Help us by making it harder for us to harm ourselves
January 10, 2023

Help us by making it harder for us to harm ourselves

DIABETES IS A killer and its prevalence has more than tripled in the Americas in the last 30 years.

This alarming statistic was contained in a recent report published by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) which linked the increase in cases of diabetes to the growing numbers of overweight adults and the fact that many of us do not get enough exercise.

The PAHO report highlighted the urgent need for countries to focus on prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

To their credit, our neighbours in the OECS – Grenada and St Lucia — have both recently announced the implementation of measures in their own efforts to promote healthy eating and lifestyles in the fight against NCDs.

Beginning February 1, 2023, in Grenada, there will be an increase in VAT on carbonated beverages, soft drinks, sodas and drinks with added sugar, from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. The Grenada Government has also removed sugar from the VAT zero-rated list with effect from the same date.

The Government of St Lucia also last month announced the ban of sugar sweetened beverages in all primary and secondary schools.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, our health minister Jimmy Prince recently lamented the havoc diseases like diabetes is having on the country. He promised that in 2023, greater emphasis will be placed on fighting non-communicable diseases (NCD).

Given this stated position of the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment (MOHWE), how does one explain the continuation of a tax waiver on brown sugar, announced by the Prime Minister on October 27, 2022 during his Independence address as part of a package of “enhancements, supports and other initiatives”.

Clearly, such a waiver was put in place under the misguided notion that it would be of assistance to the poor. We are in fact, doing the opposite, NCDs being the leading cause of illness and death in St Vincent and the Grenadines. By making sugar more accessible to our people, we are increasing their susceptibility to risk factors for NCDs.

Remove the tax waiver on brown sugar and increase tax rates on sodas and soft drinks with added sugar. Help us by making it harder for us to harm ourselves.