In Paraguay personal and corporate interests of the powerful prevails

Paraguay has a history of “very low government revenue, generalized reluctance to pay taxes in a climate of corruption and strong opposition by enterpreneurs and high income earners to any increase in their fiscal contributions”, reports Decidamos, Campaign for Citizens' Expression.

One of the few tax increases that the public accepts are the taxes on tobacco, as they generate revenue but also address a public health problem. Yet, a proposed law to increase taxes on tobacco to 40 percent was vehemently opposed by the producers and by former president Horacio Cartes (2013-2018), who owns the biggest tobacco company in the country. During the parliamentary discussions, the Finance Ministry argued that any tax increase should be part of a wider reform with consensus of all stakeholders” while then Health minister Antonio Barrios minimized the effects, saying: “More people die because of cardiovascular diseases and traffic accidents than due to lung cancer”. Finally, the Senate reduced the tax increase to a mere 5 percent, bringing it from 13 percent to 18 percent and also deleted the provisions to dedicate that revenue to public health.

This is in direct opposition to SDG target 3.a that commits countries to “strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control” and the alternative civil society report wonders: “How long will personal and corporate interests of the powerful prevail over scientific evidence and the funding needs of the country?”

By Clara De Iturbe; Decidamos, Campaign for Citizens' Expression.

Source: Paraguayan National Report 2019 (in Spanish), Report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019.