WB lauds Philippine sin tax law

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The implementation of the Sin Tax Law by the government has been described by a World Bank (WB) official as a “monumental success,” which should prompt the country’s Asia-Pacific neighbors to enact the same measure.

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“Tobacco [and alcohol]taxation is truly a win-win policy. A win for revenues, and a win for public health. Tobacco kills 5.4 million persons worldwide every year. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll can rise to more than 8 million by 2030,” said Jim Brumby, WB Poverty Reduction and Economic Management manager, in a recent workshop urging other Asian countries to adopt Republic Act (RA) 10351, or the Sin Tax Law.

While Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that while it is too early to determine the impact of the law on public health, he added the Sin Tax Law “has greatly increased excise tax collections translating into a significant increase in funding for our health programs.”

“The future looks bright for our program of Kalusugang Pangkalahatan or universal health care. The expanded fiscal space for health has already allowed us to enroll an additional 9.5 million families for 2014 to the National Health Insurance Program,” the health chief added. He did not give figures.

Brumby said the enforcement of the Sin Tax Law by the Philippines should be emulated by other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I would like to acknowledge the monumental success of the Philippine government in pushing through with the sin tax reform. The workshop was held here in the Philippines in large part because of the interest that countries in the region—and beyond—have shown in these reforms,” he added.

Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Jeremias Paul also said that the enforcement of the law helped increase government revenues, referring to the 2013 collection of P1.217 trillion which was 15 percent more than 2012 collections. The 2013 collection figure was 2.9 percent lower than the DOF’s target.

Action for Economic Reforms Coordinator Filomeno Sta. Ana also said that countries in Asia Pacific should learn from the experience of the Philippines on the Sin Tax Law, because the implementation of the law resulted to a collaboration between the government and civil society.

“We can confidently say that sin tax reformers in the Asia-Pacific have much to gain by framing tobacco taxation primarily as a health issue, by obtaining the active political support of top public officials, and by intensively collaborating with civil society organizations,” he added.

The regional workshop was attended by various government officials and civil society representatives from the Asia-Pacific region, as well as officials from organizations such as the WB, World Health Organization, Asian Development Bank, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, and International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

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