There will be no “fat tax” in Barbados. That position has been made clear by the country’s Ministry of Health following the suggestion by a university lecturer at one of the recent ministry-organized town hall meetings being held to discuss the financing of healthcare. The ministry says a “fat tax” would be discriminatory. Post-graduate lecturer in health sciences, Dr Lennox Sealy, proposed last Tuesday night that a special tax be imposed on fat and grossly overweight people in the island.
He made the call against the background of government spending around BDS$732 million (US$366 million) in healthcare every year, with much of it going to treat people with illnesses in which unhealthy eating habits play a role.Dr Sealy said overweight and obese people should be hit in the pockets, for not maintaining a healthy weight. “I think we’re trying to be too politically correct and we’re only putting the tax on the sweet drink,” he said at the time, referring to the 10 per cent excise tax on sweetened beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, juice drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks, which took effect last August. “Put the fat tax on the people.”
But in a statement released at another one of the town hall meetings on Tuesday night, the Ministry of Health said while it appreciated the comments and contributions being made by the public on addressing healthcare financing in Barbados, it did not support the concept of a “fat tax” as any approach to dealing with the issue. “Such a tax would be discriminatory and is contrary to the principles of universal health coverage which advocate for equal access to healthcare services, regardless of health, social or economic status,” it said. The idea had received some support, but some in the fitness and medical fields rejected it.