The reduction of alcohol levy will lead to reckless alcohol consumption especially among the youth, resulting in all sorts of health hazards for them.
This is according to the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA), which has condemned the impending downward revision of alcohol and tobacco levies from October this year.
The planned levy reduction comes a few months after the government implemented the Tobacco and Alcohol Products Levy Act, 2023, which initially imposed 30 percent and 15 percent levies on tobacco and alcoholic products, respectively.
The governmentâ€™s about-turn to slash the two levies by half is believed to have been influenced by the spirited resistance put up by tobacco and alcohol industry stakeholders against the levies.
But SAAPA believes that by relaxing the tax rates, the government is indirectly encouraging irresponsible drinking to the detriment of the youth, who are considered the future of the country.
Addressing a press briefing in Maseru, the chairperson of SAAPA Thabo MokhutÅ¡oane, said the alcohol levy must stay the same because the high product prices will deter high rates of reckless drinking, and will also create a new source of revenue for the government through collection of the levies.
â€œMaintaining the alcohol levy rate as it is will decrease the high rates of alcohol consumption, and will also assist the government with a new source of income,â€ he said.
SAAPA also believes that the government should have consulted major stakeholders like itself before deciding to reduce the levies.
â€œA 50 percent reduction on the sin taxes has been made irrespective of the deliberations that were made in parliament by stakeholders and government. We feel strongly that a decision of this magnitude should have followed some due process before is done unilaterally as it has happened.â€
Molemo Mpeta, the assistant chairperson of SAAPA indicated that many people have lost their lives at a younger age without realising their dreams due to alcohol abuse.
â€œThere are people who were engineers, doctors, teachers, etc trusted with bringing change in the country, but unfortunately could not due to all kinds of alcohol and tobacco products available in the country.
â€œSome of them had car accidents, some were murdered, some experienced domestic abuse all because of alcohol,â€ Mpeta said.