Beer tax hike justified
Published On January 7, 2014 » 3525 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Opinion
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A FEW years after independence, first Republican president Kenneth Kaunda was reported to have threatened to resign as president of the newly independent Zambia, charging that he could not be at the helm of a nation of drunkards.

There were actually reports then that Zambia ranked fourth in the world in terms of beer-drinking. Whether such a statistic could be verified by an independent body of researchers is a matter for conjecture.

Searching for reliable information on this allegation is difficult because no one has ever come up with a survey to back up this observation.

Some people went further though, joking that Zambia was then not doing well economically because, while nationals of neighbouring countries had made it routine to go in their fields to cultivate over weekends and on holidays, their Zambian counterparts saw this an opportunity to frequent bars and drink their heads off.

Much of these arguments may sound rather blown-out-of-proportion, an exaggeration. However, there are certainly sincere points that tend to make all odds against beer drinking feasible.

For a start imbibing, especially excessive beer-drinking that makes one drunk, is harmful to one’s health, according to health personnel who say that it damages the liver of those who drink in this manner.

It is one habit or practice known widely to have led to break-ups of many homes which could have otherwise remained intact had one spouse or both not taken to beer-drinking. Many court cases are a clear testimony to this fact.

Further, many people who have committed various crimes or engaged in some form of anti-social behaviour have in the end blamed drunkenness for their actions.

In addition, only a few weeks ago, the Road Transport and Safety Agency enforced the law on weekend imprisonment, saying they wanted to curb drunk-driving which they blamed for most of the road traffic accidents and deaths.

Health workers also say that malnutrition among children thrives in those homes that do not necessarily belong to low-income groups but where parents, especially the bread-winners have taken so much to the bottle.

These people tend to spend more on beer than on food for the family.

As a result, innocent children suffer stunted growth, and it is beer which carries the blame. The negatives against beer and beer-drinking may go on and on.

The Ndola Liquor Traders Association has raised alarm, however, criticising the recent increase of excise duty on locally produced clear beer from 40 to 60 per cent.

The association says the move will encourage rampant smuggling of cheap alcoholic beverages from outside the country into Zambia, and this would harm the local beer industry.

As an association dealing in the business of beer, the Ndola Liquor Traders Association has of course to be concerned. However, as it says, smuggling, including smuggling of beer, remains rampant on Zambia’s porous borders.

In fact this is not the first time tax on beer has been increased, resulting in a consequent increase of prices of beer in bars and other retail shops.

Smuggling of beer from outside which has been going on for years has not adversely affected the local beer industry. And every time there has been an increase in beer prices occasioned by an upward adjustment of tax, this has not resulted in the loss of business by liquor traders.

Bars and night clubs remain the most frequented places while beer continues to sell like hot cakes, no matter how high the prices may be. Of all companies, it is perhaps only those dealing in alcoholic beverages that never record losses, and we beg to be corrected on this point, with facts.

This then means that the Ndola Liquor Traders Association is opposed to the increase in duty simply because members want their outlets to remain very profitable, otherwise odds far outweigh benefits of the liquor business and tax increase in this sector, by whatever margin, may be justifiable. OPINION

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