Drinkers left dry as Indonesia clamps down on alcohol

Venting on Facebook about the lack of beer at her neighbourhood’s stores has become a daily habit for Susie, 40-year-old mother in Bintaro, a middle-class area near Jakarta.

“It’s so hot these days, and getting a cold beer is like trying to find a treasure chest,” she told The Parrot.

The government in April imposed a ban on the sale of beer and other alcoholic drinks with alcohol content of less than 5 per cent in 16,000 minimarts and 55,000 mom-and-pop shops across the country.

Supermarkets, hotels and food outlets are still allowed to sell such alcoholic beverages. The ban, which government says is intended to curb under-age drinking, has rankled many beer-drinking Indonesians, but the worst may be yet to come.

Support is growing among lawmakers for a bill, proposed by two Islamic parties, that would criminalise the production, sale and consumption of drinks with alcohol content of more than 1 per cent.

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party and the Democratic Party have agreed to discuss the bill this year, according to media reports.

The bill, initiated in 2012 by the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS),  proposes that producing alcoholic beverages be punishable by up to 10 years in jail, while drinkers could face up to two years in prison.

Drinkers, producers and sellers of alcoholic beverages could also face  a fine of between Rp 10 million (US$775) and Rp 50 million.

The bill would allow for exceptions such as tourism, religious rituals and pharmacy and in places where the sale of alcoholic drinks is allowed in separate regulations.

Critics say the alcohol clampdown could trigger a rise in the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages. Industry officials warn that as many 200,000 people working in the beverage sector could lose their jobs.

Indonesia has among the world’s lowest alcohol consumption.

An average Indonesian drank the equivalent of about 0.6 litres of pure alcohol in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.

A 2010 Health Ministry report said only 2.6 per cent of 250 million Indonesians consumed alcohol.

Beer consumption in Indonesia, however, has been growing recent years, at rate of about 4 per cent a year, according to industry data.

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