Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has advocated a hike in taxes on tobacco products in the country.
According toVALD’s Programmes Director, Labram Musah, increasing the tax on these products would reduce its consumption as tobacco related deaths exceeded 6,700 annually in the country with an economic burden estimated at GH¢ 97 million.
He made the suggestion in Accra, last Tuesday during a media dialogue by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), an independent nonprofit organisation, in collaboration with some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The programme was to deliberate on the current economic challenges facing the country and provide recommendations for the 2023 budget.
Mr Musah explained that, if measures were not put in place, tobacco related diseases were going to rise by 2025, sincethe price of cigarettes had remained affordable and accessible over time.
“An estimated 804,900 Ghanaian adults (15+ years) smoked cigarettes in 2015 on daily basis and currently the number is projected to reach 1.7 million by 2025, making tobacco a major public health threat in the country,” he said.
He highlighted that, although Ghana ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004, the country’s implementation of accompanying obligations were far from desirable.
Emphasising that, since 2014 taxes on tobacco products have not been increased, making consumption high and cheap amongst the youth.
Meanwhile, many countries have moved towards a pro-tobacco control tax policy by changing from ad valorem tax to a specific tax system, Mr Musah added.
“Ghana can raise the retail price of cigarettes ifa specific tax is implemented in addition to the current ad valorem structure, ad valorem taxes falls both on the fixed fee and the price per unit whereas, the specific tax only falls on the quantity sold,” he explained.
On the part of education, the Executive Director of EduWatch Ghana, Kofi Asareentreated government to be more committed to the issues in the education sector.
“Conditions in our basic schools do not include improving infrastructure, 40 per cent of basic schools still lack desks,” he said.
Mr Asare further highlighted that, in regards to the free Senior High School (SHS) policy, a legacy debt was being built with the food suppliers and if that was not addressed the system would collapse because suppliers were not ready to sell their items on credit.
“A total of debts, the Ministry of Education is owing free SHS food suppliers is about GH¢ 470 million, meaning government is unable to fund thepolicy, this is a typical finance issue because they have failed to allocate enough money to the ministry and Buffer Stock Company,” he said.
He further urged government to come clear in the 2023 budget with plans of managing the debt and how the policy would be sustained.
BY ANITA ANKRAH