Government Urged to Withdraw GST on All Medicines

Islamabad: Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) has expressed its partial satisfaction over government’s decision to withdraw GST on life saving drugs impressing upon the government to withdraw the tax on all medicines instead of life saving drugs only. It said the government should consider the issue in broader perspective taking into account the overall impact on consumers of harnessing the medicines as a source of revenue.

In a statement, Mian Abrar Hafeez, General Secretary CRCP said, we appreciate that the government has partially paid a heed to concerns of the stakeholders, but this is not enough because the medicines other than life saving drugs are used in large quantities and more frequently. Therefore, the government must withdraw GST on all drugs. We shall continue the campaign against the decision till all the medicines are exempted form the said tax, said the CRCP spokesman.

While reflecting on the committee constituted to review GST, CRCP spokesman expressed serious reservations that although the government has constituted a committee to consider other drugs that could also be exempted from GST, but it meant that the government did not intend to withdraw the GST on all medicines with a few exemptions. He emphasized that the committee should proceed in a transparent and participatory way ensuring participation of all stakeholders in the process. He said CRCP would apprise the said committee of consumer stakes involved.

While highlighting the consumer stakes involved, CRCP said that government should not overlook the consumer concerns involved while generating revenue. It is ironic that Pakistan is the only country in the developing world, which has imposed GST on medicines. Even a major chunk of the population living above poverty line cannot afford proper healthcare, what to say of 40 percent poor people living below the poverty line. The venture is but a mockery of the much publicized poverty alleviation program, CRCP commented.

CRCP said that successive governments have failed to provide healthy environment for health. Citizens are being provided with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and unhygienic environment, and substandard food items which adversely affect their health. Given this context, it is extremely unjust to tax their health care. CRCP said the decision makers had shown insensitivity to the concerns of poor people because they themselves would not be affected by the decision for their health expenditures are paid by the national exchequer. The worst hit is the public, particularly marginalized sections of society.

CRCP impressed upon the government to withdraw GST on all medicines by taking into account the socio-economic conditions and health requirements of citizens. CRCP has also sought the cooperation of civil society and other stakeholders to underpin its campaign for withdrawal of the GST on all drugs.
Mazhar Siraj
Research Fellow