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There’s been some pretty bizarre news here in PNG and that doesn’t come as a surprise. But the recent announcement of an alcohol ban in Madang is “next level”. To make things worse, the justification behind the decision is equally bizarre and the proposed ban by those in authority is intended to “curb crime”.
Madang Governor Peter Yama announced that alcohol will be banned from 22 December 2018 till 22 December 2022. It’s not the number “22” reappearing in the date that should make you frown but the fact that there possibly 22+ problems that could arise during that whopping 4 year ban. And to say that the ban is to eradicate “social ills” is quite simply laughable.
Is there anywhere in the world that proves that alcohol ban has had a positive outcome? Quite the contrary. It seems that those who have tried to ban alcohol have found out that it’s easier to booze under prohibition than previously. But there are more serious issues people need to consider that could arise out of this ban.
Using that special number “22”, here are some of the possibilities that could create more harm than good out of this ban:
Decline in revenue source
It’s estimated that Madang gets around K1.2 million from SP Brewery in tax revenue. During these tough economic times, that’s quite a sizeable amount in loss of revenue.
Loss of long-term sustainable opportunities
What are the opportunity costs removing K1.2 million from the budget? Perhaps investing in education and responsible drinking that would have far-reaching positive and sustainable effects on the community in the long run.
More tax losses
No business will close their doors temporarily until the ban is lifted. We’re talking about 4 years. There’s more losses for the Government in terms of company tax, personal income tax and GST.
Papua New Guinea has a high unemployment rate. Madang itself is no different to this serious concern. Shutting down businesses, cancelling their liquor licenses has the potential to put more people out of jobs. What are the chances they’ll get a job that easily considering the serious lack of employment opportunities?
Liquor licensing authority
Those employed here won’t have a purpose anymore. If they keep their jobs, that’s going to become a waste of money on a department that has no purpose. Money that can be spent better elsewhere.
What happens when you put people out of jobs and provide no opportunities to them? Poverty strikes in – a far more serious social problem. A problem that authorities thought would solve as a result of banning alcohol.
Poverty has been the heart of Papua New Guinea’s social problems. The rise in poverty can lead to crime. The more people that live in poverty the greater the chance for them to be involved in crime.
People turn to homebrew. In fact, homebrew becomes easily accessible than before. Prohibition only gives rise to increase in homebrew consumption. When you have a rise in demand, there is always a way to make it accessible.
As demand rises, suppliers of homebrew look for opportunities to increase revenue. They look for new markets. Everyone under tough economic times wants a piece of the pie. People become more vulnerable to “make it happen”. As they say, “where there is a will, there is always a way”!
Once you had legal businesses paying taxes. Now you have a rise in illegal business all not paying taxes. Tax evasion coupled with rise in criminal activity, you are heading towards lawlessness. Because there is a decline in revenue, you become stagnated – unable to provide a solution because you have no funds to implement ideas to solve a critical social problem.
Apart from the illegality of homebrew, there are serious health concerns from the consumption of homebrew. There is a possibility that increased homebrew consumption could give rise to serious illnesses to those who consume.
There could possibly be a rise in those suffering from illnesses related to homebrew consumption. Doctors, nurses and those working in clinics in hospitals could become over worked, working long hours whilst their pay remains the same. Sooner or later, they burn out due to working excessive hours. The Government can’t bring in more workers because they cannot afford more workers taking into account that their budget has been reduced by K1.2 million.
Hospitals and clinics in Madang aren’t state of the art. With the rise in illness, how can the influx of patients be dealt with?
Lives at risk
With the inadequacy of health services and infrastructure, more lives are put at risk. The situation can become catastrophic.
With all the homebrew, the Police force will have a huge task on hand. Do they have the numbers, do they have the capabilities to handle such widespread illegal activities within the province? Sooner or later, like the Doctores and nurses, they will be overworked and under paid.
With widespread selling and consumption of alcohol, there’s a greater chance that a good number will come into the hands of the Police. Some of those end up in prison waiting for their Court appearances. And then prisons start filling up and space in there becomes scarce. What do you do with those that should be in there but can’t because of inadequate space?
Increased Government spending
With Doctors, nurses and police wanting more pay and facilities requiring maintenance and upgrades, more funding will be required. Sooner or later, one realizes that Government spending is increasing in areas related to the initial prohibition. Expenses become recurring and the initial problem remains unresolved.
Rise in court cases related homebrew and other related cases as a result of the ban rises. Courts are now have a growing list of cases of this nature taking up more of their time than ever before.
The community spirit of looking after each other for the benefit of the community takes a different turn. People start harboring criminals who are wantoks. The wantok spirit of looking after each other for the benefit of the community takes on a completely different meaning.
A different vision
Kids growing up in a community filled with relatives harboring criminals start to think that this is the way of life. Their mindset becomes “intoxicated” with social ills they find as “normal”. Their vision of the future is completely different – it’s not the life we would want our children to live and aim for.
Those in the community who still maintain the strength to abide by the laws start moving out. Their view of the province and its future is no longer what it is. They look for greener pastures. Could it become a ghost town now?
Law abiding citizens who remain
Imagine the law abiding citizens and the businesses who are confronted with lawlessness every day? How can one go by a day without facing all the social ills?
The above are just some of the possibilities that could happen. They may or they may not happen but the truth of the matter is, a prohibition on alcohol has never worked successfully. It has always been a miserable failure since the 1930’s when it was implemented in the UK.
Despite the ban, an even greater concern is that no alternative solution has been published as to what other different strategies are there to combat social ills. Alcohol ban won’t solve everything. What about unemployment? How will the authorities solve this problem because really that is one of the biggest impediments to a striving society.
By the way, if you want to have a beer in Madang, the hotels and guest houses will continue to sell. They’re going to make a “killing” this next four years.
Interesting future ahead.