Brewer calls to revisit 100 - year old Excise laws

The Excise Ordinance of 1913 should be amended at least now to address modern day issues, a top official of a leading Sri Lankan brewery stated.

“This law was enacted in an era far remote from today’s business and regulatory environment and over the years there has been little or no effort to moder nize it,” Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC CEO/ Director, Suresh Shah said.

The Excise Ordinance is the principal law governing the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcohol products in Sri Lanka.

He also stated that from a policy perspective, taxation and availability must be linked to alcohol content. “This will help keep per capita consumption of pure alcohol at moderate levels with enforcement, eliminating the supply and use of illicit liquor,” he added.

He also urged that whilst enforcement addresses the supply of illicit alcohol, pragmatic policies are needed to counter demand.

“Towards this end, legal alcohols particularly soft alcohols, bearing in mind health related issues, need to be more affordable and less difficult to access,” the CEO noted.

He further stated that results will not be evident overnight. “Yet the quicker the start, the earlier the results will be seen,” the CEO added. Meanwhile Shah pointed out that there is a perceived reduction in the consumption of illicit alcohol in the country.

“The widespread availability of very cheap legal arracks, carrying wafer thin margins when considering the excise taxes that must be paid, helped,” he noted.

Furthermore, improving income levels amongst the underprivileged is another factor that has helped upgrade to a safer product. Yet, Shah stated, the risk to reward ratio in the illicit alcohol business is still so skewed towards the latter that this menace is likely to remain in the country for some time to come.

“Illicit alcohol can be completely eliminated only if the associated rewards are reduced to a level that makes the activity unattractive,” he said.

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