Mottley stands behind decision to increase taxes on sweetened drinks

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(BARBADOS TODAY) Prime Minister Mia Mottley makes no apologies for increasing taxes on soft drinks and sweetened beverages and acknowledges that the unhealthy lifestyles of many Barbadians are leading to a prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Urging Barbadians to do better, Mottley said even though Government was playing its part by expanding its range of services to provide better healthcare, people were still engaging in unhealthy practices that were putting their lives at risk. The prime minister’s comments came following a tour of the Maria Holder Diabetes Centre for the Caribbean in Warrens this morning. Making it clear she had no regrets about increasing taxes on the sweetened beverages in last month’s Budget, the Prime Minister said the prevalence of NCDs and other illnesses were taking a toll on Government’s resources.

“I want to use this opportunity to speak to our people, to Barbadians, because the rate of increase in expenditure for dialysis, and as a result of the loss of productivity, for chronic NCDs has forced me in this Government to have a minister who has direct day-to-day responsibility for chronic NCDs and the QEH – Dr Sonia Browne. I have done that because I am not satisfied that we are reaching as many of our people and therefore, I have asked Minister Browne and Minister Ian Gooding-Edghill to designate some champions who will help us with the change in public behavior.

“This Government, as will future governments, wants to keep Barbadians well, but we need the help of Barbadians to keep Barbadians well. We recognize that our school system and our public information to date as an independent country did not teach people sufficiently how to eat and what to eat. If I doubted the correctness of my action in the Budget last month about putting the additional taxes on soft drinks and sweetened beverages I do not doubt it now and I do not apologize for it,” Mottley said.


“…Barbados has too many amputees, Barbados has too many people losing their sight, Barbados has too many people dying from cardiovascular diseases. It is within our control. We will play our part as Government and we have played it and we have expanded the services, but I need Bajans, each and every one of us, I don’t exclude myself, to play their role if we are going to win this battle against chronic NCDs in the same way we were able to do against HIV/AIDS…”

Mottley said plans were in the works to significantly upgrade polyclinics across the island and to use more telemedicine. Additionally, she is hopeful that ground for the new Geriatric Hospital in the National Botanical Gardens would be broken later this year.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, lauded Government for the role it was playing in looking after the health of its citizens. “Your commitment to alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life of Barbados’ population through a comprehensive approach is an inspiring model from which other countries can learn. We support your vision to expand this approach to other countries in the region through your collaboration with PAHO and WHO,” Dr Ghebreyesus noted.

He said he was especially pleased with Government’s commitment to pay the fees for dialysis patients, which he said cost around $300 per session. He said dialysis patients usually required three sessions per week. Dr Ghebreyesus said without Government’s assistance most persons would not be able to afford the life-saving treatment. Meanwhile, Christopher Holder, the son of Maria Holder, revealed that 1252 patients attended the centre in 2021 and 756 patients had so far attended in 2022. He acknowledged that he would like to see more patients being referred there from polyclinics and doctors. Holder said there was also the need for more podiatrists on the island.

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