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Problems associated with alcohol take their toll on national development, and this fact must be weighed against arguments that alcohol is good for the South African economy. Alcohol excise taxes alone were estimated in 1996 to be roughly $570 million. In South Africa, as in many other developing countries, the liquor trade is often looked at by the government as a means of generating wealth. The liquor trade is also seen as a platform for stimulating small business development. Sound research which would enable a valid estimate of the overall cost of alcohol abuse to South Africa has unfortunately not been undertaken. However, we can estimate that, due to the rates of alcohol consumption in many communities, the high levels of alcohol-related trauma, and emerging data on the impact of alcohol on industry, that the economic costs associated with alcohol abuse in South Africa are likely to be in excess of $1.7 billion (2% of GNP) per year. This may even be an underestimate if we consider information collected by the Medical Research Councilís National Trauma Research Programme, which suggests that alcohol-related costs associated with pedestrian trauma alone are in excess of $83 million per year. Further, the Transport Ministry has estimated that motor vehicle collisions in total cost the country $1.5 billion per year and that at least 50% of these are alcohol-related.

Alcohol has a negative effect on the business community due to absenteeism, increased use of medical benefits, workerís compensation claims, poor productivity, high job turnover, interpersonal conflict, injuries and damage to property. In one study, 17% of sick days taken by sawmill workers were found to be alcohol-related. Another study conducted in the Orange Free State found that 20% of gold mine workers involved in occupational injuries had elevated blood alcohol concentrations. Preliminary research conducted by the Medical Research Council found that roughly one quarter of patients admitted to the trauma unit of a large mine hospital for occupational and non-occupational injuries had blood alcohol levels higher than 0.08g/100 ml. Furthermore, higher injury severity was observed among patients with blood alcohol concentrations higher than 0.08g/100ml, when compared to those patients with no sign of alcohol in their blood.

Last updated on 18 April, 2007  

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