Photo of Gan Kim Yong from thestraitstimes

In an interview with state media Straits Times published yesterday (Jun 19), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said he will be imposing a new sugar tax to promote water drinking in Singapore:

“On the cards is a possible sugar tax on packaged drinks, restricting advertising of such drinks, and prominent labelling of sugar or nutritional content.”

The “promote drinking water” reasoning coincides with another comment made by a PAP MP last year. In 2017, PAP MP Lee Bee Wah commented that raising the water prices by 30% would “promote awareness” of saving water.

The PAP Minister indicated that the tax decision is final and said that public propaganda sessions would be held to “consult what more can be done”:

“But these measures hinge on whether there is support for them on the ground. We plan to hold public consultations on what more can be done to make Singaporeans adopt healthier lifestyles.”

Minister Gan Kim Yong then pulled up a magical S$1 billion cost estimate without backing his claim, and fear-mongered that diabetes will hit 1 million people in Singapore:

“For a developed country, Singapore has a very high prevalence of diabetes. The disease costs the country more than $1 billion a year today. This price tag could soar to $2.5 billion a year by 2050 if nothing is done, as a million people here would be struggling with the disease.”

Regarding the sugar tax, Minister Gan Kim Yong reversed his reasoning saying that increasing the price of sugared drinks will make water “more affordable”:

“On its part, the Government is trying to make it easier and more affordable for people to make healthier choices. The rest is up to the individual.”

In the past year, the government raised water prices by 30% which inflated the cost of food in neighbourhood coffee shops. The average price for a cup of coffee was raised from 90 cents to $1.10. With the new sugar tax, prices is expected to go up by a further 10%.