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A-G, Ministers Defend Duty Increase On Alcohol

A-G, Ministers Defend Duty Increase On Alcohol
July 13
10:00 2018

The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says most common assaults, induced bodily harm and manslaughter cases before the magistrates court were alcohol related incidents.

He was speaking on the Customs Tariff Budget Amendment Bill 2018, which allows the increase of import excise duty on cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol by 15 per cent.

The Bill led to an exchange of words from both sides of the house in Parliament yesterday.

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad said that Government had misled the public by increasing the level of tax on alcohol.

He said MPs might be able to afford these products, but it was people living below the poverty line who would suffer dramatically.

“I feel sorry for the ordinary people, who will now purchase beer at a higher price,” he said.

In response, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Opposition were up in arms when duty was reduced on vehicles.

“We would rather not deprive a person, who is on low income from owning a vehicle than giving them cheap beer,” he said.

“We are not saying that people shouldn’t drink, it’s their choice.

“The idea is to get people to think about it and in Fiji we have a culture when you drink, you drink to get drunk, buying one carton after another.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that Government revenue collected on cigarettes was $63 million, beer was $83 million, $170 million on environment and climate change adaptation levy and $130 million from Service Turnover Tax.

He said the $1.25 million to all businesses meant Government would be losing $60 million in revenue.

“It will be at a cost to Government, but we have calculated it already. This will also give relief to businesses,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa said most reports of domestic violence were caused by men who were intoxicated with alcohol.

“The tax on beer and cigarettes will encourage Fijian people, who haven’t had a taste  these things never to buy them at all,” she said.

Government MP and Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services, Alex O’Conor said this would assist in their fight against non communicable diseases.

National Federation Party MP, Prem Singh, said sugarcane farmers would love to have a beer or two at the end of the week after long hours of hard work on their farms.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture Viam Pillay said farmers were more concerned with assistance from Government on their farms rather than the prices of beer and cigarettes.

Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation,Veena Bhatnagar said the Opposition MPs have misled the public.

“This is a good move  because how many of our children and wives have been beaten up from their partners or dads under the influence of alcohol,” she said.

Minister for Employment, Industrial relations and productivity, Jone Usamate said the import excise duty increase on these products would keep people away from things that harmed their health.

“This will create an environment for people to make the right decisions in their lives,” he said.

Edited by Percy Kean



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