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Indonesia to implement beer ban

Indonesia is to ban the sale of beer in convenience and small corner shops this month to “protect the morals and culture of society.”

Beer drinking in the world’s largest Muslim country has soared in the past decade and grew 11% year-on-year according to 2014 figures but, apparently at the behest of conservative Islamic groups, the president, Joko Widodo (pictured), has moved to crack down on beer drinking – at least among locals.

Beer, like wine and spirits, will be available in supermarkets and bars and restaurants at significant mark-ups.

The news has come as an unpleasant shock for Diageo and Heineken, both of which have large stakes in a thriving Guinness consumption scene and consumption of local brew Bintang.

Widodo – also known as Jokowi in Indonesia – is not thought to have advised the brewers before announcing the decision.

They have apparently begun an appeal process to reconsider the ban and allow for consultations.

“Our concerns with the current announced policies is that they will impact some of the smaller retail businesses and tourism,” Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said in an interview in Singapore last Thursday. “There is also the risk of illicit alcohol growing again, and that is in nobody’s interest.”

Indonesia is poised to allow 30 countries, including most of western Europe, China, Japan, Korea and Russia, visa-free travel in a bid to boost its tourism which is worth around US$10 billion to the economy but which has declined 20% in the past two years according to the Financial Times.

When “Jokowi” came to office it was thought that, although an observant Muslim, he would follow a more secular course but this has not been the case, not helped by his party having to govern in a coalition which includes the Islamic National Awakening Party.

This move is the latest in what has been termed “creeping Shariah” in Indonesia and is a pattern that can also be seen in formerly more relaxed Muslim countries such as Turkey, where prime minister Erdogan has sought favour with the more numeorus and stricter Muslim voters by cracking down on haram practices such as the consumption of alcohol.

Nonetheless, it is thought that, in many cases and areas, this will be simply the “politics of symbols,” as was told to Business World by Michael Buehler, a lecturer in comparative politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

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