• June 12, 2024

No urgency to health plans

 No urgency to health plans

Photo by joiseyshowaa

The proceeds of a health development surcharge on tobacco companies in Bangladesh, Tk 9 billion, has been unused during the past three fiscal years due to a lack of a specific guidelines for spending the revenue, according to a story in The Financial Express.

In that time, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17, the government failed to use the money for campaigning against tobacco consumption.

This was said to be due to the slow pace of approval and implementation of the Health Ministry’s Health Development Surcharge Management Policy.

A draft of the policy was approved at an inter-ministerial meeting on February 15 and it is scheduled to go before the cabinet this month.

An official at the Health Ministry was quoted as saying that the surcharge revenue could be used by the ministry’s National Tobacco Control Cell to execute a national tobacco control program that would ‘rehabilitate’ tobacco-users, create alternative jobs for tobacco farmers and ensure overall health development.

It has taken a long time to get to this point. The government imposed the surcharge in the budget for the financial year 2014-15.

But it wasn’t until January 2016, and then only at the South Asian Speakers’ conference, that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed the authorities to adopt a national tobacco control program with the revenue from the surcharge.

Following the instruction, the ministry of health framed the draft surcharge policy and sought the opinions of nine relevant ministries including those of finance, agriculture and industries.

The health ministry published the draft on its website in December 2016 for public opinion.