Friday, June 9, 2023

What has happened to money from the alcohol Levy?

It is now almost eight years since Botswana government decided to introduce the Alcohol Levy.
That time is long enough to allow for a detailed review and reevaluation of that policy.
Right from the beginning the Alcohol Levy was divisive.
It is important to note that the Government chose to go ahead and introduce the policy without sufficiently convincing those of us who held that the policy would in the long-term prove deleterious, counter-productive and harmful.
In many ways the policy has remained divisive for all its time.
The capricious nature with which the Alcohol Levy was imposed and subsequently increased has dented business confidence in Botswana.
The Levy was a one-man decision imposed and managed with a zeal and fevour that were akin to religious fundamentalism.
Those like us who dared to question the science and economics that were used to justify the Levy were brutally and summarily dealt with through the high hand of state media.
No dissent was brooked, much less encouraged.
Almost ten since the Alcohol Levy was first imposed it is important to retrospect.
Questions should be raised on what the Alcohol has achieved.
We need to know if Batswana are drinking any less as a result of the alcohol Levy.
It is also important to know if alcohol related road accidents gone up or down.
Proponents of the Levy argued that alcohol consumption in Botswana directly correlated with HIV/AIDS infections. They said alcohol in Botswana was driving up HIV/AIDS new infections.
Almost ten years on, it is important to know the verdict of the jury ÔÇô fully backed by empirical evidence since the Levy was introduced.
Among other things, it was said at the time that money from the Levy would be used to support road accident victims who had met their fate at the hands of drunken drivers.
This too is important to share with the public just how many beneficiaries there has been.
It is important to have audited results of the fund ÔÇô especially how it has been managed over the years.
At the inception of the Levy, there was also wanton talk that funds would be taken from the Levy to allow Government and NGOs to build therapy and rehabilitation centres to help alcoholics recover.
It would be interesting to know how many such centres have been built to date, how much money in subventions have gone towards running such centres and curiously, how the beneficiaries are coping.
One thing that is however beyond doubt is that the Levy has ruined the alcohol industry in Botswana.
It is also clear that alcohol brands from outside the country have since acquired enhanced market share owing not just to9 the levy, but more crucially to the lopsided arithmetic with which it was implemented during the first few years of its inception.
There is also irrefutable proof that homemade brews, including illegal ones have over the time made inroads into the market.
Our policy towards the Alcohol Levy is well known and has not changed through the years.
We have always believed that the response by our Government towards Government was not backed by scientific research but rather a whimsical and deep-seated hatred of alcohol by those at the seat of power. We also believed ÔÇô and this point we fiercely put forward ÔÇô that what science was being put forward by proponents of the Levy was half-baked as to be quack research.
That position remains the same.
We however reopen the debate by way of raising the above question with a singular hope that we can once and for all as a nation use data on the ground to settle this divisive policy that has dogged our nation for close to ten years now.
Our nation is not to reopen old scars, but rather to heal them, and find closure, with the hope that those who are proved wrong by data could graciously accept defeat and move on.


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