Indonesia yesterday officially banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in convenience stores and other small shops.
The development itself is not exactly new. As The Diplomat reported earlier, this is the product of a government regulation that was signed in January, but the government allowed a three-month period for vendors to act on it before it went into full effect.
The ban is also quite specific. It affects only “Class A” alcoholic beverages – those with less than five percent alcohol content such as beer, low-alcohol wine, and shandy (previously, restrictions were applied mostly to beverages with over five percent alcohol). The ban is also restricted to the 16,000 minimarts and 55,000 small retailers in the Muslim-majority nation; supermarkets, hotels and food outlets would still be able to sell these alcoholic beverages.
The Indonesian government has stressed that the move is being taken as part of a broader commitment to protect young people from social ills like drugs and alcohol, rather than for ideological reasons. But some are still concerned about the potential impact it could have, including the rise of illegal sales of alcoholic beverages as well as the effects on the tourism industry. “We can’t let [the ban] kill our tourism industry – beer and other alcoholic drinks are not taboo for foreigners,” Jakarta’s deputy governor, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, has said.
But attention has quickly turned this week to potentially much more radical alcohol restrictions. Islamic parties have proposed legislation that would reportedly ban the sale, production, distribution and consumption of all beverages with more than one percent of alcohol. Furthermore, those caught violating the regulations would face up to two years in prison and a hefty fine. According to The Jakarta Post, the current version of the controversial bill, which has since gained some secular backing as well, does include exemptions for “consumption for customary uses, religious rituals, tourism, in pharmacies and in places authorized under the regulations,” though the language is still quite vague.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economy Sofyan Djalil cautioned that while the Jokowi government was not against the regulation of alcoholic beverages, “we must not overregulate it.”
“What’s important is that we agree that there is regulation as without regulation it would be dangerous for our children,” he said.
Sofyan added that while the government was open to talking about the ban, there would have to be long discussions or studies conducted before it is seriously contemplated for Indonesia.