Draft bill on alcohol imports nears completion

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Draft bill on alcohol imports nears completion
Legislation intended to relax Myanmar’s existing ban on alcohol imports has moved to the attorney general for approval, according to the commerce ministry.

Trade Department Director-General U Minn Minn told The Myanmar Times that the ministry had finished drawing up the regulations and once the draft legislation was approved by the attorney general it would be presented to the cabinet before going to parliament. The latest version of the draft bill has not been made public.

Imports of spirits have been tightly restricted in Myanmar since 1962. The current ban was introduced by the military government in 1995. U Thein Sein’s government permitted the import of wines in late 2015, but only hotels and duty-free outlets have been allowed to import spirits and beer

According to the draft Excise Law received by business in May and seen by The Myanmar Times, businesses that want to import, distribute and sell any kinds of liquor would need approval from the military-controlled home affairs ministry, the General Administration Department (GAD) and a new Excise Policy Committee.

The GAD will have the authority to issue licences in relation to production, storage, transport and distribution. It is unclear which authority would be responsible for import licences.

The newly established Excise Policy Committee would be led by the military-appointed home affairs minister U Kyaw Swe and staffed by officials, including the chief of the Myanmar Police Force.

The draft law has since been updated but this newspaper has not seen the submitted version. It is not clear whether the revised and unpublished draft legislation includes these provisions.

Companies would like the bill to be revised to provide more clarity over import procedures and restrictions, said EuroCham Executive Director Marc de la Fouchardiere.

For instance, the draft law as made public last May says the GAD “may determine the type, quantity and measurement of liquor entitled to possess of any person [business]” but does not mention on what basis decisions would be made.

Mr Fouchardiere added that the draft provision regarding import licencing is confusing.

The draft law says those who want to import liquor “shall be the person who obtained wholesale distribution licence of foreign liquor and shall apply and obtain the right of import to the relevant department in accord with the policy of the Excise Policy Committee and with the recommendation of the department by mentioning the type of liquor and quantity desired to import.”

The alcohol market liberalisation, the first under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, is set to pave the way for more direct foreign investment in the beverage industry. The restriction on alcohol imports has resulted in massive quantities of foreign alcohol being smuggled into Myanmar, fuelling illicit trade and hurting the government’s tax revenue.