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Medical Unions Propose Tax Hike on Light Alcoholic Beverages

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Health care professionals are proposing that the money needed to meet their demands could be raised by bringing the excise tax on light alcoholic beverages level with the excise tax on strong alcoholic beverages.

The government does not support the proposal. Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi said it would be wrong to make the health care professionals' pay rise dependent on how much alcohol Estonians consume, ETV reported.

"Focusing narrowly on one type of tax is problematic in the financial sense. All these things that are financed from a single source without there being any logical connection between the two make the budget inflexible," said Ligi, suggesting that there are other ways to improve the financing of the health care system.

President of the Nursing Association Ester Pruuden explained that the health care professionals' proposal is motivated by the recognition that low-alcohol beverages and strong alcoholic beverages are equally detrimental to people's health.

"We know today that the consumption of light alcoholic beverages is relatively high among the population, and it is a sad fact, confirmed by studies published by the National Institute for Health Development, that our young people are especially prone to the consumption of light alcoholic beverages," Pruuden said.

Based on the alcohol sales figures published by the Institute of Economic Research and the previously stipulated annual 5 percent alcohol excise tax increase up to 2016, the health care representatives calculated that bringing the excise tax on light alcoholic beverages level with the excise tax on strong alcoholic beverages would yield an additional 92 million euros per year to the state budget.

According to Ansip, these expectations are too high. "Based on the information that I have been given, they propose to increase the excise tax on light alcohol beverages 2.64 times. And by increasing the excise tax 2.64 times, they hope to generate an additional 92 million euros in revenue. To me, this 92 million euro figure beggars belief," Ansip said.

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