Indonesia is a vast island nation bridging the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Some 250 million people live across tens of thousands of islands populated with over 300 distinct ethnic groups. It’s also the world’s largest Islamic nation with 87 percent of the population identifying as Muslim.
Over the years, politicians leaning towards the religious right have been trying to ban the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol nationwide. They’ve failed in the past (mostly by citing only religious grounds for a ban), but they may succeed this time. If they do, it very well might cripple the nation’s tourism industry.
Indonesia hosts about 10 million tourists per year. A third of those are in Bali alone. Here’s where things get complicated: Bali is the Hindu outlier in a Muslim country — with 83.5 percent of Balinese residents identifying as such. Alcohol was never much of an issue in Bali, and it’s become world-renowned for being a party-centric destination for backpackers and jet-setters alike. Experts are predicting that a ban on alcohol — carrying a 10-year prison sentence for any breaking of the law — could put an end to one of the world’s biggest parties. Opponents of the legislation note that “the law would ‘kill’ tourism in Bali. Even if the island secured an exemption, alcohol prices would become exorbitant.”
Currently two Muslim parties are basing their attempt to ban alcohol on data showing booze’s ill effects on society. They’re also citing fatalities from moonshine (which are often produced to undercut costs) a toll that stands at 435 deaths since 2012, some of which were unsuspecting tourists. Experts are pointing out that an alcohol ban would not decrease the prospect of deadly moonshine, but, very likely increase it massively. The head of the country’s hotel and restaurant association puts in bluntly, “No matter how beautiful the country is, if they can’t find alcohol, they [tourists] won’t want to come here.”
There’s no doubt that finding a pluralism in a country as vast and deeply demographically varied as Indonesia is no small task. Indonesia’s government has plans to double the number of tourists bringing money into their country by 2019 to 20 million annual visitors. A ban on alcohol is sure to send that figure in the opposite direction.
(Via The Telegraph)