KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will use revenue collected from an upcoming soda tax to fund a programme to provide free healthy breakfasts for primary school students from next year, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (March 19).
"We want our kids to be strong and healthy to perform well in school," he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2019 in Shangri-La Hotel.
The soda tax will be implemented on July 1, where a tax of RM0.40 per litre (S$0.13 per litre) will be imposed on drinks containing more than five grams of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml, as well as fruit and vegetable juices with sugar content of more than 12 grams per 100ml.
The sugar tax was supposed to be implemented on April 1, but the government has since deferred it to July 1.
"There will be no new tax for this year, except for the sugar tax which we have already announced," said Tun Dr Mahathir.
"It is delayed a bit as we want to ensure that the mechanism is effective to primarily meet our health objectives."
To ensure the sustainability of the economy, Dr Mahathir said Malaysians must improve their productivity, which can be done with a quality workforce enabled by quality education.
According to the prime minister, bigger reforms can be expected after the special task force looking into the review of the national education policy from preschool to tertiary level, completes their findings next month.
The reforms, said Dr Mahathir, would touch on several key areas including improving English language competency, quality of teachers, and the employability of graduates.
"In the last 10 months, key steps have been taken towards these ends. These include reforming the curriculum where the national civic and religious education curriculum are currently under review to ensure values are practiced and inculcated.
"In other words, let's make national schools great again."
Dr Mahathir said that exams for Standard One to Three have been abolished to make way for a more holistic development of each child.
He added that the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates will be increased by making it more accessible, experiential and meaningful.