Sri Lanka’s economy is at a critical juncture where urgent steps are needed to improve the country’s fiscal position. The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) has maintained that increasing tobacco taxation has undeniable health and fiscal benefits. Among the benefits of increasing tobacco taxes are the generation of additional revenue for the government, widespread support among the public for an increase in tobacco taxation, and the reduced burden on Sri Lanka’s struggling health system. In this context, policy solutions, such as taxing tobacco which can be leveraged to boost government revenue without threatening economic growth, are essential. This blog argues that the 2023 Budget should introduce a model of indexation which automatically links tobacco taxation rises with the size of the economy and inflation. This would raise substantial additional revenue from the excise tax on cigarettes.
Beedi smoking is widespread in Sri Lanka, accounting for nearly 23% of the country’s smokers. The absence of a filter makes it an unsafe product exposing its users to nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide. As such, this tobacco product is possibly more harmful to human health than other forms of smoking. However, beedi remains an underregulated product notwithstanding the provisions of the Tobacco Tax Act No. 8 of 1999. This blog argues that beedi taxation is a low-hanging fruit to boost government revenue and reduce the foreign exchange outflow with the added benefit of improving the health of Sri Lankans. An excise tax on beedi can benefit the economy in several ways: it would directly increase government revenue, lower beedi consumption, and decrease raw material import costs thus reducing dollar outflows. Lower beedi use would also lower smoking-related health issues, thereby reducing the government’s expenditure on health.
In line with globally recommended practices to reduce the dietary risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Sri Lankan government implemented a traffic-light labelling (TLL) system for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) in August 2016. The purpose of the regulations was to educate the public on the sugar content in SSBs to promote healthy diets in Sri Lanka and reduce NCDs associated with a high sugar intake. Six years on, it is time to assess the effectiveness of TLL in encouraging healthier food choices. Based on an ongoing IPS study – ‘Strengthening Fiscal Policies and Regulations to Promote Healthy Diets in Sri Lanka’ and written ahead of World Health Day 2022, this blog – discusses consumers’ knowledge of TLL and how it impacts their SSB choices.
The impact of COVID-19 on Sri Lanka’s labour market, education, migration, and health sectors were discussed at the second webinar panel discussion held on October 13, to mark the release of the ‘Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2021’ report, the flagship report of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). The event saw presentations by Dr Nisha Arunatilake and Dr Bilesha Weeraratne from IPS, with expert insights from Ms Madhavie Gunawardena, Director of TRCSL and Former Commissioner of Labour and Dr Kolitha Wickramage, Global Migration Health Research and Epidemiology Coordinator, Migration Health Division, International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ashani Abayasekera from IPS moderated the discussion. Key highlights of the discussion are presented in this blog.
Like many other countries, Sri Lanka faces numerous challenges in the battle against COVID-19. The pandemic has caused deep uncertainty and presented a colossal challenge for the country’s healthcare system. With the rapid increase in cases and the emergence of new variants, Sri Lanka began to face shortages of medical resources, including hospital beds and medical equipment. The vaccination programme was beset with a host of problems early on due to the irregular and inconsistent supply of vaccines, disorganised deployment and deviation from the scientifically agreed prioritisation. There was also alleged misreporting of COVID-19 daily statistics in the Gampaha district and Eastern Province. The absence of real-time data acted as a hindrance to obtain a reliable risk assessment in the country. Against this backdrop, this blog examines the gaps in the ongoing pandemic control programme and outlines ways to bridge these gaps so that more lives could be saved from COVID-19.