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Progga: MPs calling for tax-cut on bidi conflicts the vision of tobacco-free Bangladesh

  • Published at 04:36 pm September 22nd, 2020
Bidi workers protest NBR
Bidi workers stage a human chain in front of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) in the capital on Thursday, June 25, 2020 Courtesy

The tax on bidi has remained unchanged for four fiscal years

Ten members of the parliament (MPs) have sent a letter addressed to the finance minister, calling for a tax-cut on bidi.

Such an act by the MPs is strange to say the least, since the national budget for FY2020-21 was passed with their assent, read a press release published by anti-tobacco group Progga on Tuesday.

The most important concern to consider here is that there has been no increase in the taxes on bidi in the FY2020-21 budget. Moreover, the taxes on bidi have remained unchanged for the last four consecutive fiscal years. 

In this context, such a move by the esteemed MPs, motivated by bidi industry’s relentless persuasion, is quite unprecedented and is in grave conflict with the vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, declared by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The bidi industry of Bangladesh has been enjoying a significant number of benefits by promoting itself as a vanguard of Bangladesh’s domestic industrialization in front of the policymakers. In the letter addressed to the finance minister, the MPs have expressed concern that due to the ongoing pandemic, hundreds of thousands of bidi industry workers are going to lose their livelihoods, a statement utterly devoid of truth. 

In a 2019 report titled “The Revenue and Employment Outcome of Bidi Taxation in Bangladesh” by the National Board of Revenue (NBR), it was found that the total number of full-time equivalent bidi workers, including regular, part-time and contractual workers, stands at 46,916. 

The report also mentioned that 78.6% of the bidi workers would give up working for this harmful industry if the government takes measures for rehabilitation into other livelihoods.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning that tobacco increases the risk of Covid-19 infection and subsequent grave illness, these MPs have used the pandemic as a pretext to call for unjustified benefit for an inhumane industry.

The policymakers need to avoid such traps set by the bidi factory owners and engage all resources and cooperation to realize the Honorable Prime Minister’s vision of a tobacco-free country by 2040, said the press release.

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