What you need to know:
The Bill, tabled last month, seeks to regulate alcohol consumption hours
Alcohol manufacturers have warned that more than 1.3million Ugandans working within the alcohol industry risk losing their jobs should the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2023, be enacted.
The Bill, being fronted by Tororo District Woman MP Sarah Opendi, proposes that all persons found selling alcohol beyond 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends, should either be fined Shs20m or imprisonment for a period of 10 years or both.
Speaking at a consultation meeting at Ministry of Finance yesterday, Ms Jackie Tahakanizibwa, the secretary general of Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA), said the restriction on hours to sell alcohol will affect the consumers and other industry players.
“This restriction on working hours has the potential to affect about 1,300,000 jobs and the livelihoods of approximately 6,300,000 people across the whole value chain, including manufacturers, grain growers, distributors, pubs, and clubs,” Ms Tahakanizibwa warned.
She added: “A major source of concern is the potential loss of income for more than 300,000 farmers and their families in over 32 districts of Uganda who produce the raw ingredients required for the production of alcohol.”
According to UAIA, the two largest beer producers in the country spend more than Shs205b in the farming communities every year. The association noted, therefore, that the Bill would infringe on the livelihoods of farmers, who supply resources such as sorghum, barley, cassava, and maize to the sector.
“The Bill’s economic implications are significant, with an anticipated budgetary loss of more than $1 trillion in alcohol-related taxes. Members of the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA) are consistently listed among the top five taxpayers in the country, contributing more than 35 percent of the national tax base,” Ms Tahakanizibwa said.
She also cautioned that the consequences go beyond the industry’s borders, as the Bill may drive away investors in the alcohol industry to other countries without tight restrictions.
“This outflow of investment has the potential to hinder economic growth and innovation within the industry, harming not only the enterprises involved, but also the entire economy,” she warned.
It’s against this background that Ms Tahakanizibwa asked legislators to amend by expanding the clause of the time of selling alcohol.
At the same event, Ms Evelyn Anite, the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatisation, said the government is going to crack down on all unregistered companies dealing in alcohol.
“We are going to crack down on them before the Bill is passed. Government takes the responsibility. UNBS [Uganda National Bureau of Standards] will license the producers and ensure all their product are tested, “Minister Anite said.
Adding: “We are going to regulate the 65 percent of the manufacturers who are causing health damage to the lives of the people...Ms Sarah Opendi did not come out of the blue, we see young people on the streets moving with sachets regardless of the hour and they are drinking their lives away.”
The other clauses of the Bill include premises selling alcohol not being within a distance of 400 metres from a school, places of worship, a health unit, and a residential area. Also, premises selling alcohol must not be situated at a fuel station.
Ms Opendi argued that high consumption of alcohol affects productivity in communities, thus there is a need to regulate the manufacturing, sale, and consumption of alcohol.
Recent findings by the World Bank reveal that 7.1 percent of alcohol consumers, roughly 3.2 million people in Uganda, struggle with alcohol use disorders.
ABOUT THE BILL
On November 14, Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi presented the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2023 to Parliament.
The Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks and also prohibit the sale of alcoholic drinks to children, among other proposals.