CSOs appeal to President to sign Excise Duty Amendment Bill into law

By Albert Allotey

Accra, April 6, GNA – The Ghana NCD Alliance and its partners have called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to sign the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2022 into law to save the lives of the citizenry from diseases and deaths.

The other partners were the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Ghana Public Health Association.

The bill was passed by Parliament on the night of March 31, 2023 to impose or increase taxes on health-harming products including sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), tobacco and alcohol, which had been found to be the major factors to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The call was made in a statement read on behalf of the partners by Mr Labram Musah, the National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance at a news conference to highlight the health benefits associated with the bill.

They said: “We are firmly in support of the Excise Duty Bill because the benefits are huge and we commend the government through the Ministry of Finance for introducing the bill and our Members of Parliament for voting for public health and not industry argument and profit.”

“The international community were delighted when the government included in the Budget Statement imposition of Excise Taxes, and were even more happy when the Bill was passed in Parliament on the night of 31st March, 2023.

“We all will be much happier if the President signs it with speed to concretize the President’s current position as a global leader and an advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Co-chair of the Presidential Group advocating  the NCDs and the SDGs,” the statement said.

The partners referred President Nana Akufo-Addo to one of his statements at the United Nation’s Assembly, where he said; “Tackling NCDs requires leadership to provide visibility to NCD issues.

“I ask my Heads of State colleagues to join hands with me as we establish a Presidential Group (non-binding), and as we find solutions to NCDs with a roadmap of universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. In our time, this will be our legacy.”

“These are your words Your Excellency and we are hopeful that, you will continue to lead and draw other Heads of State to adopt policies that will improve health and wellbeing of the Global populace,” they stated.

The statement said NCDs were projected to be Africa’s leading cause of deaths by 2030 if governments do not act urgently.

It indicated that as of 2015, a joint survey by the Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana Health Service and ICF International found Ghana’s obesity rate at 15.3 per cent while overweight stood at 24.8%.

“A WHO statistic estimates that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged five – 19 increased significantly to double digit of over 18 per cent in 2016 from four per cent in 1975. Today, seven out of every 10 Ghanaian adults and 4.5 out of 11 children are obese (Global Obesity Observatory 2023).”

“Sadly, the WHO had attributed these preventable deaths to governments’ failure to take responsibility and act. The Action, as recommended by the WHO Best-Buys includes tax measures, which have globally been proven as an effective NCD intervention especially in low-and-middle-income-countries like Ghana, who are facing the double burden of diseases,” it stated.

The statement said economically, a team of Ghanaian researchers (Lartey et. al 2020) found that the average healthcare cost per admission for adults of healthy weight is $35, whereas for adults with overweight, it was $78, and for adults with obesity, $132.

The study further estimated that 60 per cent of the average total costs per person expended was borne by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

“This means that the government is paying huge sums of money for the treatment and care of obesity and its related diseases, when lives and money could be saved with preventive tax policies on SSBs, tobacco and alcohol.

“As the healthcare costs and deaths linked to these health-harming products keeps increasing, this is the right intervention to protect young people, promote health outcomes, and guarantee sustainable financing for public health service delivery,” the partners stated.