Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says a radical approach is needed to regulate South Africa's liquor industry if the country is to effectively deal with alcohol abuse.
We need to strive for a balance between the economic opportunities from liquor trade and the regulation of the industry. 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 socio-economic consequences of alcohol abuse, said Minister Davies on Monday.
Addressing the Eastern Cape Provincial Liquor Summit in East London, Minister Davies said South Africa needs to have a measure of radicalism when it comes to decisions about the liquor industry and its regulation in the future.
The Minister said the country has an extraordinarily large and growing problem of alcohol abuse, which needs government to take drastic steps to curtail it.
It is not getting better over time. In fact, the opposite is the case. It is getting worse and worse. We have concluded that the status quo is not working. We need to do things differently from the way which we have been doing up to now, he said.
He reiterated that alcohol abuse is costing the public sector a great deal as it is a major cause of road accidents and major causal factor in domestic violence and violent crime.
According to a 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. 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.
In some provinces, more than half of the unnatural deaths, including motor accidents and violent deaths, have alcohol as a causal factor. That is the reality that we are facing as country, said Minister Davies.
He said because there was no sign that the existing legislative framework is reducing the negative consequences of alcohol abuse, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Substance Abuse concluded that there was a need for a multi-faceted strategy to deal with the problem.
The strategy needed to include tightening up the laws, regulation and enforcement of alcohol consumption, production, distribution and sale because we acknowledged that it is a potentially harmful substance.
Minister Davies took delegates through the proposals that the Department of Trade and Industry has included in the National Liquor Amendment Bill in an attempt to deal with the scourge of alcohol abuse in the country.
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.
The summit was hosted by the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.
Source: South African Government News Agency