The World Bank Group has called on the federal government to impose special taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and sugar-sweetened beverages to improve primary healthcare.
“If we want to improve health care in Nigeria, we need to tax the things that are killing us. The economic rationale for taxing these products is strong if we want to save lives and make a better and healthier Nigeria,” the country director for Nigeria, World Bank Group, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri, said.
He made the call on Friday in Abuja at a special National Council on Health meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Health.
Chaudhuri noted that taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages would reduce the health risks associated with their consumption and expand fiscal space for universal health coverage post-Covid-19.
The country director stated that investing in stronger health systems for all would contribute to tackling rising poverty and inequality.
He added that health tax increases would have the additional advantage of reducing future healthcare costs by curbing the growth of the non- communicable diseases that tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages cause.
In his goodwill message to the meeting, the WHO representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, said he could attest to the enormous health needs of Nigerians and efforts made so far in meeting the needs.
He said his attestation was based on the fact that he had visited half of Nigeria’s 36 states in less than two years in the country.
Mulombo noted that while Covid-19 exposed weaknesses in the global economy including health, he considered it a unique opportunity for a thorough evaluation of existing resources and mechanisms to prepare better for a more resilient future.
He pledged that the WHO would continue to lead technical support for Nigeria in the development and implementation of its home-grown policies and plans.
Mulombo said the duty of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through building resilient health systems, was a collective responsibility requiring incremental steps in the right direction and continuous improvement.
“Tracking implementation of the resolutions of this Council in line with Nigeria’s and global health agenda will strengthen on-going journey towards promoting health, keeping the world safe, and serving the vulnerable.”
In his contribution, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, Dr Eduardo Celades, noted that it was optimistic that the meeting would arrive at recommendations to drive tangible, equitable and sustainable results for Nigeria.
This, he stressed, was particularly for women and children in line with the SDGs vision of “leaving no one behind.”
The theme of the 2021 National Council on Health meeting is: “The journey to attaining sustainable development goals: Applying lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic towards building a resilient national health system.” (NAN)