PSFU and Culture Industry Warn Against Alcohol Control Bill, Citing Economic Impact

The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), in conjunction with the Culture and Creatives sector, has cautioned against the implementation of the Alcohol Drinks Control Bill 2023, warning of detrimental impacts on nightlife and a substantial reduction in the tax base, which would adversely affect the Economy and Trade.

PSFU voiced its concerns yesterday, stating, “The Bill poses a threat to the National Treasury, as the alcohol sector contributes over one trillion shillings in taxes, constituting more than 35% of the tax base.”

The foundation further emphasized, “The enactment of this Bill could result in the loss of millions of jobs, billions in revenue, and the potential collapse of the alcohol manufacturing industry. Additionally, it could significantly impact Uganda’s tourism sector, as the country leads the region in nightlife, which is a key selling point.”

Dr. Julius Byaruhanga, Director of Policy and Business Development at PSFU, highlighted that the proposed legislation’s ripple effects would extend across all sectors.

The Bill proposes stringent penalties, including fines of up to Shs 20 million or imprisonment for 10 years, for those found in contravention. It also advocates for a rigorous licensing system for bars.

However, PSFU argued, “Limiting operating hours may not necessarily reduce alcohol consumption and could inadvertently lead to increased home consumption.”

Representatives from the culture and creative industries raised concerns that restricted operating hours and stringent licensing procedures would hamper their ability to conduct business effectively, as many patrons frequent nightlife venues during the evening.

Additionally, they advocated for the removal of clauses granting the minister powers to regulate alcohol advertising, fearing it could stifle the gig economy by affecting influencers and brand ambassadors.

Mr. Martin Marku, PSFU’s Agriculture, Agribusiness, and Forestry Sector Coordinator, informed legislators that exempting native liquor for domestic use or traditional ceremonies could potentially fuel illicit trade.

The culture and creative industry representatives also objected to strict licensing requirements, particularly the provision prohibiting bars within four hundred meters of schools or fuel stations.

However, Ms. Margaret Ayebare, Chair of the committee meeting and Mbarara Woman MP, raised concerns about whether the business community had taken into account the health implications for Ugandans.