Editorial

Not worth the shot

  • The latest ‘alcohol ban’ is a classic example of tail-chasing

Nov 29, 2018-

In its latest illogical move to curb the rising incidents of rape in the country, the government has included a new target in its blame-game: alcohol. Last week, the government followed up their blanket ban on pornography by moving to control sales consumption and production of alcohol. It thinks access to pornography and alcohol consumption is the main reasons behind growing crime and rape cases. The draft of a new regulation on alcoholic beverage control--which is expected to be tabled at the Cabinet for approval soon--also includes the proposal to cap new licenses to liquor manufacturing companies, impose a blanket ban on advertisements and restrict sales licenses to liquor shops.

There are far better ways to deal with alcoholism and crime prevention in society than banning liquor sales. Moreover, the regressive move also defies fundamental free market rules that will undoubtedly affect the ease in which businesses can enter and exit a market. As the new regulation limits the number of liquor shops in a single ward to only five, it will simply increase the number of avenues for bootlegging and corruption. This ban therefore, is a classic example of tail chasing which will hardly solve the problem.

Two years ago, the government had enforced the National Policy on Regulation and Control of Alcohol 2017, making it mandatory for advertisements to cover at least 75 percent of each bottle they sell with pictorial warnings that depict liver cirrhosis and alcohol’s effects on other organs. The law also barred people under the age of 21 years and pregnant women from purchasing alcohol drinks.

According to the Federation of Liquor Associations of Nepal, 57 distilleries and nine breweries have received operating licences as of now. But critics have argued that if the new law will be endorsed, the absence of competition in the liquor market will give rise to cartels. And this applies for all industries, not just liquor industries. With more transparency in businesses and more competition in the market, opportunities for corruption are heavily reduced. Rather than following these basic principles, the state seems to be moving in reverse.

In fact, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2017 reveals that Nepal ranks 122nd among 176 countries. Placing these provisions in context with other initiatives that have sought to expand the government’s monopoly over the market--such as the move to negotiate with companies for the development of big infrastructure projects instead of inviting bids through global tender--paints a more dismal picture. The guiding logic that such actions will effectively ‘curb corruption’ is amusing at best.

Governments and politicians are entrusted largely to make unbiased decisions that benefit societies. The government of the day has touted its ‘zero tolerance towards corruption’ in plenty of public speaking occasions. But its current policies and regulations prove otherwise. If the government is serious about curbing corruption, its economic policies must encourage free-market activities instead of moves that will give rise to monopolies that will simply concentrate power and profit in the hands of a few.

Published: 29-11-2018 07:32

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