Neonatal health (Edit3)

Editorial June 25, 2024


The recent imposition of an 18% general sales tax (GST) on formula milk is a matter of considerable concern. The price of formula milk, already a significant expense for many families, will put additional financial strain on households, especially those with limited incomes. This policy decision is particularly troubling given the crucial role that formula milk plays in infant nutrition and overall public health. It is dangerous even, considering Pakistan’s malnutrition crisis. According to UNICEF, eight out of 10 children in Pakistan do not eat the right type and quantity of food; and at least 10 million children suffer from stunting. For many parents, formula milk is not merely a convenience but a necessity. Various medical conditions, including lactation issues, allergies, and maternal health problems, necessitate the use of formula milk as the primary source of nutrition for infants. For the finance minister to dismiss a post-budget question on the tax increase by saying that only upper- and middle-income families purchase formula milk is a stereotypical statement which shows the ruling class’s disconnect from reality.

The rationale behind imposing such a high tax on formula milk is unclear. While generating revenue is undoubtedly important for the government’s fiscal health, it should not come at the expense of children’s nutrition and well-being. There are numerous other sectors where taxation could be increased without such detrimental impacts on vulnerable populations. The government needs to reconsider this policy and explore alternatives that do not harm public health. Subsidising formula milk or exempting it from GST could be viable solutions. Ensuring that all children, regardless of their family’s financial situation, have access to adequate nutrition is not just a moral obligation but a necessity for the country’s future. It is imperative that the authorities act swiftly to address this issue and alleviate the undue burden placed on families by the increased cost of formula milk.



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