The Jakarta Post
The government will relax the sale of liquor and let regional administrations determine the places where people can buy alcoholic beverages with the condition the outlets are not close to houses of worship, schools or hospitals, according to an official.
Trade Ministry director general for domestic trade, Srie Agustina, said the ministry was still drafting a guide on the issue to be issued later this month or in October at the latest.
The move is part of the review of 32 regulations under the ministry, as included in the economic policy package that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo issued earlier this month.
Srie said the operational guide on this issue would principally allow regional administrations to determine places to sell alcoholic beverages.
'As long as it [the store] is not next to a house of worship, hospital or educational center, it's fine,' she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Srie said the existing ministerial regulation, issued by then trade minister Rachmat Gobel, banned the sale of alcoholic drinks at minimarkets.
According to Srie, the ministry is trying to relax the regulation. However, details on its implementation are still unclear.
The regional administration's policy to restrict the places where alcohol can be sold, Srie said, should consider the region's characteristics and customs.
According to Srie, Trade Ministry Regulation No. 20/2014 on the control and monitoring of alcoholic beverage distribution and sale also mentioned the authority of the regional administration to specify certain areas for the sale of those beverages.
'So, this is not a new initiative. The review [of the regulation] will only reinstate that [existing stipulation],' Srie said.
The Trade Ministry regulation that only allows hotels, bars, restaurants, duty free shops and hypermarkets to sell alcoholic beverage has hurt the alcohol industry.
The country's largest brewer, Multi Bintang Indonesia, saw a 41.72 percent plunge in its first-quarter net profits to Rp 107.33 billion (US$7.44 million) from Rp 184.18 billion in the same period last year.
The ban, allegedly pushed forward to protect morality and culture as well as prevent underage drinking, has also stirred protests from the tourist industry.
The protesters urged the ministry to keep certain areas exempt from the ban, as long as small-scale vendors selling beer in tourist areas became a part of a cooperative or region-owned enterprise (BUMD), or a joint enterprise group sanctioned by a regent or mayor.
Certain regional administrations also imposed a ban on the sale of liquors in their territory.
The South Tangerang administration, for example, bans the sale of any kind of liquor and beer in the city.
South Tangerang Mayor Airin Rachmi Diany signed Bylaw No. 4/2014 in January 2014, stipulating that no individuals or businesses, including supermarkets, karaoke bars, restaurants or bars were allowed to produce, distribute or sell alcoholic drinks.
Branding itself a 'smart, modern and religious', destination, the city is facing poor infrastructure and corrupt bureaucracy complaints from its own residents.
Meanwhile, the ministry's review into the regulation has sparked mixed reactions from the regional administration as well as the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI).
YLKI said the sale of alcoholic drinks should be restricted for the underage.
Tulus Abadi said the sale of alcoholic drinks should not be allowed at minimarkets given their expansion. 'It [alcohol] must be sold with restrictions,' he added.
Achmad Baidowi, deputy secretary general of the United Development Party, criticized the government's plan to relax the sale of alcoholic drinks.
Citing data from National Anti-Liquor Movement, he said over 18,000 Indonesians died from drinking alcoholic drinks each year. That is not to mention how many crimes are committed as a result of liquor, he added.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, which is in the process of deliberating an alcohol prohibition bill, will adjust its draft following the liquor deregulation.
'We can't let the bill worsen the investment climate and kill the beverages industry,' said the House's legislation body deputy chairman Firman Subagyo recently as quoted by Antara news agency.
The existing bill prohibits all kinds of liquor production and distribution in the country. However, an article in the bill allows the government to exempt certain and limited interests from the bill, which Firman said could cause legal uncertainty.
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