Dec 02, Colombo: Sri Lanka's disputed government has reduced the sugar tax on sweetened beverages imposed by the previous government as a measure to control the prevalence of diabetes.
The Finance Ministry has been instructed to cut the sugar tax by almost 30 percent, a statement. The decision was taken by Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa after a meeting with business leaders in the industry.
The Finance Ministry on Saturday has ordered an immediate 40 percent reduction in the levy. The measure could reduce soft drinks prices by 30%, Prime Minister's Office said.
Speaking to media at the Office of the Prime Minister Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena said the reduction in taxes is expected to boost production efficiency of the fruit juice manufacturing industry.
MP Gunawardena said the Finance Ministry had been asked to exempt only soft drinks that contain less than 6g of sugar and sweetened fruit drinks by up to 09 grams from the tax. The Ministry has been instructed to cut the tax to 30 cents from 50 cents per gram of sugar.
The MP said those engaged in the soft drink and local fresh juice manufacturing industry expressed their gratitude over the reduction in taxes and vouched to increase productions.
Health campaigners and a former Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne however, condemned the move as damaging the fight against obesity and diabetes among young people, AFP reported.
Former Health Minister imposing Sugar Tax earlier this year said his aim is to minimize Sugar consumption to avoid health issues. In Sri Lanka, deaths due to diabetes have risen and the main cause is excessive consumption of sugar, the Minister said.
The Minister said representatives of the beverage companies had asked for concessions but he has stressed that the relief should be given to the people.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who last year attacked the sweetened beverages manufacture Nestlé for increasing the sugar content in popular beverage Milo and asked the Finance Minister to extend the tax on soft drinks to all forms of sweetened beverages, has not expressed any opinion of his Prime Minister reversing his initiative.