Govt. considers ‘sin tax’ to fund NHI plan

Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands.

The government is considering a new tax as a way to fund the country’s controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) plan.

The plan, introduced under the former administration, was free during the roll-out phase, but the present administration has made it clear that, moving forward, the Bahamian people will have to pay for public health coverage.

Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands, said the tax would be a “sin tax” on items including alcohol, tobacco, lard and other consumables considered to be unhealthy.

“This is at the early stages,” said Sands. “We need to make a recommendation to the Cabinet because they will have to weigh in on this… but it’s still regressive taxes so the argument can be made that those who consume these type of foods tend to be the less wealthy among us… We need to ensure that we don’t put that burden on those who are having a great difficulty.”

Sands said he hopes that the new tax can be implemented before the next budgetary term. The consideration for the new tax comes three years after the 7.5 value-added tax was added on goods and services.

“This is totally our of the blue but if you pull up and you have a $5 bill, I can’t see why we can’t add 50 cents,” said Sands. “That goes directly to NHI and as we roll out the services, we will begin to balance. There is no question that non-communicable diseases is dragging this country down. How soon can we expect it? It would be good if we can get it for 2018-2019 budget.”