Now’s the time to raise sugar tax, MP tells govt

PETALING JAYA: An MP from PKR has urged the government to raise the sugar tax, particularly for pre-packaged beverages, in order to deter the public from excessively consuming these sugary drinks.

Citing a 2020 report by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, Tebrau MP Jimmy Puah said every Malaysian consumes an average of 41.6kg of sugar a year.

This exceeded the World Health Organization’s recommendation and national dietary guideline of less than 50g daily (equivalent to 18kg a year), he said.

He added this meant that Malaysia ranked 10th out of 161 nations in terms of sugar consumption per capita, despite the introduction of the sugar tax in 2019.

“With the price of sugar expected to increase soon, due to factors like increases in the cost of production and raw materials, now would be an appropriate time to concentrate our efforts to reduce sugar intake,” Puah said in a statement.

In July 2019, a 40-sen-per-litre excise duty was imposed on sweetened beverages containing more than five grams of sugar, or any sugar-based sweetener per 100ml.

Health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had said in April that the ministry has developed a strategic plan to reduce sugar intake among Malaysians, which will be in effect until 2025.

Zaliha said this strategic plan would involve “multi-sectoral action”, but did not reveal further details.

Puah said traders and vendors should encourage consumers to purchase less-sugary options by making them cheaper and more accessible.

“Similarly, the government needs to relaunch anti-obesity and less sugar campaigns in a more aggressive manner.

“The total cost to treat diabetes has risen to nearly RM4.4 billion each year, and this has taken a heavy toll on the health ministry’s annual budget.

“If we can reduce this cost, this would free up the budget for treatment of other diseases or even upgrade facilities so badly needed in nearly all hospitals and clinics,” he said.

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