Tobacco and Alcoholic beverages levy Bill Opposed
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By Nicole Tau
In a meeting held at the National Assembly, stakeholders in the tobacco and alcohol industry opposed the tobacco and alcohol levy bill arguing it will cause more harm than good to their shacky industry.
Maluti Mountain Brewery, Private Sector Foundation, Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), British American Tobacco (BAT), and Lesotho Liquor Restaurants Owners Association (LLROA) are the stakeholders that opposed the proposed tobacco and alcohol levy bill
The meeting was held by the Parliamentary Economic Cluster portfolio committee to find stakeholders’ views on the introduction of the said bill tabled before the National Assembly.
The answer stakeholders, when quizzed by the committee said they give the bill a unanimous No!
Ministry of Finance and Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) on the other hand who, are in favor of the bill argued it was necessary.
The bill was initially brought to the National Assembly by former Minister of Finance Moeketsi Majoro following the 2019/2020 Financial Year budget that cited the bill as a means for an additional revenue stream for government.
The tobacco and alcohol levy would place a 30 percent levy on the sale of tobacco and a 15 percent levy on the sale of alcohol.
LLROA president, Motseki Nkeane maintained that not only will the bill increase criminal activity, as people will seek other illicit means of obtaining alcohol and tobacco at affordable prices, but the M200 million annual revenue in taxes that the government expects to collect will dropdown.
Nkeane deems the levy bill as impractical.
He believes that the prices of alcoholic and tobacco products increase, consumers will be discouraged from buying those products at the same rate as they used to, and consequently leading the government to lose on that calculated revenue in taxes.
“What they need to do is to enforce already existing laws that will close those loopholes before they can implement the tobacco and alcohol levy,” Nkeane said.
National Assembly Speaker, Sephiri Motanyane said that despite the stakeholders’ opposition to the levy bill, their votes do not count but those of the members of parliament.
However, Motanyane pointed out their feedback is important so that eventually, the House can have all the facts presented before them so they can make an informed decision.
Now that the National assembly has heard from the opposing sides, a next meeting will be convened for all stakeholders to sit down with the Ministry of Finance and LRA where final decisions will be made.