OUT goes the sin tax, in comes a ban on sugary drinks.
The ban – which will come into effect at all institutions run by the Ministry of Health – aims to lead the way in trying to tackle obesity and poor diet.
For a long time, minister Dr Duane Sands has spoken out about the poor diet of many Bahamians, saying that people are eating themselves to death.
With issues such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease so prevalent in the country, he wants to tackle the issue head on.
But with manufacturers balking at a sugary drinks tax that might have raised $10m, and government deciding to impose no new taxes this year, Dr Sands has taken another approach.
Now it’s not just do as I say, it’s do as I am doing.
As he said, “if we are in the business of promulgating best health practices we should not contribute… to any behaviour that results in negative health impacts”. Or in other words, he can’t tell you to not drink sugary drinks in the doctor’s office while selling them in the vending machine outside.
The issue the country faces, he says, is getting worse too, he calls it a “horrendous tsunami” of non-communicable diseases.
So this step makes sense. The ministry can lead the way – and hope others will follow.
There needs to be more than just this step, of course. It should ideally be partnered with fitness drives, information campaigns particularly in schools to change habits of the young, and more.
We should do more to try to encourage people to aim for a better diet – though it’s not always easy. The healthier options can sometimes be the more expensive ones, and work should continue to be done on ensuring breadbasket items that are exempt from VAT are ones that can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
It seems like Dr Sands wants to do more – but is limited by government decisions at present. Is the government as a whole treating the matter with the same urgency as Dr Sands? Are we really facing up to this “tsunami”? On that matter, we shall have to wait and see.
Minnis leaving us in the dark
With no announcement, no fanfare, no notification to the media of any kind, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis took a private tour of Bahamas Power and Light facilities yesterday.
At last, he declared the power problems affecting the nation to be a crisis – even if the power supplier doesn’t think so.
Now we might applaud that… except we weren’t there to hear it. More to the point, we weren’t there to ask him questions about it. To ask him what the government intended to do about a crisis happening on their watch and affecting Bahamians up and down the length of New Providence. To ask him what he intended to do about something affecting people across the nation, whether they are residents or tourists.
No, all we got was a late-night press release. We don’t even get to hear the words from his own lips.
So forgive us, Dr Minnis, if we don’t put too much stock in you finally catching up to what everyone else has been saying for weeks.
Forgive us if we note that in your brave, impassioned press release, you don’t actually put forward any measures to fix the problem other than relying on the company that got inherited this decades-brewing mess and doesn’t appear to have put in place enough contingency to deal with the series of generation collapses they’ve seen.
Forgive us if we wonder why long-ago claims of quarterly press briefings and regular question and answer sessions with the media – has anyone seen press secretary Anthony Newbold lately? - have now turned into excluding the media and slipping out a press release on a national crisis instead.
At a time of national crisis, true leaders are at the forefront, not hiding and avoiding questions.
Why don’t you want to answer questions, Dr Minnis?