Sweet tax a bitter pill

2011-08-27 15:33

A sweet new tax is likely to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of soft drink lovers if the SA National Aids Council (Sanac) has its way.

A tax on Coke is in the council’s new ­strategic plan proposal. Sanac wants the government to start taxing carbonated soft drink producers to fund the fight against HIV and Aids.

The proposal, which was ­released for public comment on August 5, is part of the draft National Strategic Plan for HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and ­tuberculosis (TB).

The council, which advises government on HIV/Aids, STIs and TB policy and strategy, says a key difference of the draft National Strategic Plan is that it is costed and that it wants the state to consider ring-fenced taxes raised on carbonated drinks with a high sugar content.

Sanac communications manager Junaid Seedat would not say why exactly the council had its eye on the soft drink makers in ­particular. “People will throw in different ­ideas but we will see what’s feasible during consultation.”

The council wants the draft national plan to be ­included in governmental planning and budgeting cycles, adding that an adequately resourced strategic plan is key to achieving results in the fight against HIV/Aids.

It also says mobilising resources is required from national and international partners.

In its strategic plan proposal, Sanac also proposes the decriminalisation of sex work.

According to Seedat, the council will consult widely on the sex work proposal and make sure that the new strategic plan is more inclusive than the previous blueprint.

Its plan will be launched on December 1, World Aids Day, by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also the council’s chairperson. The plan will only come into effect in January.

Public comments on the plan will be accepted until September 7 and a five-day workshop will be held for “physical consultation”.

Neither Coca-Cola nor Pioneer Foods, the distributors of Pepsi products in South Africa, responded to enquiries this week.

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