South Africa requires a radical approach to regulate the country’s liquor industry if it hopes to deal effectively with the negative socioeconomic effects of alcohol abuse, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies has said.
“We need to strive for a balance between the economic opportunities from liquor trade and the regulation of the industry,” Davies said.
“Unfortunately, the economic gains we get from the revenue that the government receives from the industry are far less than what it costs government to deal with the socioeconomic consequences of alcohol abuse. We have to be able to bite the bullet and have a measure of radicalism when it comes to our decisions about the liquor industry and its regulation in the future.”
Davies said this during the Eastern Cape Provincial Liquor Summit in East London on Tuesday.
He said South Africa had an extraordinarily large and growing problem of alcohol abuse that needed government to take drastic steps to curtail it.
“We have concluded that the status quo is not working. We need to do things differently from the way which we have been doing them up to now,” Davies said.
He reiterated that alcohol abuse was costing the public sector a great deal, as it was a major cause of road accidents and major causal factor in domestic violence and violent crime.
“According to the study conducted some time ago, on average the cost of alcohol abuse to government is R37 billion a year. Recent estimates put it at R50 billion a year,” Davies said.
“That’s five times the budget of our department. This is money which is being spent on dealing with the consequences of the carnage caused by alcohol abuse.”
Davies said that because there was no sign that the existing legislative framework was reducing the negative consequences of alcohol abuse, the interministerial committee on substance abuse concluded that there was a need for a multifaceted strategy to deal with the problem.
The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) has made proposals in the National Liquor Amendment Bill, which attempts to deal with the scourge of alcohol abuse.
These include increasing the legal drinking and purchase age from 18 to 21, restricting advertising, regulating trading hours, introducing liability for manufacturers and distributors, and intensifying education and awareness.