KUALA LUMPUR - More than 1,700 people have joined a group on the social networking website, Facebook, voicing disapproval against any hike in the price of alcoholic beverages.
They include working professionals, expatriates and foreign tourists.
Moderate drinkers should not be penalised with high prices, Deepak Gill, spokesman for the National Alcohol Consumer Rights Group (Alcon), said yesterday.
Deepak, a marketing manager, told a press conference at a bistro in Lorong Dungun, Bukit Damansara, that although the consumers were contributing almost RM5 billion (S$2 billion) a year in alcohol revenue, their views had never been taken into account.
He was responding to recent news reports that there would be an increase in the duty on alcohol when the 2011 Budget is announced on Friday.
"Malaysians already pay the highest price for alcohol in the world, next to Norwegians, even though the latter earn nine times more," he said, adding that the current prices should at least be maintained.
He said he would submit a petition containing 1,000 signatures to Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Deputy Minister Datuk M. Saravanan who had agreed to meet with him today.
Deepak said a study should be conducted to determine the duty on alcohol in relation to income levels as Malaysia is still a low-income country.
"We do not have any major alcoholism issue in the country and the majority of us are casual drinkers."
He said that any price increase would also lead to smuggling and related illegal activities.
The food and beverage outlets that collectively employ over 53,000 people would be affected as there would be fewer drinkers, he added,
He said that any concerns on the effects of alcoholism should be done by education and not by raising prices.
Deepak, who also runs "the thirsty blogger" website, said he found that many people had turned to cheap liquor which, according to press reports, was becoming a major problem as it is cheaper than premium beer.
"The government should increase the taxes on these products instead and not on legitimate or better-quality imported alcohol."