Thursday, March 4, 2021

Proposed Indonesian booze ban gives Bali the jitters

Bali's economy has already been shattered by a 95% drop in tourism.

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The idyllic island of Bali has long been a bucket-list destination for travellers, but a proposed alcohol ban could see tourists seeking alternative destinations when the world reopens.

Bali’s hoteliers are warning that a proposed Indonesia-wide alcohol ban would scare off tourists and knock any post-coronavirus economic recovery for six.

Two Islamist political parties and the nationalist party Gerindra want to revive a bill that has lain dormant since 2016. The law would make it an offence to produce, store, sell or consume alcoholic drinks. Anyone consuming alcohol could be jailed for up to two years or fined up to US$5,000.

Ricky Putra, the chairman of the Bali Hotel Association, said the current laws regulating alcohol in Indonesia were sufficient and that in majority-Hindu Bali – where alcohol is more widely consumed than in other parts of the majority-Muslim country – the results could have a big negative impact on tourism.

“We are currently already struggling with the pandemic. How will we get people to come when our border reopens? Not only international tourists but also domestic tourists will think why go to Bali for a holiday when they can’t even enjoy a bottle of beer?” he said.

“We already have laws on where and who can sell alcohol, we just need to implement them properly. Then a new law will not be needed.”

Bali’s economy has already been shattered by a 95% drop in tourism because of international border closures, which has cost the economy billions of dollars.

Indonesian MP Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal said further discussion of the details of the proposed law are needed and that it is currently just a proposal. “The proposed law is not blindly banning alcohol,” she said. “We are aware Indonesia is not an Islamic country in which the religion governs everything.”

In 2019, Indonesia considered new laws banning sex outside marriage, but the plan was dropped because of the inevitable damage to Bali tourism.

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