The Members of Parliament demanded abolishing the stratified tax structure and increasing the prices of cigarettes at all tires in the upcoming national budget.
They made the call to control tobacco and earn more revenue to deal with the post COVID-19 financial situation.The lawmakers came up with the demand at a webinar titled, “Tobacco Taxation in 2021-22 National Budget: Things to do” on Tuesday.
It was organized by Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health & Wellbeing (BPFHW) with support from Shastho Shurokkha Foundation.
Deputy Speaker of Jatiya Sangsad Fazle Rabbi Miah, MP was present as a chief guest and Prof. Dr. AFM Ruhal Haque was present as special guest.
The event was presided over by BPFHW forum chairman Prof. Dr. Md. Habibe Millat, MP.
At the webinar, the keynote paper was presented by Dr. Atiur Rahman, chairman of Development Initiative and former governor of Bangladesh Bank.
In the keynote speech, two proposals were put forward for the implementation of a specific tax on tobacco in the upcoming budget.They included increasing the price of cigarettes at all tires, especially low-tire cigarettes, increasing retail price and reducing tobacco use and increasing revenue by formulating and implementing effective tobacco tax policy for a period of 5 years.
Reading out the key-note speech, Dr. Atiur Rahman said, “If we implement these proposals, the government will earn more Tk 3,000 crore and Tk 400 crore taka respectively as revenue. A total of 8 million young people will give up using tobacco.”
Deputy speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, MP said, “The DO letter, which has been submitted to the Finance Minister regarding tobacco taxation, will not work alone. But it will be good if the standing committee of the finance ministry and members of the forum jointly explain everything to the finance minister in this regard.”
“The minister should be asked whether he supports the prime minister’s declaration or not.”
Prof. Dr. AFM Ruhal Haque, MP said, “We have been working against tobacco for a long time. Many organizations in Bangladesh are working against tobacco. Those involved in tobacco production and trade are very powerful. We have to take different approaches to work against them. Increasing the tax on tobacco in the budget will reduce its use.”
NBR Chariman Mr. Abu Hena Md. Rahmatul Munim said, “We are trying to control tobacco by imposing tax in every year. But there is no survey about its result.”
“The organizations who work against tobacco can research on it. It will help us work on increasing the tax on tobacco.”
Habibe Millat, MP said, “Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing has taken a number of initiatives to control tobacco. According to this, we have shared a letter signed by 52 MPs to the finance minister with demand of tobacco taxation.”
Among others, the lawmakers agreed to work together against tobacco as they expressed their solidarity with proposing a tax hike on tobacco in the parliament session, taking effective measures against tax evasion, simplifying the existing tobacco tax system and increasing the NBR's capacity.
ASM Feroz MP, Adiba Anjum Mita MP, Aroma Dutta MP, Kazi Nabil Ahmed MP, M. A. Shahid MP, Md. Shahiduzzaman Sarker MP, Meher Afroz Chumki MP, Rana Sohail MP; Rubina Akhter Mira MP, Shabnam Jahan MP, Shirin Akhter MP, Barrister Shamim Hayder Patwary and Nahid Izahar Khan MP also took part in the webinar.
Representatives from Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, WHO, tobacco control campaigning organizations including CTFK, Progga and Voice were also present.