Cabinet approves alcohol bill without consultation

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Members of the liquor board present at the public consultation.

Members of the liquor board present at the public consultation.

A meeting between the Ministry of Revenue (M.O.R.) and the private sector over the Alcohol Control Bill has been cancelled after Cabinet approved the legislation behind closed doors a week ago.

The consultation was scheduled for September 21 (yesterday) after business representatives told M.O.R. officials in a public consultation early this month that their feedback and concerns should be considered before the bill went to the Parliament. 

But the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry C.E.O. Lemauga Hobart Vaai, in an email to members on Wednesday, advised that the Chamber has been informed by the Office of the Attorney General of the cancellation of the consultation scheduled for September 21.

The email further stated that the bill was passed by Cabinet a week ago and will now go through the Parliamentary process, at which the members of the Chamber members will then be consulted.

“The Office of the Attorney General apologises for the inconvenience caused, but assures the Chamber and our membership we will be consulted during the Parliamentary process,” the email stated. 

The Samoa Observer contacted Solia Tanuvasa Kalolo from the M.O.R. to ask why the bill had been passed, after they agreed to further consultation with the business community.

“No the Act hasn’t been passed.  I don’t know why you are asking me, you should call the Chamber and ask them why it was cancelled.   That’s a matter for the Liquor Board to decide, if the Liquor Board decides to cancel it that’s their call,” he said. 

When he was asked why then did the Ministry schedule a deadline for submissions and a second consultation, Solia said the business community will get the chance for consultation at the Parliamentary Committee level.

The cancellation by the M.O.R. will anger business representatives, as they had specifically requested in the first consultation with the Ministry on September 7 that another meeting be held, in order to get their feedback.

Businessman Va’atuitui Meredith recently warned that the proposed alcohol excise rates in the bill will result in local liquor manufacturers making losses, as the excise will be higher than the retail price of each liquor bottle.

Lemauga made reference to those concerns, which were highlighted in his email on Wednesday. 

“We thank all our members who have called in with their issues over the past three weeks and have brought data to support our case and submission we handed in last Friday as agreed to by Government, and your Chamber echoes your disappointment and frustrations on how this has been handled and the negative effects this has on industry.

Your secretariat under the guidance of your council and with the issues raised by your membership will continue to fight on and lobby for a transparent process to ensure our voices are heard.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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