File image: IOL. (Armand Hough).

CAPE TOWN - The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has today passed the tax on sugary drinks, as part of the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Revenue Law Amendment Bill. 

In the wake of 18 months of negotiations on the tax including four public hearings and a negotiation process in Nedlac, an agreement has finally been reached. 

The fourth vote by the NCOP today follows previous votes by the Standing Committee, National Assembly and Select Committee of Finance. 

"We are very excited and happy that the MPs are prioritising health in South Africa", said coordinator of Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA), Tracey Malawana. 

South Africa joins 30 countries worldwide to tax sugary drinks, including Portugal, India, Saudi Arabia and Thailand who have passed similar taxes this year.

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The tax, expected to be implemented in April 2018 will see the price of Coca Cola increase by a sharp 11%. 

Initially, Treasury proposed a tax of approximately 20% on a can of Coca Cola. However, the current tax will impose 2,1 cents per gram of sugar on all sweetened drinks, with the first 4g of sugar per 100ml exempt as an incentive to encourage industry to reformulate its drinks to reduce their sugar content, says HEALA. 

The new bill hopes to take South Africa off the grid of being among the top 10 consumers of sugary drinks. 

Metabolic diseases such as diabetes has already claimed more than 25 000 lives in 2015 while public health facilities reported seeing 10 000 new diabetes cases every month last year. 

"While the tax is a victory for public health, it is around 11 percent on a can and we would like it to be strengthened to 20 percent to really deter people.
We will also be monitoring how the proceeds of the tax are used to ensure that government uses the money for health promotion", said Malawana. 

According to Malawana, the final point of call is to receive the President's signature which she expects would take up to a month. Considering that no amendments have been filed when passing the bill, it is set to be implemented in April 2018. 

"Thanks to Treasury and MPs, South Africa is on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity. We now look to the President to sign this important law without delay", concludes Malawana. 

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE