11 Dec 2013
The first step in our campaign to get the taxation rate increased from 40 to 45 percent was to develop a rationale for increasing tobacco taxes in Niger.
With that in hand, we met with technical experts of the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Trade and financial authorities (Directorate General of Customs, Directorate General of Taxation, Directorate General of Budget ) to convince them of the advantages of increasing the tobacco tax, especially for a country like ours, which is seeking funding for economic and social development.
We then met with members of the Niger parliamentary network for tobacco control, presenting them with the same arguments we developed for the ministries. Our next step was to organize workshops, where we included both the government experts and parliamentarians (this time inviting other influential parliamentarians, such as members of the finance & budget committee).
These workshops allowed us to develop all the arguments in favour of increasing tobacco taxes, and to incorporate success stories from other countries, such as the UK, South Africa and Egypt.
Another argument we made was that under the current tax regime, prices of tobacco products had barely increased in recent years compared to other consumer products, whose prices have at least doubled. We also pointed out that Niger greatly needed the revenue that the tax increase would produce in order to implement the laws and regulations on tobacco control.
Although we finally prevailed, it was not easy to convince the parliamentarians, as they are a priori resistant to the idea of increasing tobacco taxes, believing this would contribute to increased tobacco smuggling. However, we continued to provide counter-arguments, until they were ready to swallow the pill.
Finally, this victory would not have come about without continuing support from the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC).
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