The government could have earned Tk11,000 crore more had it imposed, in the proposed budget for FY2020-21, an increase in tax and prices of tobacco as per a health ministry recommendation.
But there is no positive indication regarding tobacco taxation in the proposed budget even after the World Health Organisation has warned tobacco consumers of contracting Covid-19 faster than non-users.
These were all discussed at an online forum styled "Tobacco Taxation: National Budget 2020-2021" organised recently by Dhaka Ahsania Mission Health Sector.
They expressed dissatisfaction on different aspects of tobacco taxation in the proposed national budget as they found there was an ample scope to earn taxes from the tobacco sector, which had been missed by the government.
Professor Naziruddin Ahmed of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development and a former chairman of the National Board of Revenue, said it would have been good if the higher price tier and medium price tier of tobacco taxation can be merged together in the budget.
Professor Sohel Reja Chowdhury, Department of Epidemiology and Research, National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, said the budget has no specific guideline about the promotional activity of e-cigarettes for the youths.
Professor Rubana Huque of the Economics department, University of Dhaka, agreed with Professor Naziruddin Ahmed.
She said a specific tax could have been there in the budget as it would have decreased the income of the tobacco producing companies as well as increased the revenue of the government.
Director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission Health Sector Iqbal Masud said the budget allocation for the health sector is not sufficient.
He added that tobacco taxation in the budget was not reasonable, and the influence of the tobacco companies has resulted in such kind of weak decision-making by bureaucrats.