Government has appointed a consultant to review the impact of the 30 percent alcohol levy on locally brewed products and imports. This comes after local brewers KBL and BBL shed off almost 100 jobs after losses made over the Christmas holidays.
The introduction of the levy has also been criticised by some of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament (MPs) during the on going parliamentary session, saying it has contributed to inflation.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry told the Monitor that a multi-sectoral committee, with a dedicated consultant, has been established to advise government on the various aspects of the regulation and control of intoxicating liquor, including the administration of the alcohol levy.
"The impact of the levy, therefore, would be assessed from time to time by the multi-sectoral committee. The appointment of a dedicated consultant is being finalised", said director of internal trade John Matsheng
Matsheng says the ministry wants an independent committee and a consultant to advise them because right now some importers claim that the implementation of the levy favours the local brewers, while on the other hand local brewers are crying foul that the exercise favours the importers.
He said on December 12 last year, government amended the Regulations for the Alcohol Levy such that the calculation of the levy for imported alcoholic beverages is at landed cost to include transport and insurance. " This was to ensure that the imported alcoholic beverages are not cheaper than the domestically produced equivalents. Actually some importers have complained to the ministry stating that the calculation of the levy to include transport and insurance put them at a disadvantage," Matsheng said.
"We are unable to understand why and how the imports become cheaper. There could be other factors outside the imposed levy influencing the differences in price", he added.
Matsheng meanwhile has absolved President Ian Khama of any blame. It is public knowledge that Khama
"Government accepted the recommendation of the consultancy that the regulation of non-liquor businesses should be simplified while the regulation of the liquor trade should be stringent. The consultancy further recommended that a social levy be imposed on all imported and locally produced propriety brand liquor. It recommended that the levy be used both for liquor education in schools and elsewhere, and for the rehabilitation of those that are afflicted by excessive consumption of alcohol", Matsheng told the Monitor.
"In an effort to redress and/or reduce the abuse of alcohol, government introduced some interventions such as the reduction of operating hours, education campaigns on the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, and a modest 30 percent levy on alcohol."
Matsheng further said the purpose of the levy is to promote projects and activities designed to promote responsible alcohol consumption through, public and school education campaigns on the harmful effects of alcohol abuse.
Other measures include advocating non-alcohol youth activities; supporting measures for the rehabilitation of victims of alcohol abuse; monitoring and limiting the role of advertising of alcohol in sports activities. Others include reviewing and advising on the practices relating to the sale of alcohol; complementing law enforcement measures and to curb drunken driving; and such other activities aimed at curbing alcohol abuse or minimising its effect as the Alcohol Levy Implementing Committee may, by notice approve.