Govt mulls soda tax for healthy lifestyle, says Dr Mahathir

Meanwhile, PM says the Forest City project in Johor will not be sold to foreigners


THE government is considering a new tax on sugary beverages to promote healthy living among Malaysians.

Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the new tax, commonly known as the soda tax, will help the government in reducing the rate of diabetes among Malaysians.

“Soda tax could help reduce sugar consumption among Malaysians, which is the primary cause of diabetes.

“The diabetes rate in Malaysia is very high because we take too much sugar…we should just drink water.

“What we find is that some people (are) drinking six to seven bottled drinks. That is not necessary. You can drink water. If you drink bottled (sugary beverages), there is a lot of sugar in it,” Dr Mahathir told a press conference yesterday, after opening a conference on Cities 4.0 and Business 4.0.

“When you go to the hospital, you find people coming in (to treat) some illnesses, but when we check (further), theyhave diabetes,” Dr Mahathir, who was a medical doctor himself before entering politics, added.

He was commenting on a recent suggestion by Damansara MP Tony Pua who said the Finance Ministry is exploring to impose a soda tax as a new source of income for the government. Pua also serves as special officer to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

A soda tax is a tax or surcharge designed to reduce the consumption of drinks with added sugar which include carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Many countries worldwide have implemented a soda tax, supported by theories that suggest higher healthcare expenses would be incurred from high consumption of sugar.

Among all, the United Arab Emirates in October last year had introduced a 50% tax on soft drinks and a 100% tax on energy drinks, while most states in the US have various ways to tax sugary drinks.

On another note, Dr Mahathir said the RM410 billion Forest City project developed in Johor will not be allowed to be sold to foreigners.

He said the government is against the idea of building a city for foreigners to live in Malaysia.

“One thing is certain, that city which is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. We will be issuing visas for them to stay here.

“Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not meant for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats,” he said.

Malaysians living in Johor complained of large numbers of Chinese citizens snapping up properties in Forest City, which was also a primary issue campaigned by Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan before the 14th General Election.

The project is being developed by Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, a Chinese- based developer. The firm has developed just a fraction of the planned reclamation of 20 sq km, where Chinese nationals accounted for about 70% of apartment buyers last year.