Alcohol: The implementation of alcohol policy that the cabinet recently endorsed will require adequate resources if alcohol use in the country is to be effectively addressed.

Director of Department of Industry, Tandin Tshering, said that before the alcohol policy came into existence, it was just economic affairs ministry that was responsible for all alcohol-related issues. But now with various sectors such as local governments (LG) and dzongkhags involved to impose regulation, it is expected the purpose of the policy could be achieved.

“At this point of time, each sector should ensure that they shoulder their mandates responsibly,” he said. “Each sector should also be equipped with adequate resources to implement the policy efficiently.”

Despite rules in place, the department was not able to implement them efficiently so far because of resource shortage. The ministry caters to promotional business and not regulation. When the same agency had to do two jobs, compromises had to be made, he added.

Regional offices now are looking after five dzongkhags, which is challenging, said Tandin Tshering.

However, the empowered sectors should function in line with the policy. All dzongkhags and gewogs should follow the same alcohol-related rules and sale timings.

The policy mandates economic affairs ministry with the responsibility to monitor illegal ownership of bar licences and develop procedures to identify fronting.

The ministry, as one of the policy stakeholders, will support LGs implement restriction of alcohol outlet licences in the vicinity of dzongs, dratsangs, rabdeys, gomdeys, shedras and educational institutions.

Tandin Tshering said that hiring bar licence is illegal. The department inspected in drayangs, discotheques and karaokes to find out if they are operating on hired licence.

“Government gives an individual the licence so that he or she may do business but not profit by selling or hiring the licence,” said Tandin Tshering. He added that there are standing rules that say hiring of licence will result in cancellation of the licence.

“We had to cancel some licences for violating rules,” said Tandin Tshering.

However, there are cases where relatives of licence holders run the business, which makes it difficult for the ministry to prove it is fronting. Tandin Tshering said that there is a need to ascertain whether the business is fronting.

According to the alcohol policy, economic affairs ministry will regulate licensing of retail, wholesale, industrial, bar, and import businesses to reduce physical availability of alcohol.

Bar owners will have to sit knowledge test to be able to renew their licence. Pre-licensing education programme will be made mandatory for new licence applicants or those applying for licence renewal, says the new policy.

A brief curriculum, not exceeding a 1-2 hour session covering alcohol policies, penalties for violation, outlet policies and ways to orient staff for the pre-licensing mandatory education will be developed.

Nirmala Pokhrel