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Local leaders unite against alcohol restriction bill

Jakarta Post - December 9, 2015

Ni Komang Erviani, Denpasar – Business and community leaders in Bali have expressed their opposition to an alcohol prohibition bill that is presently being deliberated at the House of Representatives.

The leaders have argued that the bill, should it be passed into law, would negatively effect the tourist industry on the island and debase local traditions in the country's popular resort paradise.

Speaking to visiting members of the House's alcohol prohibition bill inquiry committee on Monday, Frendy Karmana, chairman of Alcoholic Beverages Type-A Distributors Association Bali, said a prohibition on alcoholic beverages would drive tourists away from Bali and immediately shut down local businesses.

"Business players in Bali are extremely dependent on the growth of the tourist sector on the island. Thus, we firmly reject the bill," Frendy said.

Frendy said that members of the association had reported an average 30 percent decrease in revenues after the Trade Ministry issued in January a regulation stipulating that beverages with an alcohol content of between 1 and 5 percent could only be sold in supermarkets and hypermarkets.

"It is no longer easy for foreign tourists to get our products. Should the sales of alcoholic beverages be fully prohibited in Indonesia, then tourists will not return," Frendy said, adding that a restriction would also cause an increasing amount of alcohol to be distributed on the black market.

Anak Agung Ngurah Alit Wiraputra, the Bali chapter head of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), also proffered a similar view, adding that a legal standing was needed to control the distribution of alcoholic beverages, but not to fully ban them.

The government, he argued, should consider limiting the volume of imported liquor to help boost the domestic industry and support the local economy. "There are many locally produced alcoholic beverages whose quality is much higher compared to imported products," he said.

Earlier this year, all 10 party factions at the House agreed to continue the deliberation of the alcohol prohibition bill. Lawmakers who support the bill have argued that Indonesia needs a stronger legal standing to control the production and consumption of illicit alcohol.

Kuta customary village chief Wayan Swarsa, meanwhile, urged the government to focus on controlling the sales of oplosan (bootleg liquor). Oplosan is distributed in a number of bars throughout Kuta, one of Bali's most popular tourist districts. Swarsa added that the prohibition of alcoholic beverages would threaten local Balinese wisdom because some local traditions and rituals involved the consumption of alcohol.

As a world-famous tourist destination, Bali has seen an increasing number of foreign tourist arrivals over the past few decades.

This year, as of August, 2.6 million foreign tourists visited Bali. This figure is higher than the 2.4 million tourist arrivals recorded during the same period last year.

"[The sales of] alcoholic beverages have strongly supported the tourist sector which is the backbone of our economy. We should consider many things [before prohibiting alcohol]," Bali Deputy Governor I Ketut Sudikerta said.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker I Gusti Agung Rai Wirajaya, a member of the bill's inquiry committee, meanwhile, said that the committee would seek suggestions from all parties during deliberation.

Rai said the bill had been proposed to protect citizens from the negative effects of alcohol consumption. "We are open to any suggestions," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/08/local-leaders-unite-against-alcohol-restriction-bill.html