Effective Tax Policies Can Help Improve Global Health

Washington Post: If we want to improve global health, we need to tax the things that are killing us
Lawrence H. Summers, professor at and past president of Harvard University

“…Improving global health is no longer primarily about combating infectious diseases. Today, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I announced the Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health. We are bringing together fiscal-policy, development, and health leaders from around the globe, including ministers of finance, to address the enormous and growing health and economic burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The hope is to identify underused fiscal-policy tools to lighten that burden. Given the human and economic toll, the prevention of NCDs — cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and diabetes — should be of great interest to us all. … The task force will examine the growth of NCDs in LMICs and the evidence to support excise-tax policies and develop recommendations on fiscal policies for health. … Our task force aims to help ministers of finance around the globe understand the importance of their role in setting effective tax policies to save lives in their countries. Taxes are what makes a government function. Taxing ‘bads’ like tobacco and sugar over ‘goods’ like savings and income is as close to a free lunch as you can get in economics. This is low-hanging fruit that makes people’s lives better and makes the world a better place” (1/18).

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