By Albert Allotey
Accra, Feb. 25, GNA – Dr Alex M. Kombat, Assistant Commissioner Research and Policy of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has called on Parliament to speed up with the passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Bill to save life and raise revenue.
He said the continued delay in passing the bill was causing huge health burden and affecting the revenue target of GHS105 billion in the 2023 Budget Statement.
Dr Kombat made the call at a news conference organised by three civil society organisations – the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD-Ghana), Tax Justice Coalition and Jaishi Youth Initiative in Accra.
He mentioned the harmful products that attract excise taxes in Ghana as tobacco, alcoholic beverages, spirits (Akpeteshie), carbonated drinks and water (especially the bottles).
Dr Kombat said tobacco related illnesses accounted for three per cent of all deaths in the country and cost the nation GHS668 million every year, which was equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the annual GDP to take care of the diseases.
“Alcohol consumption is considered the leading cause of deaths in Ghana with over 200 health conditions linked to harmful alcohol use in fact, every day someone dies of alcohol related disease in the country. Diabetes related deaths are about 3.4 per cent of total deaths,” he stated.
He said generally, people continued to consume these harmful products because they were not expensive enough, stating; “So government/GRA has seen the need to put taxes on them to increase their prices to deter people from consuming them in large quantities.”
“In fact, over the years GRA had used excise taxes, customs duties, value-added tax (VAT), National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), among others at the entry points and at domestic front to discourage consumption of these products.
“However, the needed revenues are not being derived as well as the needed impact on consumption of the products were not achieved hence the need to revise tax rates of some of the products, for example tobacco, water, carbonated drinks/sugar sweetened beverages, spirits (Akpeteshie) and alcoholic beverages and the rest,” the Assistant Commissioner stated.
Dr Kombat said the GRA found the news conference timely and that it was in full support of the Bill, stating that; “It is our hope that the tobacco mixed regime will rake in the needed revenue and reduce the consumption of the products.”
He said further delay in passing the bill would negatively affect revenue target to be collected during the year effective January 1, 2023.
Mr Labrah Musah, the Executive Director of Programme – VALD-Ghana called on the parliamentarians to resist tobacco industry interference as its track record was to lobby and interfere in public health policies.
He said the last time Ghana passed an Excise Bill was in 2015, which saw an increase in tobacco products from a pure ad valorem of 150 per cent to 175 per cent.
“Every year civil society organisations led by VALD-Ghana continue to make tax proposals on unhealthy commodities through advocacy campaigns and actions. It is indeed a sigh of relief that finally there has been a proposed reform in the excise taxes on health-harming products including cigarettes, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages,” he stated.
Mr Musah expressed gratitude to the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori Atta for accepting the proposals, which were included the 2023 Budget Statement.
He said: “Indeed the final passage of the bill in its current state would demonstrate the commitment of the Government to address one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases such as; cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic obstructive lung disease.”