KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — The Health Ministry has denied having plans to implement a tax on sugary drinks to curb non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“We have not discussed and no plan for implementation,” Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told Malay Mail.
New Straits Times (NST) reported last month that the federal government was planning to introduce a slew of policies to fight NCDs that are responsible for 73 per cent of Malaysian deaths, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart problems.
NCDs are linked to lifestyle habits like smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
Among the reported controversial government proposals were a soda tax, limiting eateries’ operation hours to midnight, and making NCD risk a criterion for hiring and promotion in the civil service.
National newswire Bernama quoted the Health Ministry as saying last November that diabetes was on the rise in the country, with more than 10 per cent of the population, or 3.6 million Malaysians, suffering from it.
According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit last June, Malaysia has the highest obesity prevalence in Southeast Asia at 13.3 per cent, while overweight prevalence was 38.5 per cent.
NST reported that obesity cost Malaysia between RM4.26 billion and RM8.53 billion in 2016, equivalent to 10 to 19 per cent of the country’s health care spending.