Indonesia considers national ban on alcohol

After a controversial alcohol prohibition bill had been stalled shortly after its introduction in 2015, Indonesia’s House of Representatives resumed debate on Tuesday. Islam-based politicians from the United Development Party (PPP), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the nationalistic Gerindra Party had filed a request in February to resume the bill’s deliberation.

“This bill aims to keep the public from harm, create order, protect the public from alcoholics and create awareness about the dangers of alcohol consumption," said Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal from the PPP. She argued that the country is missing a specific law which governs the consumption of alcoholic beverages in the country. "It's only stipulated in the Criminal Code, and the regulation is too broad," she said.

With the exception of Indonesia’s devoutly Muslim province of Aceh, there are currently no alcohol bans being enforced in Indonesia.Sharia law has been in place in Aceh since the early 2000s as part of government attempts to mollify desires for independence. Drinking, gambling and mixing with the opposite sex while unmarried are punishable by public caning.

With the rise of Islamism, however, the pressure for greater regulation of alcohol consumption in the other provinces of Indonesia has increased. In 2015, the Indonesian government banned the sale of alcohol from minimarkets and small shops, with the exception of the touristic Bali province, though sale was allowed in supermarkets, restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels.

87.2% of the approximately 225 million inhabitants of Indonesia identifying themselves as Muslim. This makes Indonesia the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

Opponents of the bill argue that once in force, the bill will not only destroy the domestic alcohol industry and make many workers unemployed but will also severely harm the tourism which has already suffered a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island of Bali, which is arguably Indonesia's most popular tourist destination, saw a total of almost 6.3 million direct foreign tourist arrivals in 2019, mainly from Australia and China but to a lesser extend also from India, UK, USA and Japan. Bali's economy which relies to 80 percent on tourism contracted heavily in 2020 with many people losing their jobs and even more being forced to take unpaid leave. With stricter rules on alcohol consumption it is believed that many tourists will not return to the island but chose other destinations for their holidays.

PT Multi Bintang, a subsidiary of Heineken Asia Pacific, is the largest domestic brewery of Indonesia.Other major beer producers are Delta Djakarta, a subsidiary of San Miguel Malaysia, known for its Anker Beer, and the country’s leading independent family-owned brewery, PT Bali Hai Brewery Indonesia known for its Bali Hai beer.

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