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Chamber chief cautions against banning and taxes as ways to fight NCDs

While pleased with the American Samoa’s first Non-Communicable Disease action plan, Chamber of Commerce chairman David Robinson has cautioned against any suggestions of raising taxes or banning the import of certain products to prevent NCDs.


Department of Health last week launched the NCD Strategic Action Plan under the theme ‘Rowing Together to a Healthier American Samoa’. The plan contained a framework, vision, goals, objectives and strategic actions that have been identified through a collaborative and participatory process among the different NCD stakeholders in the territory.


Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Robinson congratulated DOH for producing the plan, saying that as American Samoa progresses it is important that there is an improvement in the quality of life for its citizens, not only in the areas of health and wellness but also to assist in reducing the burden on the scarce financial resources of the American Samoa Government. It is ASG that is required to provide costly specialized healthcare and treatment for the ever-increasing NCD sufferers, he said.


It is encouraging to note that the plan focuses on prevention through early detection and specifically on nutritional education, he observed.


“As lifestyles change, so do our eating habits and it is important that health and wellness habits are instilled into our children at an early age by parents,” he stated.


“There is also the need to adopt a balanced nutritional diet with fruits and vegetables instead of too much junk food, combined with regular forms of exercise in our school programs.”


He then issued a “word of caution” in relation to some of the rhetoric accompanying discussions and pronouncements on this subject —as suggestions of raising taxes and banning imports of certain products may not be in the best interests of the government or the community— “particularly at this time of economic uncertainty for some businesses in the food and beverage sectors.”


Robinson says the Chamber is ready to assist wherever it can and it would certainly like to be part of the “Rowing Together Team for a healthier American Samoa”.


During a panel discussion at launch of the NCD plan, Samoan Affairs Secretary Satele Galu Satele Sr. called for legislation banning the importation of alcohol and cigarettes as a way to fight the NCDs crisis, according to Radio New Zealand International.


Satele said there have been calls for higher taxes but these are countered by businesses promoting the very products that health officials are trying to discourage. He says this only leaves the option of enforcing a ban on importing alcohol and cigarettes.


Samoa News should point out that since the last tax hike on cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol several years ago, there has been discussion in the Fono to further hike these same taxes as a way to solve the territory’s health problems and also to collect additional revenue for the government.


However, there has been no official move by the Fono to either raise taxes on these products, or ban them. ASG officials testified last year that some of the revenue to fund the government coffers comes from these same products and if there is a ban, the government must come up with another source of revenue.


During the current 33rd Legislature, there was again talk among some lawmakers about hiking taxes on these products but there was also no new legislation proposed for such a hike.