Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that government still plans to remove corn beef and other items deemed non-healthy from the bread basket items list but said, for now, “they will be on probation”.
Speaking with reporters outside Cabinet office yesterday, Sand said, the bread basket selection process has not been completed.
“There are two separate issues,” Dr. Sands stated.
“One is the elimination or zero rating of value-added tax (VAT) on all bread basket items. That requires legislative change. So the VAT regulations had to be amended. It also had budgetary implications.
“The change of what is on the bread basket now requires only discussion and decision and ultimately is gazette by the minister with responsibility for price control Dion Foulkes after consultation.
“As promised, we are completing a consultative and discussion and educational campaign around the country. We have not made it to Abaco, we have not made it to Exuma, we haven’t made it to Eleuthera, we haven’t made it to Grand Bahama. The consensus thus far is that sugar had to go and so sugar is gone. Corn beef is on probation.
“The public should expect to see healthier foods replacing unhealthy foods on the bread basket (list) … when the process is completed. We have (the) budget debate then we have to continue our tour and to engage. But even as we complete the revision of the bread basket, this is not going to be a one-off.
“It is going to require ongoing discussion and education and examples because, we didn’t get into this problem overnight. So the breadbasket revision process continues. “
Dr. Sands also explained why the government decided to push the implementation date up sooner for Catastrophic Health Care in the first phase of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Plan.
“We have always been aware that the Bahamian public’s concern was the need for healthcare,” he said.
“The devastating impact of serious illnesses, whether it’s heart disease; cancer; major trauma; kidney failure, the people want the ability to provide care for loved ones. And we have always been of the view that while primary care services are beneficial and have returns, in the long run, to provide assistance to Bahamians for these types of catastrophic problems, is essential.
“So the revamping of NHI moving forward is going to be able to provide assistance to individuals in exactly those situations.”