would ask the Cabinet to review the budget proposals to reduce the tax on beer as he believed that the figures quoted to justify this tax concession were not correct.
He said there was no evidence to show that beer consumption would reduce the consumption of hard liquor and sale of illicit liquor like kasippu. He also claimed that the Colombo University had not done a study on the issue as quoted in the budget speech.
Dr. Senaratne said kasippu consumption according to available statistics was less than 6% among alcohol users in Sri Lanka and not 49% as quoted in the study by the Colombo University’s economics lecturer Priyanga Dunusinghe.
In the budget speech, it was stated that 49% of alcohol users in Sri Lanka consumed illicit alcohol quoting research reportedly carried out by the Colombo University.
But the university says it has not published any report to that effect, as mentioned by the Minister of Finance.
“After the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) contacted the author of the referred article, economics lecturer Dunusinghe said it was his personal research and not research on behalf of the university,” Minister Senaratne added.
“I will try to convince my Cabinet colleagues that it is unwise and illogical to make tax proposals based on incorrect statistics and private studies.
“Besides, the Yahapalana Government and President Maithripala Sirisena are committed to putting an end to the use of tobacco and alcohol in Sri Lanka. That is why this government, the Health Ministry and President Sirisena get accolades and honours from all over the world for our efforts to control the use of tobacco and alcohol.
“The sharp reduction of tax on beer does not help our objective. I urge the government, therefore, to withdraw the tax reduction on beer,” he added.
SW Wednesday, 6 December 2017 15:21
Beer companies are trying their utmost to increase their profits, politicians are trying their best to increase their income AND above all NGOs are trying to show their colours and increase the dollars coming flooding from foreign countries!
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