… Accuse gov`t of denying the poor their only source of enjoyment
Story by Edmond Gyebi and Samuel Agbewode
|President John Evans Atta Mills (left), Dr. Kwabena Duffuor -Minister of Finance (right)|
Reports filed by our correspondents - Edmond Gyebi in Tamale and Samuel Agbewode - in Ho, indicate that the people are unhappy with the government’s decision, and are even threatening to go on a demonstration, to protest against the imposition of the tax. Below are the reports.
Tamale Some Residents of Tamale who sell the popular locally brewed alcoholic beverage ‘Akpeteshie,’ and consumers, are feverishly planning to stage a massive demonstration against the ruling government, over what they describe as an “unnecessary increase” in the price of the product.
According to them, the decision was not only needless, but very harsh, and had the tendency to collapse their businesses, in the face of the current socio-economic hardships.
In an interview with The Chronicle, one of the top Akpeteshei sellers in Tamale, Madam Elizabeth Adu of Patience Spot at Zogbeli, said the increment would have adverse effects on her business, since most regular customers would stop patronising her spot. According to her, Akpeteshie was the most patronised drink due to its affordability. It is also prepared naturally, and does not contain any chemicals like other expensive drinks, and very much cost effective.
Madam Elizabeth therefore appealed to the government to subsidise the prices of Guinness, Gulder, Castle Milk Stout and the rest, if it wants people to stop patronising Akpeteshie.
“I am aware that government is increasing the prices because it wants people to stop drinking more alcohol. But I don’t think this is the best approach, because they are collapsing our business,” she said.
The frustrated looking bar operator bemoaned: “already business activities in Tamale and Ghana have gone bad since the beginning of this year, 2009, and this harsh decision only comes to compound our situation.”
Madam Elizabeth claimed that she depended solely on the sale of Akpeteshie and other hard drinks for the survival of her family, as such, if the drink becomes much more expensive, people would be compelled to smuggle them into other countries, like it occurred in 1979, and urged the government to review the tax.
Another drinking bar operator, Mr. Nicholas Owusu, of Asanka Local Drinking Spot, also did not hide his frustration, and called on the government to do something about the tax.
According to him, the price of one jerrican of Akpeteshie has moved up from GH¢90 to between GH¢120 and GH¢130. As a result, a bottle of Akpeteshie has also increased from GH¢1.40 to GH¢2.40, a tot has also jumped from Gp10 to Gp20. He disclosed that he previously used to sell at least three or four jerricans each month, but now it is very difficult to sell even half of that, because most of the customers are no loonger coming to buy.
“The Akpeteshie, and other hard drinks like Kasapreko Alomo Gin Bitters, are usually patronised by the poor in society, so if you increase the price, you are only impoverishing the people further, but not to stop them, because it does not come easy for someone to quit alcohol.”
Meanwhile, the prices of other drinks like Guinness, Castle Milk Stout, Gulder, Stone and the rest, have also gone up, according to Mr. Owusu.
It was quite an interesting scenario, when some of the people who were drinking at some of the spots, especially at the Patience Bar, compelled this reporter to take their comments.
Numbering about eight men and one woman, the people, led by one Umar Abdulai, a farmer and father of seven, advised the government to look for better sources of generating income, rather than frustrating people who sell and patronise the local drinks. “You the government say we should patronise local goods, so why do you want to stop us from drinking Akpeteshie and Alomo, which are brewed locally. I can’t stop drinking Akpeteshie, because it is better and affordable.
My brother (referring to this reporter) the foreign drinks are not good at all, because they contain certain chemicals which kill people slowly.
But, as for Akpeteshie, I have been drinking for the past 26 years, but you can see that I look fine.”
The people promised to join the leadership of the local drink sellers association, to demonstrate any time soon, to register their displeasure.
Dealers and sellers of the locally brewed gin, popularly known as ‘Akpeteshie,” in the Ho Municipality, have appealed to the government to reconsider the proposed 20 percent tax on the drink, because it has the tendency to collapse the businesses of those who depend on it for their source of livelihoods.
A dealer in the alcoholic product in Ho, Mr. Selase Yao Tettey, explained that the reasons given as the basis for the high tax on the product cannot be supported with facts, because elderly people who patronise the drink, do not abuse it.
Mr. Tettey continued that currently, sellers and dealers face a serious problem of low markets for the product, noting that those who distil the gin charge high prices.
He pointed out that the tax increase would compel them to also increase prices on the local gin, and when this happens, most people would no longer be interested in it, which is currently the cheapest alcoholic beverage in Ghana.
Mr. Tettey stressed that if the government wants to earn more revenue from the local gin, then it should put in place other measures that would make its preparation less costly, noting that currently a bag of sugar is sold at GH¢70, which is very expensive.
Madam Enyonam Akum, a seller of akpeteshie, also described the 20 percent tax as “a killer tax” that would not serve the interest of the majority of the people.
She has therefore appealed to the government to re-examine the tax, since it would only have a negative effect on the poor people. Another seller of the local gin, Mr. Gabriel Semordzi, was also of the view that the proposed high tax was unnecessary, in view of the fact that the dealers were already confronted with high living costs.
Mr. Datsomor Godsway, a dealer in the product, said Parliament should be helping the government to come out with more employment avenues to help address the high unemployment level, which has compelled him and others to deal in the local gin, rather than taking measures that would create unemployment.