- Title: BOTSWANA: Bar owners and consumers up in arms over new alchohol tax in Botswana
- Date: 20th November 2009
- Summary: GABORONE, BOTSWANA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF EXTERIOR OF BAR MAN SINGING AND PLAYING KEYBOARD INSIDE BAR VARIOUS OF BAR INTERIOR/PEOPLE BUYING AND DRINKING ALCOHOLIC DRINKS (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED BAR MANAGER, SAYING: "Yeah, by the time they come in we will be ready to shut and then they will probably be in for 30 minutes and then they will be like 'ok, it's time to shut, we're all going'. Or the cops will come in and say 'where's your licence?'. They want us to close."
- Embargoed: 5th December 2009 12:00
- Location: Botswana
- Country: Botswana
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA3BVD9YOTIEVN6Y14MI3S7L9OH
- Story Text: A government initiative to curb drinking in Botswana meets opposition from musicians and bar owners whose business has been affected by the new 30 percent alcohol tax and shorter drinking hours.
Aimed at curbing Botswana's high rates of HIV and deadly road accidents, a government initiative to curb drinking has proved to be unpopular with musicians, bar owners, and other small businesses whose revenue is linked to alcohol sales.
Besides public information campaigns, the initiative includes a 30 percent tax on alcohol sales and shorter drinking hours in clubs and bars.
Botswana's government says the initiative brings the Southern African country into line with international norms.
But despite its good intentions, the campaign has been very unpopular with many small businesses, whose profits have been hit by the shorter licencing hours which mean that many customers spend much less time in the bars.
"Yeah, by the time they come in we will be ready to shut and then they will probably be in for 30 minutes and then they will be like 'ok, it's time to shut, we're all going'. Or the cops will come in and say 'where's your licence?'. They want us to close," one bar manager said.
Jeff Ramsay, an official in the President's office, said the new initiative aimed to tackle some of Botswana's key social issues.
The small Southern African country has one of the world's highest rates of HIV, with about a quarter of the adult population living with the virus.
Despite intensive public information campaigns, HIV continued to spread, Ramsay said, adding that alcohol was also killing in other ways.
"Well we had known for some time that alcohol was a contributing factor to some of the other major problems that we had. I had mentioned road traffic accidents, for example. We have a very high road fatality rate and a lot of that, of course, is related to alcohol," he said.
With Botswana's President Ian Khama winning a landslide election victory last month (October 2009), the government may have the political capital to push ahead with beneficial but unpopular initiatives such as this one.
But some observers question the unintended social consequences of the campaign and wonder how many small businesses will go bankrupt.
"We cannot afford alcohol, we cannot afford alcohol any more because it's expensive and we cannot pay for our children's schooling and their other needs," Rosemary Sibanda, a 'shebeen queen' or owner of a traditional bar, said.
While Botswana has not yet conquered its high rates of HIV and income equality, the world's biggest diamond producer is widely praised for its political stability, good governance, and consistent economic growth since independence in 1966.
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