Trade groups: Blanket ban on ‘negative’ habits in Malaysia not good for economy, may encourage ‘unsafe’ consumption
KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — A recent survey which said the majority of Malaysians wants the government to ban alcohol, sugary beverages and nightclubs as well as smoking and vaping has been criticised by trade groups.
They said such a move would not only mean a loss of income for the government but in all likelihood, push these “activities” to go underground.
Datuk David Gurupatham, co-founder of Industries Unite (IU), a coalition of 120 Malaysians SMEs, said that an alcohol ban alone would cost the nation billions of ringgit in tax revenue, aside from losing out on international tourism.
“Now, where is the government going to recover that revenue? Do we want to pay higher taxes? Higher duties on food and clothing? It (a ban) will also end up benefitting smugglers and give rise to more smuggling.”
He added that cigarette smuggling is already very rampant in Malaysia — a Nielsen study showed that illicit cigarette incidence hit 58.4 per cent in March 2022 as opposed to 54.6 per cent in December 2021 — and the government is already losing billions in revenue.
“More importantly, people, especially young people may consume alcohol behind closed doors, in unregulated premises and we are likely to have bigger problems like adulterated alcohol,” he added.
The survey by the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM), involving 1,259 respondents, reportedly showed 89 per cent of those surveyed want alcohol banned in the country.
The survey results which were published by several news platforms also reportedly show that 86 per cent of Malaysians want gambling banned and 69 per cent want to ban the sale of sugary beverages.
Another 79 per cent purportedly want the government to ban entertainment outlets such as pubs and karaoke joints.
The survey was conducted via an online form on PPIM’s website, and PPIM itself said after the results were published that it did not support these bans.
“Furthermore, 1,200 plus people surveyed versus 33.8 million Malaysians does not mean 89 per cent of all Malaysians subscribe to the view.” said David.
“We also do not have the demographics of the survey or independent verification thereof. So we must be careful and responsible when we debate this issue,” he added.
Restaurants, Bars and Entertainment Operators Association (Rebah) pro-tem committee chairman Datuk Sivakumaran Nair believes that a ban on these products and activities would infringe on the rights of the public, especially non-Muslims.
“In terms of alcohol, sweet drinks, gambling, entertainment outlets… it involves adults who are mature and know what is right and not right to do.
“Furthermore, gambling and entertainment outlets are a non-Muslim’s game,” he said, adding that Indonesia has not introduced a blanket ban on alcohol sale or consumption despite having the largest Muslim population in the world.
However, gambling is completely banned in Indonesia.
Sargunan Naidu Sundararaju, executive chef of Fika Fine Kitchen & Bar, told Malay Mail that nine out of the 10 people who come into his premises are productive members of society.
“Things are not as they used to be, nowadays there are so many activities the youth can take part in aside from drinking,” he said in defense of his business.
“One of my restaurant’s co-owners also practices Muay Thai and runs a Muay Thai gym. He and his students sometimes come down for a drink after working out on weekends.
“I also have some regular customers who are in their late 20s who run a high-end marketing business. They are earning a lot. They are clear, from 9pm to 5am I earn my money, after 7pm it is my time, I will enjoy it.
“It is not like 10 to 20 years ago where there aren’t many avenues for productive activities around so people get stuck in drinking as a pastime. People are now aware of what is healthy and know how to balance their lives,” he said.
In 2019, The Malaysian Reserve reported that then finance minister Lim Guan Eng said that the federal government had collected a total of RM12.5 billion from sin taxes between May and September that year.
The tax imposed on gambling, tobacco, and alcohol amounted to RM4.5 billion, RM4.4 billion and RM3.6 billion respectively.