License to kill

It’s good that the government will rake in an extra 10 million bucks from the auction of alcohol vendor licenses in Southern Bhutan. The bids were exceptionally high. Many of them sold for twice, thrice and even five-times the earlier amount. And one of them – the license to sell wholesale liqueur in Kuchidaina, Samtse – saw a whopping 2020% jump.

That the government will make that extra money is good news. But we should also be concerned. Our readiness to pay huge license fees means that the alcohol business is thriving. And that just confirms that the government is doing too little to address the abuse of alcohol in this country.

But there’s another reason for concern. The government has auctioned the alcohol vendor licenses just before they submit their annual budget proposal to the National Assembly. The budget report will include proposals to increase taxes. And if taxes on alcohol are raised, the winning vendors could find themselves facing loses that they hadn’t bargained for.


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  1. tempadap says

    Now, what should government do???? if gov ban it, i am sure everyone will blame gov for infringing fundamental right….if gov increase the tax, it can be brewed locally and it will be difficult to control the consumption….should gov create awareness!!!…in fact, most of us who drinks including me know the harmful side of alcohol but still we drink….for me, i don’t find any solution!…..maybe, certain thing should be left for people themselves to decide……rather, we ourselves should control our drinking habit… government can’t poke on every issue and we should not expect as well…if gov does that, it becomes dictatorial government….so, let us not blame each other, rather blame ourselves for drinking excessive and creating problem in the family and community…

  2. vendors willing to pay increased licence fees & hard data showing increasing deaths & health costs both point to an urgent need to address adverse effects of alcohol on our society…but what do our mps do? they stupidly agree that no new action or laws are needed; instead, old rules must be implemented…
    this govt & its mps see fit to enact    tobacco legislation that has actually  put people in prison… but faced with proof that alcohol is a much worse vice, it detracts … talk of misplaced priorities & patronising the people …it’s a serious error in judgment of the health minister (who was so smug with the tobacco act) & the dpt mps – remember, the people are watching & discussing the manner in which governance is being delivered …

  3. 1. Let us admit the fact that both tobacco and alcohol are bad, for personal as well as national, and community health

    2. let us admit that Government had tried to implement strict rules concerning tobacco and after some offenders were apprehended, people made hue and cry that tobacco rules are harsh and draconian

    3. Now if government formulates strict rules concerning alcohol and implement them, what guarantee is there that same hue and cry will not be made?.

    4. So ultimately, it is almost like catch 22 situation–if you take action you are cursed; if you do not you are damned.

    5. Then where lies the problem and solution? Good question but will have variable answers. My answer is self regulation and know your limit and responsibility. Do not expect government to regulate all our personal habits. When it does we cry and curse the government.


  4. I am fully with Thinlay in all his 5 points raised here. Unless people understand the cause and decide to quit or control themselves, Law and law enforcers have their own limitaions to be successful.

    Having said this, I in many ways appreciate government’s move of autioning the license and increasing the tax on the other hand. From both ends, it is tightining the grip of controlling alcohol but in a liberal way. I am a heavy drinker myself. I know cost of alcohol is going to escalate from tax increase and venders trying to recover their auction investment. I welcome the move. I will be forced to control my drinking habit when I fail to afford it.

    Both Tobacco and Alcohol are harmful to health. We all know! However, alcohol and tobacco have two different social scenario. We cannot simply blame the MPs. Tobacco Act is in favor of the bigger mass of the population, the rural community. Therefore, a fist rule can control the smaller size Tobacco lovers. Whereas, alcohol is loved across the society, urban and rural alike. The law/rule therefore has be liberal and the enforcement has to be diplomatic.

    Science or religion, in democracy it is the vote that is counted!

  5. Ajang_Tawjey says

    I think it is not necessary to make such strict rules and increases such a huge taxes to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption. With such rules which letting people go behind the bar, making people suffer more just for consuming what he has paid…….seems going out of the topic of GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS.
    Even if govt increase the taxes,people who drink will keep drinking, paying and spending most of his salary or monthly income in it and finally the sufferer will be the family member of those people….so govt should also think about those innocents…
    The simple and most effective measures to reduce the harmful effect of such things can be done by educating the people about harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption by encouraging some good programmes on TV with good evidences about the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol and also at the village level where there is no TV lines, govt should encourage health persons to organize some meetings and sometime organize some shows to create good awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol. As far as i concern if govts main aim is to reduce harmful health effect of tobacco and alcohol consumption, no other way can be successful other than educating the people.

  6. Well… the government is very good at enacting laws. So why not another law. Ban alcohol. Catch the sellers and drinkers. Tell the police to catch those who break the law. Imprison them for three years.

    I personally feel that Bhutan seems like a lawless country when I look at the Parliament proceedings.

    How was Bhutan under the absolute monarchy? Were there any rules and regulations which frequently talks about police and imprisonment in the NA sessions?

    May be they (the MPs) want to prolong their stay in the Assembly sessions, for benefits no one knows!

  7. guardian says

    In the southern belts at least, it is safe to assume that most of the booze will go over the border in to India. That explains the astronomical jump in vendor fees that people are willing to pay.

    In regard to increasing taxes for all alcohol related products, the vendors must realize that it is always possible that the government may increase taxes, given the hue and cry that is being made about the RGOB not doing anything to tackle the alcohol related problems in the country.

    By the way, I hope the RGOB raises the taxes on alcohol products asap.

  8. Ive seen how other countries tackle alcohol and tobacco consumption-its a 2 tier strategy.
    1. Enforce high taxes on products and ban or limit consumption to certain areas/timing/etc

    2.Prevention strategy: through media advertising, awareness campaigns, social and ethical responsibility, addictions centres, easy access to pharmaceutical and medical intervention.

    Bhutan lacks the latter i.e. prevention strategies-I have seen many billboards and stick up posters about alcohol and no smoking signs, but hardly anything on tv or print media about it…e.g. in Australia they show graphic adverts showing damaged lungs of smokers and a graphic advert about drink driving and after effects(death, etc)
    There are none of the above.

    Personally also, more than tobacco, alcohol is more of a potential threat to our Bhutanese society because it works on so many levels. It affects familiies, friends, the life of the person himself-there is both physical and psycological damage done.
    Im surprised that alcohol didnt get banned and tobacco did. Then again I suppose its because alcohol is a favourite amongst our government individuals thus it is played down.
    Alcohol has always been a vice in Bhutanese history.
    OP la, Id love to see active and aggresive pursuit of both strategies-so many other countries have tackled it succcessfully, I dont see why Bhutan cant.

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