While we were continuing our monitoring activities for the third quarter of 2022 as the Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, our expectation was that this period would be relatively calm. April-June, unlike the second quarter, the reason for this was that the current period did not witness an exorbitant tax hike, it was a quarter in which grocery prices remained stable without undergoing a comprehensive change. Unfortunately, this optimistic expectation of ours was not met. The reason for this is that when we come to the year 2022, based on the exorbitant taxes levied on alcoholic beverages, the product price/tax amount balance of 280% now shows the devastating social effects of whether or not there is a need to break in the market. The taxes levied on alcoholic beverages in Turkey and the access restrictions put into effect accordingly have reached such an immeasurable extent that the black market activity, which is the absolute result of these policies, is no longer an exception, but has become normal. As the Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, the activity that we’ve been trying to establish since the day of the equation, disproportionate restrictions on access and exorbitant taxes on alcoholic beverages as a serious threat to public health and individual health with the load of serious difficulties in terms of public finances containing illegal/fake liquor is intended to underline the relationship between the black market. In this way, the fact that the data we have announced at the point we have come to are decaying, on the one hand, and the fact that an increasing graph is being observed among the data we have published so far shows us how accurate the equation is. July – September 2022 When looking at the Unregistered Alcohol Consumption Data, high taxes and access restrictions are the reason, and fake booze is the result of the equation that should not be taken out of mind even for a moment.
The periodic total of the 3-month data that we monitor as a platform has been in the band of one hundred thousand liters of moonshine until the last period, and this line has been maintained for a long time. May – July (early by pulling forward from July), although we link the recording of the seizure of almost 700 thousand liters of moonshine with an increase of 500% in the last period, the issue is now far from being considered only as an individual excise duty hike, although we attribute it to the excise duty hike carried out in May (early by pulling forward from July). In recent days, with the real cost hikes, the price of a bottle of 70cl rakı has been based on 400 TL and 70% of this 400 TL is collected as tax. In this sense, the period we are in is not unaffected by the excise duty hike in May. The fact that the black market has returned to it is normal position indicates that in this sense, the problem is more than a number of unpleasant things that have decayed in between, as reflected in the general public opinion. We need to understand that the fake liquor black market is not a momentary agenda of Turkey, but a continuous agenda. And it is ironic that no matter how much we try to express the seriousness of the issue, the issue is so neglected, taking precautions (or making politics for the sake of taking them) is so thrown into the background.
The fake drink agenda is a real agenda. It is not a momentary agenda, it is a continuous agenda. In the past three months, 12 citizens have lost their lives due to fake drink-related poisoning. Similarly, 18 citizens were hospitalized in this way. Are all these statistics not enough to take the threat of fake booze seriously, or how many more citizens are expected to lose their lives in order to take the issue seriously? The data we have prepared as the Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch is a scientific data to underline this question, which the public should ask decision-makers.
In the picture you have seen, both the problem and the solution are actually in front of your eyes. The problem is regulated in the tabs of the amount of moonshine seized and the citizen who was hospitalized / lost his life accordingly. Another important problem is the issue of tax loss, which we have tabulated for the first time in the current period. Although the automatic tax hike applied every 6 months on alcoholic beverages did not lead to a decrease in government tax revenue, but rather helped to draw a rising graph every period, we think that reducing the tax burden on the citizen’s back by minimizing the tax loss caused by black market activity would be the most effective solution.
The solution, on the other hand, appears in the section on exorbitant taxes. Indeed, the source of each data in this table is data on the tax rate on alcohol. Although it is seen that law enforcement intervened in the situation with many police operations, especially in the current period, this is far from an effective solution. We are already examining the outputs obtained from police operations in our data. The multiplicity of data, on the other hand, is statistically related to the multiplicity of the operation carried out in relation to that period or the multiplicity of the products seized in the operation. However, while accepting this relationship, there are two important points that we should not forget: 1-The non-operational black marketeers, who are the invisible face of the disaster, are still continuing their activities, 2- Unfortunately, people are losing their lives. In this sense, although it is not open to debate that law enforcement activity has achieved some success against the black market, it is very, very far from being an effective solution. The way to end the fake liquor black market in Turkey is nothing more than to eliminate the black market from being a reasonable alternative for citizens. And this, in turn, can only happen by reducing the exorbitant tax burden on alcohol
We hope that this causal relationship in the table will be a road map for all decision-makers and political subjects in Turkey. Another wish that we always repeat is not to record any more data, especially regarding the loss of life, in the next period. We hope that effective solutions will be put forward, we hope that the causal relationship we are trying to emphasize will be taken into account and, ultimately, a free market and conscious consumption will be paved the way.
Translated by: Ekin Melisa Çoğal