CSOs reject new taxes on alcohol, cigarettes   

Small plastic bottles containing gin allegedly laced with methanol. Photos | Issa Aliga

What you need to know:

  • Mr Baguma added that the amendment intends to reduce the 20 percent tax which is around Shs 230 to 10 percent which is Shs150 per litre. This undertaking makes alcohol cheaper thus increasing consumption by young people and other vulnerable population.

Civil Society Organisations under their umbrella of Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA)  have rejected the new proposed taxes on alcohol and cigarette saying that the reduction will not only affect the country’s economy but also increase the number of under-aged consumers.

The group has asked President Museveni to withhold assenting to the excise Duty Amendment Bill 2024 which was recently passed by parliament of Uganda.

The objective of this Bill is to amend the Excise Duty Act, 2014, to provide for the definition of fruit juice, un-denatured spirits, vegetable juice and powder for reconstitution into beer; to amend Schedule 2 to the Act, to revise the excise duty on certain excisable goods and services and for related matters.

Speaking to the media in Kampala on May 30, Ms Richard Baguma, the Secretary General of United Nations Association of Uganda said that parliament should sanction a comprehensive review and revision of the tax charges with particular regard to alcohol and tobacco products.

“Reference is made to section 4.3 of the report of the committee on finance, planning and economic development on the excise duty amendment Bill 2024 where clause three seeks to amend the second schedule to the Act , providing for excise duty  imposed on opaque beer,” he said.

Mr Baguma added that the amendment intends to reduce the 20 percent tax which is around Shs 230 to 10 percent which is Shs150 per litre. This undertaking makes alcohol cheaper thus increasing consumption by young people and other vulnerable population.

“Unfortunately the bill does not even talk about amending taxes on tobacco products which were last revised in 2020 but instead focusing on reducing taxes which is a threat to the economy,” he said.

Mr Baguma added that  alcohol and tobacco consumption pose significant threats to public health and impose substantial economic burden on societies worldwide. It  impacts 14 of the 17 sustainable  Development Goals  contributing to issues like poverty, gender- based violence  and other social and economic problems.

“A far as preventing tobacco related harm is concerned, Uganda is a signatory to the World Health Organisation framework convention to tobacco control which primarily recommends uniform tax on tobacco products,” he said

He added that currently, the tax on soft cap is different from Hinge lid and yet there is no different between the two regarding the constituents and the harm caused.

“Increase in tax and prices of tobacco products is long overdue. Several institutions have recommended government increase taxes on harmful products because of their triple win effects in addressing the respective burden,” he said.

 He added that though the rising taxes on alcohol and cigarettes will lead to price increase on the products.

“The increase in prices will in the long run prevent young people from initiating consumption of these addictive products. This approach therefore guarantees increased revenue,” he said

Ms Juliet Namukasa, the Executive director of UAPA said that all the concerns to alcohol  should be regulated by  the alcohol control Bill that is still in the shelves.

 “We are very aware that not all the Bill tables are  fully understood in terms of context, so there has been a lot of misinformation and part of our work has been to clear the air and educate the public  about  the importance of the Bill,” she said.

Ms Namukasa added that as CSOs they  have fronted  the bill on three grounds and these include; to prevent under aged drinking, protecting Ugandans from health related concerns and promoting economic development .

“We have reached to different  stakeholders and  educating the masses about  the importance of the  bill and appealing to them to talk to their own policy makers to ensure that this bill is brought on the floor of the parliament   again,” she said

Ms Mable Kakunda the advocacy and Networking officer from Uganda Health Consumers Association however expressed disappointment at the pace which this bill is being worked on, the slow pace shows that legislators are not interested in passing this bill into a law.

“The Bill is not aiming to kill the market but instead regulate the use of alcohol and stop the under aged  from consuming it. We are not happy with the way  the rate at which the parliament is pushing for this bill,” she said 

Mr Faruk Kirunda, the State House press officer said that since CSOs are representing citizens they should write to the president all their concerns about the excise duty amendment Bill 2024.

“All the bills are sent by parliament after verification and since both parties are  representing citizens they should have a written document  explaining their complaints on the specific amendments,” he said.

Mr Chris Obore the Director, Communication & Public Affairs at Parliament of Uganda said that parliament processes business from the Executive especially on tax related matters.

“For parliament to do as urged by civil society, let them interest Ministry of Finance to initiate the process,” he said.