Sri Lanka President sulks over beer price reduction

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena Monday expressed displeasure over the reduction in beer prices following his government’s new tax formula for alcoholic drinks that made the brew cheaper.

Sirisena said any reduction in alcoholic drinks was not acceptable to the government’s temperance drive and said the country had received accolade from the World Health Organisation for its anti-alcohol and tobacco policies.

"I cannot accept the reduction in beer prices… Getting more revenue from alcohol and tobacco should not be part of government policy," he said in parliament while speaking on the health ministry votes.

However, he ended his 15-minute speech by saying that he approved Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s 2018 budget proposals. A key plank of the budget was the reform of the way alcohol was taxed.

Samaraweera had taken what he called a pragmatic view and imposed tax based on the alcohol content of drinks which made beer and wine cheaper. It is also hoped that lower prices will discourage the consumption of hard liquor.

Following the new tax formula, beer prices fell by about 50 percent while wine too became considerably cheaper.

Any increase in alcohol prices usually lead to an expansion of the illicit liquor industry which does not pay any taxes but have emerged an influential lobby that finances politicians as well as law enforcement.

(COLOMBO, December 4, 2017)

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