Opposition queries use of sugar tax revenues
A demand to find out how much cash raised by the controversial sugar tax had been used to boost health was made yesterday.
The One Bermuda Alliance said it wanted details of where the $700,000 in extra cash raised since last year from the tax had gone.
Dwayne Robinson, an Opposition senator, said the Progressive Labour Party had promised a portion of funds raised by the increase would be earmarked for health education.
Mr Robinson said: “This government made promises surrounding this tax which, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it has failed to keep.
“It is clear this was just a money grab at the expense of Bermudians who are paying more at the checkout.
“There needs to be a much more concentrated effort towards improving the health of our population besides just taxing them.”
The first phase of the sugar tax came into effect on October 1, 2018, with higher duty for sugar, sweets and sweetened drinks.
The second phase is scheduled to start next month, with even higher duty on sugar-laden products.
The Government has also announced that it intended to increase taxes on sweetened foods not included in the original hike, including chocolates and sweetened cereals.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, earlier said the tax would not fix the island’s obesity problem on its own, but that it was a fundamental part of the Government’s approach.
Mr Robinson said some money from the tax has been earmarked for the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation to help provide cash for vertical farms, but the figure was not released and there have been no updates on the project.
He also said the Government had promised some of the sugar tax revenue would be used to help local businesses provide nutritional information to customers, but the Government has not said how much has been paid.
Mr Robinson added: “If it is a ‘fundamental part’ of Government’s strategy then the ministry must be monitoring the broader effects of the tax.
“If so, can it explain what processes it has put in place to monitor whether the tax is having the desired effect?
“I hope I am wrong, but the fact that we have heard nothing on this makes me suspect that those processes are simply not in place.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that funds would be allocated as “designated health initiatives develop”.
She added that nutritional labelling on menus and vertical farming were confirmed, but the programme was still “a work in progress”.