Monday, September 21, 2020

Government on the verge of abandoning the 70% alcohol

Fearing a possible backlash ahead of next year’s General Elections, President Ian Khama’s close advisors are said to be on the verge of convincing him to abandon his plans to introduce a 70% alcohol levy.

A source close to government and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party this week confirmed that it is unlikely that the President will be going ahead with the 70 % alcohol levy.

“Even if a levy is put it will not be as large as that announced by the president,” he said.
He said from discussions with the President there is now a lot of room for flexibility.

The source said government was still studying proposal by Kgalagadi Breweries, submitted to the Office of the President under the auspices of BOCCIM (Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower) which is the biggest private sector grouping in the country.

Government sources say while initially government and in particular President Ian Khama was unwilling to settle for a compromise, there is now a general understanding that a National Alcohol Policy would be the best for the country.

“I think it is a positive sign that the president is now willing to listen to alternative views,” said the source.
Sunday Standard can confirm that since government announced the coming of the 70 % alcohol levy, various influential personalities including some structures of the ruling party have been quietly urging the President to reconsider his position.

Government’s openness to bend first came when they postponed the introduction of the levy and instead asked BOCCIM to bring proposals to government.

Government is expected to announce its final decision on the matter at the end of September, most probably as part of the President’s Independence message to the nation.
BOCCIM has already submitted their proposals to government.

One of the concessions made to government is that the alcohol industry in Botswana will increase its assistance to government in the fight against the negative effects of alcohol, possibly by setting up a fund to help the victims.

There is also a suggestion to strictly enforce the already existing regulations against alcohol abuse and misuse.

President Khama shocked the nation about three months ago when he announced at a Kgotla meeting that government would be instituting a 70% alcohol levy against alcohol.

Kgalagadi Breweries, a subsidiary of SABMiller, and by far the country’s largest industry player responded by submitting a technical report with the Office of the President warning that if government continued with the levy they would have no choice but to close down their plant in Gaborone as it would no longer make commercial sense to continue operating from Botswana.

Kgalagadi Breweries further said in their report that a total 42 000 will be affected, with the Botswana Stock Exchange poised to lose P1 billion.

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