In his budget speech on 9th November 2017, Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera stated that 49% of alcohol users in Sri Lanka consume illicit alcohol at the discussion on Beer tax reduction in the parliament. He was quoting a “research from University of Colombo”. University of Colombo has declared that they have not published any research as mentioned by the minister of finance. Alcohol and Drug Information Centre contacted the author of the referred article today (16.11.2017), Mr. Priyanga Dunusinghe, lecturer in Economics Department of University of Colombo, admitted that it is his personal research and not a research conducted by the University of Colombo.
It is pathetic that Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera, a senior cabinet member quoting a personal research as a research of the University of Colombo and other senior cabinet ministers repeating the same facts cluelessly.
The aforesaid research has not yet published in any scientific journal/ report or presented in any accepted conference. This article has first ever published in Daily FT on 7th November, two days prior to Budget speech, followed by appearing in Lankadeepa newspaper on 8th November and finance minister justified his arguments on reducing beer prices based on that on 9th November in the parliament.
The next most important fact is that the research is not conducted using primary data, which is the most suitable approach in finding the prevalence and trends in alcohol use in a country. But this study done by analyzing secondary data from Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), where he has made an assumption of poor, manual laborers and farmers who use alcohol drink only Kasippu.
According to the published facts, all low income holders, farmers and laborers in the country use alcohol, assumed to use Kasippu, generalizing 49% of the population who use alcohol in the country are Kasippu users. If this is true, 195,965,246 liters of Kassippu should be locally produced. (In 2015, annual total production quantities of alcohol companies include; 112, 092, 935 liters of Beer, 83,872,311 liters of Arrack).This is not practical at all.
The most amusing fact is using this particular research in policy reforms when there are numerous scientifically proved research findings, revealing facts contradicting to facts on above article are not been taken into consideration. The common belief is government and policy makers should follow transparent procedures and should based on acceptable studies and research findings when taking policy decisions which has impact on whole country.
It is surprisingly strange that none of the major scientifically proved, evidence based researches are not being referred or used by the policy makers, while they only present facts of a single, on-going, unpublished research which is based on secondary data confidently in making such a important national level policy decision.
Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC)