THE Eastern Cape Finance, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC, Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane, has welcomed the passing of the Eastern Cape Liquor Authority Bill by the provincial legislature during its sitting on Tuesday, December 4. The bill seeks to promote socioeconomic growth and transformation within the alcohol industry, thereby creating economic opportunities for previously disadvantaged individuals and local communities in the province. “We want to do this so that all the people of the Eastern Cape interested in being in this sector also benefit from the economic value chain of the alcohol industry, which contributes R94.2 billion (4.4% in percentage terms) in the country’s GDP. “While addressing economic development and transformation issues through this bill, we want the legislation to address all the concerns raised by the people of the Eastern Cape during the public hearings for this bill,” said Mabuyane. Expressing his utmost appreciation to the committee Mabuyane said the province had the responsibility of bringing the unregulated alcohol trade under control. “We need to curb the growing socioeconomic effects of alcohol abuse, particularly on the youth in our province. “Our efforts must promote and uphold empowerment requirements and build capacity for enforcing compliance. “This requires the strengthening of the intergovernmental relations,” he said.“In our efforts to achieve health objectives and curb alcohol abuse, we must take into cognisance the socio-economic conditions faced by our people because of their dependency. Alcoholics and alcohol abusers are not as price sensitive and will always find a way to obtain liquor.”He said the alcohol industry therefore needed to be regulated in full view of the situations that the people are facing, given the high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. “It is important that we are against all illicit trading of liquor and not be concerned only when it is done by foreign nationals. Our attitude towards shops owned by foreign nationals must not border on xenophobic sentiments. “We have also noted the concerns about the composition of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, the processes used to appoint board members and the lack of inclusion of members of the liquor industry, especially local traders.”Mabuyane added that the bill would allow them to deal with all the allegations that are raised on the regulation of liquor trading in the Eastern Cape including approval of licences without a board sitting.