TONGATAPU Number one Noble Representative has called on Parliament to increase excise tax imposed on unhealthy imported food products.
This is to curb locals from eating food which are risk contributing factors of the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD).
Lord Vaea said the proposed 15 percent excise tax is too small to impose on mutton flaps, turkey tail and other imported unhealthy products taking into consideration the declining life expectancy of Tongans.
He made these remarks when MPs discuss the Excise Tax Amendment Order 2015 on Tuesday.
Vaea was supportive of the Government’s initiative to introduce new excise tax as revenue for Tonga. However, he expressed reservation about the proposed rate of tax due to the declining life expectancy of the Tongan population.
He said the average number of years to be lived by men and women has dropped to 65 and 67 respectively. He added the eligibility for Tonga’s retirement social benefit scheme was initially at the age of 75 but now has dropped to 70. Vaea recalled this is simply because life expectancy of the Tongan people are declining.
Lord Vaea also called on MPs to increase the rate of the proposed excise tax on mutton flaps to help avoid people from consuming unhealthy food products.
“…I’m gravely concerned about this as majority of our budget is allocated to the Ministry of Health for medication to deal with diseases like diabetes and NCD,” said Lord Vaea.
In response, the Inland Revenue Minister, Hon. Tevita Lavemaau maintained the proposed amended Order seeks to exempt mutton flaps from the list of excise tax. However, he pointed out, if Parliament is supportive of Vaea’s proposal, then he is willing to propose a 15 percent excise tax on mutton flaps and presented it in the next budget.
Last June, Hon. Lavemaau presented in Parliament a proposal for an imposition of 15 percent excise tax on mutton flaps as a way forward to encourage locals to eat healthy and live healthy. However, this was met with resistance from the majority of the House whom they claimed the public prefers mutton flaps with taro leaves for a Sunday meal.
Vaea also maintained Tonga spent so much money on importing unhealthy food items and imposing a 15 percent excise tax is too small and it should go much higher than that.
He also called on the Ministry of Agriculture to help with the situation to reduce Tonga’s reliance on imported food products.
The Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi said that Fiji has prohibited importing mutton flaps and turkey tail to the country. Therefore he insisted that Parliament should make wise decision for the good of the nation,
The PM also called on every household to consider raising livestock’s like pigs, chicken and the likes to help with daily consumption
He insisted that the public be alerted at least up one year before Government makes any decision to impose excise tax on imported meat so they start raising livestock like pig, chicken, cow and lamb.
“Locals should learn to raise livestock at home. They can butcher a pig and put in the fridge and cook it with taro leaves and spinach to help with their daily consumption,” explained the Hon. PM.