Dame Billie supports IMF soft drink tax suggestion

Describing the beverages as “just sugar water”, Dame Billie told Barbados TODAY  the drinks were contributing to the high level of diabetes in the country.

She acknowledged that the move could affect local manufacturers, but said the health of the Barbadians was more important.

The recommendation to levy the tax at a standard rate was made by the IMF as part of revenue generating measures in a report on Barbados’ tax system.

Asked if she would support such a measure, Dame Billie replied, “Sure, they do it with tobacco and other things which are damaging to health.”

Earlier this month, the chief commercial officer of Banks Holdings Limited said the group’s soft drink manufacturing business, the Barbados Bottling Company, would be negatively impacted if this were to happen.

“The beverages that we produce are not high-end, nothing in our portfolio is considered a luxury good . . . The products that we make are part of the commodity basis where you consume on your disposable income, so you don’t say ‘I am not going to drink water today’,” explained Ray Chee-A-Tow.

But Dame Billie, a strong proponent of self-care, particularly following the recent death of her youngest brother to diabetes at the age of 59, said Barbadians need to make more healthy choices.

“It’s not like they don’t have any alternatives, they can be creative. Every other island in the Caribbean that I visit, in any hotel, in any restaurant I can always get fresh fruit juice [but] it’s a hard thing to get in Barbados,” she noted, after declaring war on diabetes.

The retired politician also voiced concern that many women were neglecting their health, and falling victim to non-communicable diseases, as they pushed to make a mark for themselves in the corporate world.

“We have to be careful not to be imitating too much lifestyles of men and we’ve been doing that to the point where there are more women now presenting with heart disease than men in Barbados and in the wider world [by] the rushing to work. All things fall before work forgetting that women, whether they have children or not, still do two jobs,” she said.

“ . . . It worries me that the tension that comes with the lifestyle comes with a number of chronic illnesses. It’s very worrying to me that more women than men are presenting with heart disease. Then there’s hypertension and that has, again, to deal with self-discipline and diet.”


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