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‘Budget favours tobacco companies’

Published : Saturday, 15 June, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 809
Banani Mallick

The proposed budget for the FY 2019-20 has increased the price of low-tier cigarettes by 20 paisa (5.7 per cent) but it didn't impose any tax on cigarette manufacturing companies.
Experts believe such opportunity for the manufacturers will help them reap a staggering profit of up to 31 per cent, said ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA on Friday.
On the other hand, the mere 6 paisa increase in the price of per bidi stick will have no impact of curbing its use, he said.
Talking to the Daily Observer he also noted that this budget will allow the tobacco companies to expand their profiteering exploits while the tobacco menace will claim hundreds of thousands of lives and cause widespread illness among poor people.
He also noted that the directive of the Honorable PM was to build a tobacco-free nation by adopting a strong tobacco taxation policy.  Unfortunately, the proposed budget does not reflect the directive of the PM and frustrates the anti-tobacco activists
The proposed budget has increased the price of low-tier cigarettes by Tk2 per 10 sticks by keeping 55 percent supplementary duty untouched.
As a result of this frustrating move, the price of per stick in this tier will increase by only 20 paisa which is undoubtedly negligible.
72 percent of all cigarette smokers are users of this particular tier. Considering factors such as inflation and increase in per capita income, this hike in price will do absolutely nothing in encouraging low-income people to reduce tobacco use, he added.
The proposed budget, again, has left the 65 per cent supplementary duty on medium, high and premium tier cigarettes untouched and set the price of 10 sticks of the above-mentioned tiers at Tk. 63, 93 and 123 respectively.  
Such move of not increasing tobacco tax and only the price will allow the tobacco companies to up their profit to an extent of 31 percent.
In particular, this budget hands multinational tobacco companies unprecedented opportunity to enrich their coffers.
He also noted that tobacco control is not possible by any measure if we let the tobacco companies increase their profit with such ignorant government move.  
The proposed budget also does not address anti-tobacco organizations' long-term demands to reduce the price-slabs of cigarettes and to introduce a specific tax on tobacco products.
In the weeks and months preceding the budgets in the last few years, the government and relevant authorities managed to create a buzz by announcing their ambitious plan to shut down bidi industry and the use of such product considering the havoc it causes on public health.
Unfortunately, the authorities failed to remain faithful to their words in the proposed and finalized budgets and much to our dismay, the proposed budget for FY 2019-20 now walks in the same direction.
However, it is needed to mention it here that in the month before the budget proposal, bidi factory owners staged a series of protests countrywide to oppose any increase of tax on bidi.

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