Mmegi Online :: Requiem for the liquor industry
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Last Updated
Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
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Requiem for the liquor industry

The introduction of the alcohol levy, reduced liquor trading hours, traditional beer regulations and reduced entertainment hours, has brought about serious implications to the liquor industry. Some liquor traders have closed shop, while others have continued to shed employees as they continue to operate under huge losses. Staff Writer GOITSEMODIMO KAELO revisits the issue in an interview with Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA)
By Staff Writer Fri 18 Mar 2016, 15:54 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Requiem for the liquor industry








At the time of introduction, the restrictions faced stiff resistance and criticism from the industry, retailers and the general public. But the government nonetheless pushed ahead. While these regulations and restrictions were introduced by government with the intention to curb alcohol abuse among citizens, BAIA argues that the intended purpose is far from being achieved.

In a written response to Mmegi, Jacob Sesinyi, the communications and public relations consultant of BAIA, said while they support all sustainable efforts to curb alcohol abuse, they strongly believe that there are other effective ways to reduce alcohol abuse without putting stress on businesses and the economy.

He said that as a legitimate business in Botswana supported by government, liquor trading’s contribution to the economy could not be ignored. He noted that while the majority of consumers of liquor products take alcohol responsibly, a small section of consumers abuse the products and as such BAIA will support all sustainable efforts to curb this alcohol abuse.

“But we strongly believe that the most effective way to curb alcohol abuse is through education so that individuals can make the right judgments and be accountable,” he said.

Sesinyi stated that effecting restrictions might not solve the problem holistically. He said this is because alcohol consumption is not only limited to official trading stores, therefore while reducing trading hours and other regulations may go a long way in restricting the purchasing of alcohol at the officially gazetted places, there is no evidence that it directly translates into curbing alcohol abuse. He said that there is still a lot of alcohol drinking at many ungazetted areas in many villages in Botswana, which include cattle posts and other settlements.

With alcohol levy currently pegged at 55 percent, Sesinyi said that they are thankful that government made a decision not to increase it in 2015, but explored other possible ways because it would have been a huge blow to the industry. He said that the increase would have

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caused devastating impact on the industry such as closure of some manufacturing entities, loss of jobs and declining profitability.

Another downside of the levy, said Sesinyi, is the smuggling of alcohol into the country from neighbouring countries where alcohol prices are very low, compared to Botswana. He said this is a loss of revenue for the country.  “Any further increase will make the situation worse while also not addressing the real problem of alcohol abuse. It is also important to note that since the introduction of the Alcohol Levy, BAIA has witnessed unprecedented smuggling of alcohol into the country, which has led to loss of legitimate government revenue, and of course the rise of organised criminal groups.

This unfortunate development has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Association will continue to do everything in its powers to continue to work with all the relevant stake holders to curb this bad practice.”

Although no tangible solution has been reached yet, Sesinyi explained that BAIA is in constant communication and engagement with government on what they see as sustainable ways of curbing alcohol abuse. He said that the association and the industry are convinced that empowering consumers on the effects of alcohol abuse through education, remains the most viable and sustainable strategy.

Sesinyi welcomes the lobbying by the minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng, to extend entertainment hours, saying such a move would have ripple effects. He said that this is something that the general public has been calling for including those who don’t consume alcohol.

He said that many industries such as the food, the entertainment, the transport and tourism in general would benefit significantly. He said while the minister has not yet engaged BAIA on the matter, he has no doubt that his proposals are informed by the feedback he gets from the public. “We are glad that he is giving consideration to the feedback.”

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