Raising taxes on alcohol sale not working, another ban in the offing

Raising taxes on alcohol sale only leads to fronting, selling and leasing of already existing licenses at higher prices.

This was discussed in the seminar on Alcohol Use and Abuse in Bhutan last week where data presented showed that despite raising taxes on the sale, alcohol consumption remains the same.

An official from Department of Trade (DoT) under the economic affairs ministry (MoEA), Kuenzang Dorji, said that as per the alcohol regulation act, the only means right now to restrict alcohol consumption is through raising taxes.

Therefore the economic affairs ministry (MoEA)  is planning to ban alcohol use since the alcohol regulation act does not prohibit but merely restricts consumption alcohol consumption.

However he said banning of alcohol completely will be difficult since it was once tried in the year 1999 by the ministry unsuccessfully.

The government lifted the ban in 2007. “If the issuance of license is stopped, people may challenge us saying that the right to profession is debarred”, he said adding therefore that licenses for alcohol sale is not a fool-proof solution.

“We have to come up with other alternatives,” he said.

However, a participant from Army Welfare Project (AWP) said that tax revisions never helped. “Collections before and after tax revisions have always been the same; in fact taxes in the last six months amounted to Nu 52 mn.”

One of the key factors which leads to alcohol consumption as discussed in the workshop was encouragement from the environment. “So we should be targeting the environment rather than going for alcohol directly,” said the Director General of National Statistical Bureau (NSB).

Per capita alcohol consumption in 2010 was 8.47 liters in Bhutan whereas globally it was 6.2 liters.

Most people go for cosmopolitan drinks such as spy, peach wine, and Figuria. “People go for beer rather than ara since it is diluted and stronger,” said one of the participants.

The most popular brand at present is ‘Rock Bee’; earlier it used to be ‘Black Mountain’.

“Alcohol promotes drug use so the youth shouldn’t have access to alcohol”, said another participant.

About 90% of the Bhutanese population consumes alcohol.  The strength of ara and bangchang consumption is 35% and 25% respectively.

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  1. Why don’t stop manufacturing alcoholic drinks? On side we are talking and vigorously working on GNH but on other side we are killing our own people by manufacturing hard drinks. I am really confused. 

  2. Samden Drup Matsug

    To deter alcohol consumption the government should charge any person who visits hospital to treat directly related alcohol sickness. Since medical treatment is free in Bhutan people are capitalizing on this services.

    • So you mean to say …raise another WALL to let the people with alcohol related problems just lie and die? Do you even realize that 90% of Bhutanese consumes alcohol as per the above report. Hospitals are there so that people who are sick can come..and alcohol abusing is also just another sickness.

  3. Raising tax to to curb the rupee crunch will end with the same story as alcohol coz our politicians never do ground research and directly jumping to the conclusion.

    • yes i surely go in line with ala…. bhutanese decisions at higher level lacks basic researches….  its like they are taking a foolish jump as and when they feel to… situations will never improve if they keep on with their ‘trial and error’ method of law making….

  4. another ban just means no lessons were learned from the tobacco ban. 

  5. One thing I could not understand is how the raising of taxes on alcohol is leading to fronting, leasing and selling of existing licenses at higher prices is likely, but fronting, I am not sure. Maybe the Bhutanese can explain how raising of taxes has led to fronting.

  6. Raise tax on shtting, pissing and kissing now,,, thats all our leaders know,,,,,, they get free wine and alcohol……….. do do ,,, hell taking they are our country

  7. Serve only Ara Singchang and Bangchang for all official dinners sponsored by donor agencies

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