“Soda tax is a health tax” – former Health Minister urges implementation

first_imgBy Devina SamarooJust as increasing taxation on tobacco products is aimed at reducing smoking among a population in order toFormer Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammypromote healthier lifestyles, so too will be the result by increasing taxes on soda.Since soda and other sugary beverages are a major contributor to poor diets across the world, former Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy is urging all governments to implement a soda tax to encourage healthier diets among its citizenry.Just as the tobacco industry did with cigarettes, soda companies go to great lengths to target vulnerable populations. Research show that a great amount of soda advertising is aimed at children and teenagers as well as low-income communities.Soda is one of the most consumed beverages in the United States, second only to water.Soda’s connection to the obesity epidemic is so intertwined, Harvard researchers have calculated each additional soda consumed increases the risk of obesity 1.6 times.Incessant soda consumption eventually leads to increased risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, reproductive issues, heart diseases, kidney issues, among other negative health dangers.Dr Ramsammy in a statement pointed out that poor diets today is a bigger problem than hunger.He said while less than 800 million people go hungry every day, more than 2 billion people consume diets that are making them sick.“More than 2 billion people around the world are overweight and obese. For the first time in human history there are more overweight people than underweight people in the world,” he remarked, noting that Guyana is no exception from the growing number of people slipping into that category.Dr Ramsammy noted that for years he has been talking about the need to implement heavy taxation on soda but despite his sound rationale, very few paid attention to the call.Charging heavy taxes on soda will pressure distributors to pass the cost along to businesses and consumers. Should they increase the price of their products – and this is the straightforward effect – the additional cost could reduce soda consumption by encouraging people to select healthier, cheaper options.Additionally, a taxed industry will act as an “anti-soda” public health campaign since people tend to understand that product-specific taxes are only levied when a substance can cause harm.Observers noted that such a shift occurred with tobacco when countries around the world implemented the tobacco tax.The spotlight of soda taxes is heightened today because it has become the newest policy disagreement between the two Democratic Party candidates for the US Presidency. Hilary Clinton has endorsed a soda tax while Bernie Sanders contends it is anti-poor.Dr Ramsammy said that Sanders’ anti-poor argument in rejecting the implementation of a soda tax is shocking because poor diet is contributing to an explosion of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, among all people, but particularly poor people.The former Health Minister said Sanders’ argument that the soda tax will make soda less affordable for poor people is exactly the argument Big Food uses to resist any effort to implement a soda tax, whether it is in America or in any other part of the world. Big Food sacrifices people’s health at the altar of Big Profit. In rejecting the soda tax, Sanders is protecting Big Food’s Big Profit agenda.“The latest controversy over the soda tax is because Ms Clinton supports the Mayor of Philadelphia who has piloted a bill to increase soda tax in his city and use the revenues to support pre-school and kindergarten programmes. This seems like a programme designed to benefit poor people, not an assault on poor people,” he counter-argued.He noted that there are many good examples of soda taxation around the world that demonstrate the effectiveness of its implementation and the benefits accrued to poor communities.“Take the California city, Berkeley which passed a soda tax in November 2014. It was a victory for health, for communities of colour and their kids, and for people-powered democracy against one of the biggest global industries – Big Soda expended $US2.5 million to fight the tax. Berkeley took on the soda tax campaign because of a serious health crisis: 40 per cent of the children were on track to become diabetic in their lifetime unless something changed. The link between soda and diabetes is undeniable. Berkeley’s soda tax is a penny-per-ounce tax paid by distributors of sugary drinks, like soda, energy drinks, and sugary coffee syrups. As of March, 2016, Berkeley’s soda tax has generated $1.5 million for community nutrition & health efforts, including school garden programmes,” he pointed out.Dr Ramsammy further explained that all nations can learn from the Mexico soda tax case whereby its implementation resulted in the purchase of soda decreasing by an incredible 12 per cent within a year. Dr Ramsammy asserted that by introducing soda taxes, governments will ultimately be helping poor communities who can least afford the healthcare that will be demanded by the diseases such as diabetes and obesity. He posited that any objection against soda tax is an assault against poor people.last_img read more

Society failing to address HIV/AIDS stigma – US activist

first_imgboth the legal and social environments are still failing to address stigma and discrimination against those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and people living with the disease.This is according to Stephanie Joseph-De Goes, Guyana’s Country Coordinator for the President’s EmergencyStephanie Joseph-De Goes delivering her remarks at Guyana’s seventh Annual AIDS Candlelight MemorialPlan For AIDS Relief – PEPFAR, a US governmental initiative to address the global HIV epidemic with her office based at the US Embassy in Georgetown.She made those remarks at Guyana’s seventh Annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at the Catholic Life Centre by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Sunday last, where a charge was made to all Guyanese to come together to fight against the stigma and discrimination for those living and infected by HIV/AIDS.“We must put an end to the disease of stigma and discrimination,” she stressed.During the event, the US diplomat remarked that in this 50th year of Guyana’s Independence, the country can truly make history by amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status, and repealing other laws that perpetuate stigma and discrimination.“Stigma and discrimination eats at the soul of a society. We know that eliminating stigma and discrimination will positively affect a nation’s progress, well-being, and public health for things like HIV prevention, care and treatment.”The US activist continued, “I ask you what is holding us back from zero discrimination. From ensuring human rights, equal rights for all no matter a person’s health status, gender identify or sexual orientation. When it comes down to it, I think it’s our personal judgments about difference.”She lamented that too often individuals use belief, religion, culture, etc, to judge others on differences: be it one’s skin colour, sexual identity, or health status. “Whatever the difference might be that does not fit into our worldview. Then we focus so much on those perceived differences that we forget our ‘sameness’. We forget what unites us – our ‘humanness,’” she pleaded.Joseph-De Goes posited that it was hard to get to zero discrimination because society and those in policymaking positions were so busy judging the differences instead of recognising the strengths in individual identities.“How can we deny human rights, compassion and love?” she questioned.According to the US diplomat, “we cannot afford to say we cannot support amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act because of religion, beliefs, culture, etc”.“We know what has been done in the name of belief – human atrocities and ‘man’s inhumanity to man. Will we continue to allow injustices in the name of belief and ‘difference’?”She charged Guyanese society to work together for equality and to recognise that denying any one of us the right to justice, equity, access, security, education, health and employment – human rights – is denying all of us.“Let us decide to work together towards a Guyana where laws protect the human rights and the dignity of all. Guyana’s time is now. We are at the 50-year mark. Let us join forces to support the amendment of not just the 1997 Prevention of Discrimination Act but also all other punitive laws,” Joseph-De Goes said.She expressed hope that in the next 50 years, Guyana can be a nation with zero discrimination and 100 per cent human rights so that every person whether HIV-positive, HIV-negative, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, lives in dignity with the rights to employment, health, safety and security.last_img read more

Over $600M in loans granted to small businesses

first_imgThe ‘Micro and Small Enterprise Development and Building Alternative Livelihoods for Vulnerable’ Project on Thursday closed off on a high note at the Herdmanston Lodge, Peter Rose Street, Queenstown, Georgetown, where it was disclosed that some 199 loans and 545 grants were handed out worth over $600 million.This was related by the Credit Guarantee Fund Manager, Gillian Edwards, during the closing ceremony of the programme. According to her, “We were able to do loans in eight of the 10 regions… so we did a total of 199 loans of a value of $695 million… for grants, our original target was 300 grants and because we shifted funds from the intro-subsidy which was largely unused for that. We exceeded our target and to date, because we are still disbursing some who just had part disbursement so far 545 grants to the value of $163 million.”Among the 100 programmes tied into the five-year project were training sessions with small business owners in the areas of business management, cosmetology and others.Persons from across the 10 administrative regions benefited from the US$5 million project, with aid from the American Development Bank and several banking entities in the country.A number of trainers, including Action Coach, also participated in giving their services to train persons in different areas.A few beneficiaries of not only training, but loans expressed how helpful it was to them. One woman who disclosed that she not only benefited from a loan, but the training programme in cosmetology, said, “I will say that I have benefited greatly from the programme because I got the grant which moved me from baking in a four burner oven to having an oven now that can hold 300 chickens at one time to bake”.A farmer shared that he now benefits from the loan in that he now produces about 4000 chickens when he used to only be able to grow 300 at a time.Meanwhile, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin explained how successful the project was although it was initially intended to be a two-year programme.“This project has come to define the work of the Small Business Bureau over the last few years and I know that it can boast thousands of beneficiaries within the micro and small business communities. It addresses some of the fundamental needs of those businesses such as the need for training and the need for financing and it also addresses one of the key objectives of our Ministry’s five-year strategic plan and that is to intensify the services of the Small Business Bureau,” Gaskin pointed out.Plans for growthThe Business Minister was keen to note that plans are in place to help move small businesses up the scale.According to him, one of the key initiatives Government is currently working on is the establishment of a system to monitor procurement of projects to these small businesses which will enable them to expand one way or the other.He said, “We have to have a system that allows regular reporting so that every quarter we can say to the public (that) this is the level of procurement from small businesses for this quarter so that involves being able to identify small businesses whenever they procure”.The Member of Parliament explained that the plans are to monitor the procurement of all Government projects at the Regional, National Procurement and Tender Administration Board or the Ministries’ level.Even as these plans were announced he made it clear that the government is still trying to “find a system” to gather all the data required for this project.It was explained by him that this process will be beneficial in that measures will be developed from the statistics gathered to give these said businesses a better chance of getting Government procurement.Among the principles already identified to govern this initiative will be the implementation of a “scoreboard” which will dictate that a specific percentage of projects will be allotted to small or large-scale businesses to create a level playing field for all.Although the project has not been given a deadline, Gaskin said he would like it to become a reality by the beginning of next year since it is “very urgent”.last_img read more

49ers up to 3-0 in BWC

first_img Pacific had four players score in double figures, paced by Kelsey Lavender with 20 points. Jayme Connors paced the 49ers on the boards with 11 rebounds. She is leading the conference in rebounding at more than 10 per game. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Santos also grabbed seven rebounds. McCutcheon had a 3-point basket that tied her with Adara Newidouski for third all-time for Long Beach State with 93 career 3-point baskets. Both teams shot 41 percent from the field. Long Beach State jumped to a 7-2 lead at the outset, but Pacific then went on an 8-4 run to close the gap to 11-10. The 49ers responded and grabbed a 21-12 lead with 10:50 left in the first half after a pair of layups by Santos. However, the Tigers answered back and led 29-27 with 2:42 left in the half before the 49ers rallied for the intermission lead. The 49ers sank 9 of 10 free throws in the second half, while Pacific was held to three free-throw attempts in the second half. The victory improved the 49ers to 2-4 on the road, with another away contest coming up Sunday afternoon when they play at Cal State Northridge. Long Beach State is 8-1 at home. Information for this report from the Long Beach State Sports Information Office. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img Karina Figueroa scored 14 points to lead three 49ers in double figures as the Long Beach State women’s basketball team beat Pacific 74-61 Friday night in a Big West Conference game in Stockton. Fernanda Santos added 11 points for the 49ers (10-5, 3-0) and Crystal McCutcheon tossed in 10. Long Beach State led by three points at halftime and led by as many as 18 in the second half before the Tigers (4-11, 1-3) closed a little ground. last_img read more