You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time
- Abraham Lincoln
At the rate the interested parties have been propagating the image of a “Moonshine mafia” these days, any outsiders might wonder whether Sri Lanka has become a land of mafias on the lines of Sicilian or American Mafia and may think twice about before visiting the country.
On the other hand, given the power attributed to this “moonshine mafia” by the concerned parties, which included chance of overturning government policies, the locals here would have wondered whether the Moonshine mafia would run for office at the 2020 polls and given a run for their money for UNP, SLFP and JO candidates.
Anyone with common sense would have wondered as to whom alcohol industry and its supporters are trying to fool. Surely ours is a nation that knows A,B,C better. The creation of an omnipotent mafia to pre-empt the medical professionals from debunking government logic on beer tax reduction is nothing but a gross insult on the intelligence of the entire Sri Lankan nation.
By now the fact that the government has made a glaring blunder in its calculations for reducing the beer tax is proven beyond doubt by cabinet ministers, medical professionals, University of Colombo and the well-meaning media. Two Cabinet ministers have already explained that the logic behind the western alcohol tax works in the reverse direction in countries like Sri Lanka. Besides the majority of Cabinet ministers have opposed the beer tax reduction proposal in Cabinet itself.
While the government insisted that its rationale is based on a study by University of Colombo, the university denied having conducted such research study. It pointed out that though the academic who conducted the research is attached to the university, the said report was part of his private research and not of the university. Moreover it has been found that the academic is yet to complete his research which is his maiden research on alcohol. One wonders what the government ministers who insisted “it’s a University of Colombo study” have got to say now. If that is not enough, the researcher is now on record that his statistics have been misinterpreted, and according to his findings only 4.9 lakhs are into moonshine.
The fact that the beer industry and its handlers in government were in tandem in their efforts to get the beer tax reduced by hook or by crook was evident by the wide publicity given to the incomplete report by those patronized by the industry. Immediately after the budget speech the interested parties rushed to create a phobia of an all-powerful “Moonshine mafia” by splattering Colombo walls with posters in a bid to forestall an exposure of the poor budget logic by those armed with scientific data.
The absurdity behind the tax logic however is not limited alcohol. While the Yale University, USA has hailed Sri Lanka’s air quality in its annual World Environmental Performance Index claiming it’s the country with the best air quality in entire South Asia, the government has rushed to slap a carbon tax on the already overburdened tax payer. The vast improvement in air quality in Sri Lanka has been attributed to the 2008 legislation of vehicle emission testing. Carbon tax is a feature of highly industrialized countries and those with high levels of vehicular emissions.
Aping the West without studying the ground realities has always been a weakness attributed to the Yahapalana government by political analysts. This flaw has already made the government unpopular, especially among the middle class that is livid over its failure to relate to their needs and interests. Right now more and more parents are lining up against the beer tax reduction which is going to tantalize the teens with its new affordability. What the government should realize is at some point or the other, it is going to confront this enraged electorate. Still it is not too late to correct its glaring mistake.