NZ Health Minister David Clark appears to have been caught out via a leaked document being gleefully brandished by the Opposition. Telling the public there are no current plans for a Sugar Tax, but behind the façade the opposite appears to be the case. Why would he do this, and is taxation really the best solution?
By Martin Harris, 5/5/19
“The Minister said in September last year: ‘we’re not working on that’, referring to a sugar tax. But just a few months earlier, his officials told him they were ‘scoping work to explore the feasibility and impacts of regulatory options such as a sugar tax.’
“Dr Clark needs to come clean and tell New Zealanders what he is planning.
“A sugar tax would represent the worst kind of nanny statism. The Government needs to respect New Zealanders’ freedom to make decisions for themselves.http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1905/S00044/clark-misleading-new-zealanders-over-sugar-tax.htm
And just one day ago, we have this report:
The Government has stamped out renewed calls for a sugar tax despite an alarming new review finding Kiwis are risking obesity and diabetes by drinking too much juice, and sports and energy drinks…Health Minister David Clark yesterday doubled down on the calls for urgent action: “As I have consistently said, the Government has no plans for a sugar tax.” Instead, a reduction in sugar in food and drink, and a better food labelling system was needed. “I have met several times with the food industry and set out the clear expectation that business and the Government will work together on this issue,” he said.https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112466232/sugary-drinks-are-worse-for-you-than-sugary-food
I do not intend to preach on the health risks of sugary drinks here. I’m more interested in the reason for the apparent deception.
I suspect the motive might lay with the stated consultation with the food industry. A food labelling system would perhaps better inform consumers without affecting the profits of “Big Fizz” (Rhymes with Big Bizz…Big Business). On the other hand, the Sugar Tax option bumps up the price of fizzy drinks, which may put more money into government coffers, but will likely affect profits, and hence jobs, and hence potentially the community that the tax is supposedly intended to protect. Seems like a valid motive for the government to lie, does it not?
While a reduction in sugary drink consumption will surely have a positive impact on the health of the general population, introducing a tax clearly has deeper and less positive consequences lurking behind it. Perhaps making non-sugary drinks more accessible and affordable would be the best all round solution (remember the natural Stevia alternative that some Big Fizz corporations offer?). Perhaps the government could offer subsidies or incentives to promote this approach: The savings on health issues would offset the expenditure possibly?
But,it seems the real issue here may be simply filling government coffers by any means, according to overseas experience:
“We’ve been saying for years that taxes don’t work, and have not been proven anywhere in the world they have been tried.
“Mexico’s 10% tax raised a lot of money, particularly from the poor, but did nothing to improve health.
“Sales data FGC obtained from Mexico showed that two years after the tax was introduced, sales had dropped by just 0.5% – amounting to not even one sip per person. Sales initially dropped by 3% but within a year were back to pre-tax levels.
“The only success from that tax was a boost to the Government’s coffers of 21 billion pesos (NZ$1.5 billion) in 2015, which itself proves there was little decline in consumption.https://www.fgc.org.nz/review-backs-fgcs-argument-sugar-taxes-dont-work/
Even if the government intends to spend the extra tax revenue on health fixes, it’s still an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” solution. Incentives rather than taxes would be a far more positive and effective approach in this author’s opinion. MH