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Policy makers workshop on taxation policy underway in Nuku’alofa

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 22/10/2019

A policymaker’s workshop is currently held in Nuku’alofa aiming to use taxation policy to address the rise of non-communicable diseases for a “healthy Tonga” in partnership with the World Bank.

A senior human development specialist from the World Bank – Dr Sutayut Orsonprasop says, they have received a request from the government to assess the impacts of the taxation policy that the government has imposed on a number of unhealthy products and they are trying to impose new tax on cigarettes, alcohol and unhealthy foods to see whether this leads to any change in consumption behaviors.

At the same time, the government also waived 50% consumption tax on a number of healthy imported products like imported fruits and vegetables with the aim of making the product cheaper and hoping for people to consume more of them.

“The result of the policy in a nutshell is that we have received significant reduction in the consumption on the number of products that have been subject to tax like mutton flaps, turkey tails, ice-cream – these products are very high in fat and sugar, and the tax has led to significant price increase and the people have reduced the consumption – however there is a big issue regarding the substitute – we can see that a significant portion of population have reduced consumption overall but you also have a significant portion of population who shifted to another unhealthy products which is not subject to tax and is cheaper than the taxed products”, says Dr. Orsonprasop.

However, they are looking into ways that could help address the issue.

“One key recommendation is that nutrition evidence needs to apply for the food tax, make healthy products cheaper and affordable. Revenue has increased significantly – revenues can be channeled creating a large physical space to support health in the communities. For example, grow their own chicken, sheep, consume these healthy meats. cheaper health products”

CEO’s from relevant government ministries, as well as civil society and church representatives are currently engaging in a panel discussion on strategies, they will undertake to action the recommendations from the evaluation report.

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