Minister promises solution for Bali on beer

Minister promises solution for Bali on beer
Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel (center) speaks at a meeting at The Jakarta Post’s offices in Dec 2014.

Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel said the government could not revoke its new regulation on alcoholic beverages, or exempt Bali from the regulation, but promised a solution for the resort island.

Specifically, Rachmat has promised to find a solution for small vendors in tourist areas in Bali.

"After hearing their aspirations, I respect what the vendors want. Thus, we will seek out a solution. For small vendors in tourism areas, we will create a system and figure out how to manage it," Rachmat said during a meeting on the regulation in Denpasar on Saturday.

In the meeting - attended by around a hundred people - Rachmat talked with street vendors, customary village figures, scholars and legislative council members.

The meeting was held in response to the strong opposition from Bali over the ministry's new regulation, which stipulated beverages with an alcohol content of 1 to 5 per cent could only be sold in supermarkets and hypermarkets.

Rachmat has yet to give details on the plan for small vendors in Bali. However, he said that it was possible for beachside vendors to unite as a cooperative and work together as a sort of restaurant. In such a scheme, the vendors could sell beer as part of the restaurant.

"It is not an exemption. We will only manage the system so that you can keep selling beer and keep serving tourists," he said, adding that all vendors should refrain from selling beer to anyone underage.

The minimarkets, food stalls, street vendors and beachside vendors that will be affected by the new beer regulation are already banned from selling stronger alcoholic drinks. Issued in January, the regulation will take effect on April 16.

Tempers flared when the meeting opened. Many in the audience were yelling at Rachmat, who repeatedly said that the regulation had been made to protect Indonesian youth and increase the ability of the Indonesian human resources sector to face competition in a globalised economy. The minister said alcohol consumption among the nation's youth had been having a significant social impact.

"If tourists come, we encourage them to go to restaurants because the restaurants will control those who buy beer," Rachmat said.

The statement triggered prompt protest from those in attendance, who said the government did not care about small vendors.

A beverage vendor who works on Legian Beach, Kuta, Wayan Suata, said the government had betrayed its commitment to defend wong cilik (little people).

"If you steer tourists to drink beer in restaurants, it means the 'pro wong cilik' motto meant nothing, and only those with capital will thrive," Suata said.

Kuta traditional village chief Wayan Swarsa, said the regulation should not be implemented in tourism areas where many locals and migrants work in the tourism sector. Swarsa is also the chairman of the customary village council (MADP) for the Kuta subdistrict, the umbrella organisation of six customary villages around Kuta, including Legian, Tuban, Kerobokan and Kedonganan.

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