ISLAMABAD: Health activists have called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice of Rs40 billion loss to the exchequer due to delay in legislation regarding a health levy.

They demanded an investigation to ascertain why a decision of the federal cabinet to impose the health levy on tobacco and sugary beverages could not be implemented.

A representative of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Malik Imran, told Dawn that last year the federal cabinet had approved the health levy of Rs10 on each packet of cigarette and Re1 on each bottle of 250ml of sugary beverages.

“However, it could not be included in the finance bills of last year and the current year. As per our calculations, the exchequer has faced a loss of at least Rs40 billion from July 2019 to June 2020,” he said.

Mr Imran said health activists had contacted the federal ombudsman for the implementation of the decision of the federal cabinet but during a hearing held on Oct 27 the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) claimed that it had no objection over the health levy and blamed the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) for the delay in its implementation, saying the ministry failed to provide the draft law on imposition of health tax despite sending a reminder.

The statement was given in the presence of senior adviser to the federal ombudsman Rana Seerat and Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman.

Mr Imran said the prime minister should take notice of the issue and ensure implementation of the health levy at the earliest.

Mr Ghumman told Dawn that tobacco and sugary drinks were one of the major causes of various diseases, including heart and cancer.

He urged the prime minister health adviser Dr Faisal Sultan to play a role in implementation of the health levy.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2020