Environment taxes may hurt poor people the most: lawmakers

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Many Vietnamese legislators said Saturday they were concerned that new taxes proposed for several products, including fuel and coal, will place more burdens on poor people.

The taxes would fall more heavily on the poor while they should be aimed at producers who pollute the environment, said Nguyen Lan Dung, a deputy from Dak Lak Province.

He was speaking at a National Assembly meeting held to discuss the Environmental Tax Law, under which the government plans to impose taxes on petrol, coal and other ozone-damaging substances, like hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), pesticides and plastic bags.

"I feel the bill is targeting farmers and poor people," said Duong Thi Thu Ha of Lao Cai Province. "Fuel is an essential product in poor areas that don't have electricity and farmers can't farm without pesticides," she said.

Danh Ut, a representative of the southern province of Kien Giang, said environment tax rates of VND2,000-4,000 per liter on petrol products, when combined with other taxes and fees, will have a huge impact on consumers.

Although people who harm the environment have to pay taxes,  the rates should be reasonable and must not hurt consumers, said Tran Hanh from the northern province of Vinh Phuc.

The taxes should not disrupt production activities as well, Hanh said. The bill has to make sure producers won't think that they are allowed to pollute the environment as long as they have paid the taxes.

During Saturday's meeting many lawmakers also suggested tobacco be included in the list of taxable items under the bill.

Le Dung, a deputy of Tien Giang Province, said despite a special consumption tax rate of 65 percent, tobacco prices in Vietnam are still at the lowest level in the world.

Tobacco is harmful to the environment and public health and thus should be subject to high tax rates, he said.

The Environmental Tax Law is expected to be passed next year.

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