Maldives Customs Service announced Thursday that the amount of cigarettes being imported to the Maldives has not decreased, with over 497 million imported by the end of 2016.
According to Custom’s official statistics unveiled at the parliamentary economic committee sit-down, the amount of cigarettes imported last year was higher than the record of over 460 million imported in 2015. Import duty on cigarettes generated a revenue of MVR 622 million last year.
Customs’ Commissioner General Ibrahim Shareef Mohamed stated that, should the Import Duty on cigarettes be raised as per the government’s intention, there is a high possibility that people may try to smuggle cigarettes in various ways. However, he assured that Customs will be ready for such schemes and vowed to take legal action against offenders.
Shareef spoke in favour of the amendment submitted to the Export Import Act to charge higher import duties from cigarettes and energy drinks. He declared that increasing taxes from products that are injurious to health such as tobacco is necessary as smoking is harmful and a nuisance to the entire community. He also noted that extra expenses are spent on smokers.
The bill was lobbied to the parliament by member of government coalition Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) and lawmaker of Kudahuvadhoo constituency Ahmed Amir, seeking to charge MVR 4.60 from soft drinks and energy drinks, and increase the duty of cigarettes from MVR 1.25 to MVR 2. Amir stated that the objective of the amendment is to encourage minimising the consumption of unhealthy products.
Shareef also urged the health sector to release a list defining what qualifies as an energy drink. He noted that Customs categorise all drinks containing carbonated water as soft drinks to charge Import Duty.
Increasing the import duties of soft drinks, energy drinks and cigarettes was included in this year’s state budget as part of the government’s plans to increase state revenue. However, the amendments to the Export Import Act proposed at the parliament seek higher taxes than what is specified in the budget.
The government also aims to earn a revenue of MVR 200 million from increased taxes on cigarettes, which pitches a box of cigarettes from its former cost of MVR 48 to MVR 65-70.