Malaysia's sugar tax to fund school breakfast programme

KUALA LUMPUR • The Pakatan Harapan government will use revenue collected from an upcoming soda tax to fund a programme to provide free healthy breakfasts for primary school pupils from next year, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.

"We want our kids to be strong and healthy to perform well in school," he said in his keynote address at the Invest Malaysia 2019 conference.

From July 1, a tax of RM0.40 (S$0.13) per litre will be imposed on drinks with more than 5g of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml, as well as fruit and vegetable juices with sugar content of more than 12g per 100ml.

The sugar tax was supposed to be implemented on April 1, but has been deferred 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 education policy, from pre-school to tertiary level, completes its findings next month. The reforms would touch on several key areas, including improving English-language competency, quality of teachers as well as 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 practised and inculcated.

"In other words, let's make national schools great again."

Dr Mahathir said exams for Primary 1 to 3 have been abolished to make way for more holistic development of each child.

He added that the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates will be increased.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Sugar tax to fund school breakfast programme'. Subscribe