Alcohol Bill: PSFU urges Parliament to shift focus to addressing illicit alcohol

Alcohol Bill: PSFU urges Parliament to shift focus to addressing illicit alcohol
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Officials from the Private Sector Foundation (PSFU) have asked the Members of Parliament on Health and Trade Committee scrutinizing the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 to shift focus to address the underlying challenge of illicit alcohol that not only affects the health of

consumers but also deprives the government of billions in taxes lost.

According to Dr. Julius Byaruhanga, the PSFU Director of Policy and Business Development, the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 does not apply to the sale of native alcohol which presents a risk of increased illicit trade which is already about 65%.

“This is because most of the illicit alcohol is made under the guise of homebrew. The law here is counter-productive; it equally excludes by encouraging illicit (for home use). This bill extensively undermines the formal alcohol industry sector. There is an urgent need to regulate

illicit alcohol production and trade because of the health implications it has on the population,"Dr.Byaruhanga said.

He said that the formal sector is already regulated by the URA (Uganda Revenue Authority) for taxes, the UNBS (Uganda National Bureau of Standards) for quality purposes.

“The formal sector is further self-regulating. Earlier in 2023, the alcohol sector through the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association launched the responsible code of conduct.  The biggest challenge this country faces whether it is on health or otherwise is the sale of illicit alcoholic drinks. The private sector would appreciate it if this House legislated to control the sale of illicit alcohol.”

Section 14 of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 states that “A licensee shall not sell an alcoholic drink or native liquor before 17:00 hours and after 22:00 hours on working days, and 12:00 hours and after 00:00 hours on public holidays and weekends.

This provision according to Martin Maku, the Agribusiness Sector Coordinator at PSFU will lead to a loss of income to farmers who supply raw materials.

He said that brewers use sorghum, barley, cassava, and corn to manufacture alcoholic beverages.

“The bill is an attack on the national treasury which earns over a trillion in taxes from alcohol. The sector contributes over 35% of the tax base. UAIA members are named among the top five taxpayers in Uganda.”

Charles Batambuze, the Vice Chairman National Culture Forum said the bill casts darkness and uncertainty over the prospects of the creative industry which currently employs over one million young people and contributes over 3% per annum to Uganda’s economy and influences the growth of other industries such as broadcasting, telecommunications, tourism and hospitality.

“The alcohol sector is the biggest single employer of artists and performs in indirect jobs that include brand ambassadors, models, advertising agents, visual artists, designers, and vixens. It also engages them indirectly through sponsorships of events, shows and festivals,” he stated.

He added that bars have continued to be instrumental in talent identification, nurturing, and development by creating and providing platforms for upcoming artists to practice and learn their art.

MPs’ views

Florence Andiru Nebanda, the MP Butaleja said there’s a need to strike a balance between health and the trade or  sale of alcohol.

She said the unregulated sale of alcohol risks it being accessed by underage children.

Mary Annet Nyakato, the Buyende District Woman MP wondered about what brewers are doing in helping sections of Ugandans that have been affected by overconsumption of alcohol.

She said that besides business, players in the alcohol industry should come up with ways of helping the affected people.

Tom Bright Amooti, the MP for Kyaka Central County in Kyegegwa District said there is no evidence that the mover of the bill Sarah Opendi (Tororo Woman MP) consulted line ministries such as trade.

He also said that the fact that the mover of the bill did not have the economic impact report makes the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 dead on arrival.

“We need to protect our country but we do not need to victimize others. The issue of alcohol abuse should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, not the omnibus approach. The bill should be withdrawn."

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