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‘Tobacco price hike lower than expected because of NBR conflict of interest’

  • Published at 10:10 pm June 22nd, 2019
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Speakers at an event titled 'Proposed budget 'contrary to tobacco control, tobacco companies to benefit', organized by anti-tobacco alliance Progga at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday, June 22, 2019 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

According to the former NBR chairman, revenue collection from tobacco products accounts for Tk22,800 crore - around 11% - of the NBR revenue outlay

Despite repeated calls from anti-tobacco campaigners, the government increased the prices of tobacco products to a lesser extent than expected due to conflicts of interest among high-ups of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), former NBR chairman Nasiruddin Ahmed claimed.

“A conflict of interest among high officials of the NBR has led to tobacco prices being hiked by a lower amount than expected, as some of these officials have built a nexus with tobacco companies,” he said while addressing an event titled “Proposed budget contrary to tobacco control, tobacco companies to benefit.”

The event was organized by anti-tobacco alliance Progga at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday.

“The Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013 has to include a provision to address the issue of conflict of interest,” the ex-NBR chief added.

Criticizing the government move to allow rebates amounting to Tk400crore to tobacco companies in the upcoming fiscal year, he said the government needs to increase tobacco product prices further or it will lose a large amount of revenue.

According to the former NBR chairman, revenue collection from tobacco products accounts for Tk22,800 crore - around 11% - of the NBR revenue outlay.  

Nasiruddin also questioned why the government holds a 10% stake in British American Tobacco. 

Addressing the event as the chief guest, Dr Qazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), said the use of tobacco products will severely hamper efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“Sustainable development will be hindered if public health issues are ignored,” he said, adding that the hike in tobacco product prices is not proportionate to the rise in the people’s income. 

Similarly, former health secretary Ruhul Quddus said: “Despite clear instructions in the law, the government is not increasing the prices of tobacco goods by a high margin. 

“Compared to the rise in the income level of the people, tobacco product prices have not been pushed up that much,” he said, fearing that the increase will not discourage tobacco consumption.

The increase:

Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal in his budget speech on June 13 proposed the fixing the price of every 10 sticks of low end tobacco at Tk37, and the supplementary duty rate at 55%.

He also proposed increasing the price or every 10 sticks of medium grade cigarettes to Tk63, and setting the supplementary duty rate for such tobacco at 65%. 

Furthermore, the price of every 10 sticks of high-end cigarettes is to be increased to Tk93-Tk123, keeping the supplementary duty rate at the existing 65% rate.

The price of 25 sticks of non-filter bidi will be fixed at Tk14, with a supplementary duty rate of 35%, and the price of 20 sticks of filtered bidi will be set at Tk17, with the supplementary duty rate at 40%. 

The minimum retail price was proposed to be set at Tk30 per 10 grams for Zarda and Tk15 per 10 grams for Gul, with the supplementary duty rate at 50%.

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