Goodwill To All Men
It's that time of year when thoughts of those of us brought up in a Christian household, however ritually dogmatic that may have been, turn to the pleasurable feasts and festivities ahead.
Thanks to the calendar, today is another holy day, the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha
, a commemoration of the story in both the Bible (Genesis 22.11-13)
and the Koran (Surah 37.100-113)
of Abraham's potential sacrifice of his son, Isaac. God wouldn't allow this and apparently told Abraham that an innocent lamb would do instead.
The divergent paths of Islam and Christianity have since seen the sacrifice of many living things, including each other's adherents, and here in Jakarta, although it's the day of silencing the lambs there aren't that many in the country, so the streets are running with the blood of goats and cows, the meat of choice. This meat is supposed to be given to poor folk, and hence the notion of sacrifice.
But, back to Xmas which is also considered as a day of giving. Family and friends are given presents and we treat ourselves. Aw, go on, it's only once a year
, we tell ourselves as the annual cigar is lit up or, as in my parent's house, the bottle of Sauternes, an incredibly sweet and sickly wine, was opened.
And that has generally been the spirit in which we've celebrated Xmas here, often with a buffet lunch at one of the city's major hotels. For the many expat families and tourists throughout Indonesia celebrating the end of an interesting year as far as their budgets will allow, this year promises to be somewhat different, though. There won't be as much booze flowing as per usual.
For the 'full' story, I am indebted to frequent commentator and occasional fellow inebriate, Miko.First of all you may recall the elimination of sales of any booze stronger than beer from supermarket shelves about two years ago around the same time as Tangerang had its mini sharia crackdown. However this is a different issue from the almost complete dearth of imported booze which is now afflicting the country.This has been caused by an investigation at the Customs and Excise department which revealed that one of the two companies with a licence to import booze had probably swindled $35 million from the government in unpaid duty. This company (its name escapes me PT PDD or some such) has now lost its franchise and the sole remaining importer PT Sarinah has been given its quota but given that the other company was obviously understating the actual market and creaming off the difference there has been a big shortage of booze being allowed in.This wouldn't be so bad (the government could have simply increased Sarinah's quota to meet the real demand) but the government have now imposed a 300% import tariff which must be paid in advance by retailers (who are naturally reluctant to do so, not being sure whether they will be able to sell at the new high price) as well as demanding that foreign booze be tested in Indonesia for quality control purposes (because as we know the quality control standards in the EU and America and Australia are so much poorer than Indonesia!).All of this has led to a perfect storm where there is now a booze famine in some parts of Indonesia and tourism is suffering badly, hotels in Jakarta and in Bali are screaming at the government to sort it out. However, there is no hurry to do so given that drinking alcohol is not regarded as a particular high priority here and so only the dumb white folk are suffering.
Not quite true, Miko. I rarely see expats in the drinks section of my local Carrefour or Galael, but I do see loads of Indonesians.
Of course, not only tipplers are suffering, but given that store managers are reluctant to pay the excise duty upfront, the government coffers are as well. Apparently, there is now a thriving black market in booze ~ those responsible please email me for my address.
How else can I get into the spirits of the season?