–Sources say excise department’s latest policy has given rise to bootlegging
–ETO Jappa says they have been successful in curbing illegal liquor sales
LAHORE: The Punjab Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control (ET&NC) department is currently facing a shortfall of Rs400 million in Lahore because of a massive decrease in the sale of liquor in the province, whereas the department had collected over Rs1.7 billion in the previous year.
Sources informed this scribe that the department used to generate a lot of revenue from the sale and export of liquor but due to its recent policies, the department has failed to meet its revenue collection targets.
The source said that previously there was a relaxed policy on the sale of liquor. “Everyone had access to four licenced permit rooms (Avari, Pearl Continental, Four Points by Sheraton and Ambassador) in Lahore and people used to buy liquor from there. However, at the start of this fiscal year, an ex-ETO formulated a policy that restricted the sale of liquor to permit holders,” the source said.
“This policy triggered the business of bootleggers and people involved in selling counterfeit alcohol. Bootleggers started purchasing liquor at control rates and sold them at higher rates. Moreover, due to the shortage of liquor in the market, people started buying counterfeit products and other alternatives which badly affected their health,” the source added.
“There is an unspoken ban on the issuance of new licences to hotels and those with licences are currently doing business in a strange way. They often refuse liquor to permit holders or hide premium quality liquor from them under the guise of the shortage of supply, thus facilitating bootlegging,” the source further said.
Expressing concern over the situation, the source said that the sale of alcohol can be a very good source of revenue for the government as the companies who produce liquor already pay a number of taxes to the government. “The government should make a soft policy on the sale of liquor because without this the excise department would not be able to meet its revenue targets,” the source added.
When contacted, Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO) Safeer Abbas Jappa said, “We are focusing on regulating the sale of liquor. Previously, the policy was different but now we want to ensure that nobody can purchase liquor without a permit. Yes, we are facing a revenue shortfall of Rs400 million but we have been able to curb the illegal sale of liquor. The department’s revenue is directly connected to enforcement.”