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Govt officials should be withdrawn from BATB board soon: Planning Minister

Published : Thursday, 1 December, 2022 at 4:42 PM  Count : 603

Govt officials should be withdrawn from BATB board soon: Planning Minister

Govt officials should be withdrawn from BATB board soon: Planning Minister

Minister of Planning MA Mannan has said that the government secretaries should leave the BATB Board immediately so that there is no interference in tobacco control and government policies in this regard.

He was speaking at a discussion held at the NEC conference room of the Ministry of Planning. The discussion, titled 'Tobacco Company CSR: Myth and Reality' was jointly organized by Work for Better Bangladesh Trust and Initiative for Public Health Research and Communication (IPHRC) on Wednesday (30 November 2022).  

Mannan said, "The activities of tobacco company embarrassed me. When the head of the government has called for a tobacco free society, operation of tobacco companies cannot be accepted. The Prime Minister's commitment means the commitment of all of us. So, help those working on tobacco control to find safe exit points. The government has very little stake in the BATB. I will request the prime minister to withdraw the government's stake."
He also said the issue of money transfer abroad should be considered not only in the tobacco sector but also in other sectors. Everyone should consider how to include tobacco control issue in the Ninth Five Year Plan.

Sushanta Sinha, a tobacco control researcher and special representative of Ekattor Television, presented the keynote speech at the discussion. While presenting the results of the research titled 'Tobacco Company CSR, Myths and Reality: Analysis of 10 Years Financial Report of BATB', he said that BATB promotes it spending Tk 6 crores only on CSR annually. The BATB increases spending on CSR when the government takes any action on tobacco control. Some 62 countries of the world have already banned CSR. But in Bangladesh tobacco companies are conducting their CSR activities anonymously.

Barrister Shameem Haider Patwari MP of Gaibandha-1 constituency, said, "The policies I am working on are very useful for the government but these sectors have not improved. No NBR official wants to hear about imposing taxes on tobacco. If the state, the government does not want to change, then the civil society cannot move forward with anything. Our efforts against tobacco are an unequal war. We have to come to a decision whether to fulfill the announcement made by the honorable prime minister to make the country tobacco free by 2040 or not? Do we want to see our prime minister be ashamed in front of the whole world? If you don't want to, then you must act according to the prime minister's announcement. We have seen the disagreement between the Ministry of Health and Ministry Industry during COVID. We have to get out of it. At the same time, the government has to withdraw the shares of it from the tobacco companies.

National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) coordinator (Additional Secretary) Hossain Ali Khondker said it is a very important finding that tobacco companies increase CSR when the government takes any step to control tobacco. NTCC has already started working on a roadmap to implement the Prime Minister's announcement. All the institutions of the government should help in making the Prime Minister's dream of a tobacco-free country.

Former National Board of Revenue (NBR) chairman Professor Dr Nasir Uddin Ahmed said there is a lot of confusions about the revenues received from the tobacco companies. Even if money comes from this sector, the crucial issue of public health cannot be ignored. The government has to look for new sectors to generate revenue from alternative to tobacco sector.

Meanwhile, technical advisor of the international organization 'The Union', Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tuhin said, "When we talk about tax increase, the tobacco companies publish different types of information to defend them. "Their business is growing manifold every year. They must stop interfering," he said.

On the other hand, Farida Akhtar, Executive Director of Anti-Tobacco Women's Alliance (TABINAJ), said it has been proved that tobacco companies are involved in fraudulent practices for revenue and CSR. It's a shame to have government Secretaries in tobacco companies. How can people who are paid by public money stay in tobacco companies? "We demand of the government to withdraw the shares of it from tobacco company BATBC and stop nominating secretaries to the company's board." .

Vital Strategies Bangladesh Head of Programs Shafiqul Islam said, "I feel embarrassed to see various secretaries in the board of BATB. Because the secretaries are making a big impact on tobacco policy being in the board. So, it is necessary to stop the intervention of secretaries immediately.

Tobacco control experts including Nasir Uddin Sheikh of Vital Strategies, Iqbal Masud, project director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, among others, spoke at the discussion which was chaired by Golam Mohiuddin Farooq, Project Director of Bangladesh Cancer Society. More than 50 officials working for tobacco control and media workers were present at the discussion.


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