When it comes to alcohol, there is an urgent need to look at its destructive side. We already have too many bars and alcohol outlets.

The problems related to alcohol are so big in this country that the numbers that we get from the occasional studies make no sense. In fact, we do not even need surveys and studies to tell us the truth. Alcohol is a serious problem and it is growing.

Shockingly, the Cabinet recently issued a directive to the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee (NAHRC) which in essence says that the committee should ensure that all Bhutanese should be given a licence to produce and sell alcohol.

Who “genuinely” requires an “alcohol” licence, really?

The alcohol debate is fast becoming a mockery with politicians pandering to voters’ demands and civil servants becoming increasingly spineless crawlers.

Fronting is a big problem in the country, yes, but it is a problem because it is let to ride, not because we can’t control it. There is business not just in fronting itself, but also in and among officials who are not doing their part to ensure that such illegal businesses do not proliferate in the country.

This is a bigger problem than the issue of alcohol itself.

Coming from the Cabinet, linking alcohol and fronting so is not only pathetic, but also very destructive in the long term.

Tengye Lyonpo (Economic Affairs Minister) Loknath Sharma has been the main proponent of this idea to lift the moratorium on the issuance of bar and liquor retail licences. What is clear by now, after so much drama, is that the minister has chosen to be conveniently ambivalent. And this is a serious problem.

We have more than enough bars; we don’t need more destruction to individuals and families due to alcohol. Medical and referral records are clear. What we need is economic development theme parks, for example, and programmes to educate and nurture our future citizens through direct and indirect means. That, simply put, is vision, which should actually come from the ministry and minister himself.   

Lyonpo has also said that the government is concerned about the harmful impacts of alcohol on public health. Yes, we wholly agree, and we do not need studies and data to show it. This is one chance for the minister to make a clear-cut decision, for the sake of the nation’s future.

There have reportedly been many consultation meetings with and among “relevant” committees and agencies. Civil servants will come under strong political and such unreasonable pressures to cave in. They must not.

This is one chance to redeem ourselves and to protect our people and society from something that we can easily control. As the politician have been let to run their show, we have seen enough. Here we put our foot down! 

What we really need today is a healthy debate to shape a national dream: we don’t need more bars and alcohol outlets.