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Medvedev Prepared to Lower Taxes to Save Russian Vodka

Published: April 28, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Vodka has indeed become more expensive, but the measures have had an unintended side effect.
    Photo: Vedomosti

As the rising price of vodka drives Russian consumers toward illegal products and Kazakh imports to quench their thirst, the government may halt further tax hikes that were intended to combat endemic alcoholism.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Finance Ministry to explore the issue of freezing or even lowering the excise tax on spirits with an alcohol content of over 9 percent, Interfax reported.

"This decision would require tax losses; it would be very painful for us," Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov told RBC, adding that the pace of tax increases could be slowed all the same.

The national alcohol excise task rose 33 percent in 2013, the largest increase in modern Russian history, and a further 25 percent this year, pushing the lowest retail price for a half-liter bottle of vodka up to about 250 rubles ($7). The minimum legal resale price also climbed to 199 rubles ($5.50) in 2014 from 125 rubles ($3.50) in 2012.

Under the existing tax plan, the excise duty should rise a further 20 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016. By 2017 the increase will slow to 4.5 percent, or about the level of inflation.

Making alcohol less affordable was an explicit element of the Russian government's plan to lower citizens' alcohol consumption, according to a convention signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2010.

At that time the government pledged to cut Russians' alcohol intake by 15 percent by 2012 and 55 percent by 2020 while "liquidating" the market of illegal alcohol.

Vodka has indeed become more expensive, but the measures have had an unintended side effect.

"By my estimate, more than a third of consumers are unable to buy vodka at this price. This means that they are generating a demand for illegal products," Dmitry Dobrov, chairman of the Union of Alcohol Producers, told RBC.

Illegal vodka accounted for 55 percent of the entire vodka market in 2013, Igor Kosarev, vice president of distiller Russky Standart, told Kommersant.

Just as illegal vodka is pouring into the market, so are imports from Kazakhstan, where alcohol is significantly cheaper on account of lower excise duties, Dobrov said.

Kazakhstan doubled its excise tax this year, but the current rate of 38.8 rubles per half-liter bottle ($1.08) is still three times lower than Russia's tax.

In 2012, the Finance Ministries of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus — the three countries of the Russia-led Customs Union — agreed to synchronize their excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, Shatalov said.

"Unfortunately, these agreements were not put down in any documents. We did not manage to sign an intergovernmental agreement, and Kazakhstan has taken a rather tough stance," he said.

Total legal vodka production in Russia fell 12 percent in 2013, according to the Federal State Statistics Service, and is still plummeting. From January to March this year, legal Russian enterprises produced 10.8 million decaliters of vodka, 17 percent less than in the same period last year.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, July 31


Develop your leadership abilities during a lecture by famous Russian author and coach Radislav Gandapas. The event starts at 9 a.m. at 5 Lodeinopolskaya Ulitsa. The price for entry is 20,500 rubles ($570).


Relax and enjoy a Parisian atmosphere with some romantic and laidback jazz tunes during the Night of French Music at Lenny Jam Cafe, 63 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 250 rubles ($7).


The Women’s Business Club is hosting a Beauty Brunch where participants are invited to discuss the latest news in the beauty industry and listen to lectures by professional stylists in the business.



Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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