By Victor Baatweng
The President, Mokgweetsi Masisi has given hints that government could be considering to impose what is globally and generally known as ‘sugar tax’.
In his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the President blamed the increasing incidence of people who are overweight and obese amongst the Botswana population on the increased consumption of sugar sweetened products, especially beverages.
Globally attempts by many countries to curb rising levels of obesity and tooth decay have led to a new kind of tax on sugary products known as ‘Sugar Tax’.
Sugar tax has been introduced in a number of countries ÔÇô such as Thailand, Philippines, United Kingdom (UK), Ireland and South Africa.
In the UK, the sugar tax came into force on April 6, 2018, after hopes of a u-turn by PM Theresa May were dashed and has seen 1.75ml bottle of coke increasing from roughly ┬ú1.25 to ┬ú1.49 according to western media.
In Africa, neighbouring South Africa imposed the levy effectively in April 2018 after proposal was first made in 2016. The details in the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendments of Revenue Laws Act of South Africa explains that the tax is fixed at 2.1 cents per gram of the sugar content that exceeds four grams per 100mlÔÇÜ which means the first teaspoon of sugar in 100ml is levy free. Given the close connection between Botswana and South Africa, it is not yet clear whether the former will impose similar levy rates should a final decision be made to go the tax route.
Masisi however stressed on Monday that the increasing incidence of people who are overweight and obese among population has had negative impact on health outcomes such as reduced quality of life and work force productivity.
“Government is considering options to reduce consumption of these products. In this regard, the government will be undertaking extensive consultations within and outside government regarding this issue”, Masisi said on Monday.