Economists, rights activists and experts on tobacco control and public health called for ensuring the sale of tobacco products at Maximum Retail Price (MRP) in the retail market from the upcoming fiscal year.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday (May 27), they also called for imposing specific tax on all types of tobacco products in order to increase the government revenue and to stop revenue evasion by tobacco companies.
Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) and Bangladesh Network for Tobacco Tax Policy (BNTTP) jointly arranged the press conference through the web conferencing platform ‘Zoom’.
The tobacco control experts at the press conference said that alongside protecting the public health, it will play a vital role in overcoming the global economic crisis if the MRP is ensured and specific tax in ensured.
Hamidul Islam Hillol, project manager of BNTTP; presented the keynote speech at the press conference. He said that a study jointly carried out by Bureau of Economic Research (BER) of Dhaka University and BNTTP shows that the government is losing revenue of about Tk. 5000 crore every year due to the cigarettes’ selling at higher prices than that of MRP to the consumers. This was also confirmed by the findings of Large Taxpayer Unit (LTU) of the National Board of Revenue (NBR). So, the NBR has to take the necessary action in this regard immediately, he added.
Hamidul Islam Hillol further said that the government should quickly ensure the sale of cigarettes at the price written in the package in order to stop revenue evasion. On the other hand, the specific taxation system should be imposed instead of ad-valorem taxation system to raise revenue and prevent evasion, said the tobacco control expert.
Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, a former chairman at NBR; Saifuddin Ahmed, coordinator at BATA; Professor Dr. Ghulam Mohiuddin Farooq, president of Bangladesh Cancer Society; and Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, technical adviser at The Union; spoke at the press conference.
Dr. Rumana Huque, a professor of Economics dept at Dhaka University; delivered the welcome speech, while Ibrahim Khalil, project officer at BNTTP; moderated the event.
The speakers at the press conference said that 10 per cent of the country’s total revenue comes from the tobacco sector. Further revenue from this sector is possible through specific taxation and ensuring sale at MRP.
According to them, in spite of having more consumers of low-tier cigarettes, the tax rate in this sector is lower than any other sector which is 57 percent. However, in other sectors, it is 65 per cent. This supplementary duty of this sector should be increased from 57 per cent to 65 per cent in order to increase revenue.
Some recommendations were placed in the press conference. The recommendations include- fixing MRP at Tk. 55 for per 10 sticks of low-tier cigarettes with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 35.75 in the upcoming budget; Tk. 70 for per 10 sticks of medium-tier cigarettes with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 45.50; Tk. 120 for per 10 sticks of high-tier cigarettes with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 78.00; and Tk. 150 for per 10 sticks of premium-tier cigarettes with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 97.50.
Besides, fixing the retail price of 25 sticks of unfiltered bidi at Tk. 25 with a specific supplementary duty at Tk. 11.25 and increasing the supplementary duty from 30 per cent to 45 per cent; 20 sticks of filtered bidi at Tk. 20 levying specific supplementary duty at Tk. 9 and increasing the supplementary duty from 40 per cent to 45 per cent.
It has been recommended to fix the retail price of jorda at Tk. 45 per 10 grams with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 27 and to set the retail price of Gul at Tk. 25 per 10 grams with a specific supplementary duty of Tk. 15. Besides imposing specific supplementary duty, it has been recommended to increase the overall duty on both products from 55 per cent to 60 per cent.