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.