/ 26 August 2013

Alcohol ban will hurt economy, says Sacci

Bottoms up: An extra 1% tax on alcohol sales could fund a preventive health foundation.
Bottoms up: An extra 1% tax on alcohol sales could fund a preventive health foundation.

"Restrictions on marketing will not only have negative consequences for an important South African industry, but will also have a ripple effect on businesses in other areas such as the advertising, retail and hospitality industries," South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) chief executive Neren Rau said on Monday.

"The motivation given for the proposed ban is understood, but Sacci believes that it will not address the ills attributed to the misuse of alcohol."

The inter-ministerial committee (IMC) to combat alcohol and substance abuse agreed on Friday to submit the draft Control of Marketing of Alcohol Beverages Bill during the next Cabinet cycle.

"The IMC, chaired by Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini and comprising 11 other ministries, agreed that the bill, in its current form, was ready for consideration by Cabinet with the view to gazette it for public comment," the committee said.

The IMC cited numerous inputs from government departments and civil society as motivation for approving the bill.

"Research has shown that the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among adults in South Africa [is] expanding rapidly to the destruction of the families, community and society. Government cannot afford to ignore or be quiet about it."

Curbing harm
The IMC said moves by the industry to curb harm caused by drinking alcohol, such as promoting responsible drinking, were not yielding results.

Rau said the committee admitted that banning alcohol would not produce the required results.

"In fact, the inter-ministerial committee is on record as admitting that global research has shown that a ban does not achieve the required results.

"Alcohol abuse is a symptom of more serious socioeconomic and unemployment challenges that face the country.

"Alleviation of alcohol abuse will be achieved if these challenges are addressed," Rau said.

Various departments presented reports on the effect of alcohol on society.

"The department of health presented that tangible costs of alcohol in South Africa have been estimated to be close to R38-billion, while intangible costs could reach R240-billion."

High risk
​Alcohol is the third leading risk factor for death and disability in South Africa.

More than half of the country's road deaths occur as a result of alcohol abuse, according to the transport department.

"Around 70% of domestic violence has been associated with alcohol; arrestees indicated that they were under the influence of alcohol for 25% of weapons-related offences, 22% of rapes, 17% of murders, 14% of assault cases and 10% of robberies."

Rau said elements of the bill indicated a high degree of intervention in business.

"An increasingly restrictive business environment will contribute to reticence against doing business in South Africa," Rau said. – Sapa