HEALA CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY FROM FINANCE MINISTER GODONGWANA…
During the 2022 Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance announced a planned increase to the HPL of 4.5% – raising the levy from 2.21 cents to 2.31 cents per gram of sugar for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). HEALA welcomed this announcement as it would be the first increase since the HPL was enacted in 2018.
To HEALA’s disappointment, the National Treasury postponed the increase to April 2023. We believe that the decision to postpone the health promotion levy (HPL) was a result of the sugar industry interference and lobbying.
“There are deep historical roots of the South African sugar industry and its influence on dietary sugar consumption at the population level. The sugar industry is a prime example of a colonial activity shaping the economy, polity, penetration of sugar content into food products, and blocking proven public health policies for an extended period. With the soaring health conditions linked to unhealthy food, the reliance on sugar and energy dense diet for industry profiteering is no longer sustainable,” explains HEALA Programmes Head Nzama Mbalati.
The National Treasury has not given the reason for this postponement or how the decision was made. This lack of transparency and accountability is worrying especially regarding a food policy that helps prevent unhealthy consumption of SSBs and protects the public against obesity and other life-threatening non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“We have been trying to have productive engagement to get answers from the National Treasury about the meetings that led to the decision to postpone the increase; however, these requests have been ignored. We submitted a Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the National Treasury, this application has also been ignored. We believe National Treasury has failed to follow the Promotion of Access to Information ACT (PAIA) by not responding to our request to access this information, says Mbalati.
HEALA believes in food justice and for all South Africans to have equitable access to affordable and nutritious food. We know that this can be achieved through strengthening food policies that protect the public against unhealthy food environments and those that promote good health.
The economic, household, and individual costs of not realising the Right to Food are placing our people at a disadvantage to develop into a flourishing nation. HEALA calls on the government to wholeheartedly commit to strengthening the health promotion levy, an existing and successful health policy, that benefits both the public’s health and government fiscals. The National Treasury must increase its efforts to raise the HPL to the intended 20% and begin the process of expansion to fruit juices and lowering the 4g threshold.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
HEALA is a leading alliance of civil society and academic organisations fighting for every person’s right to healthy food in South Africa. Launched in 2016 by civil society organisations and academic institutions, HEALA successfully campaigned for the Sugary Drinks Tax implemented by the South African Government in April 2018. HEALA’s current campaigns include advocating for clear warning labels on ultra-processed foods, healthy food environment, marketing restrictions of junk food and sugary drinks to under-age children in South Africa.
For more information, please visit https://heala.org/
Issued on behalf of HEALA by Maverick Communications
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