Islamist-led Tunisia to raise alcohol duty

Unorthodox fiscal move

TUNIS - The Islamist-led ruling coalition in Tunisia raised alcohol duty on Wednesday in a bid to bolster state coffers despite criticism from rival Islamists that it was wrong to profit from an activity prohibited by the faith.
The Constituent Assembly approved the budget measure aimed at raising 170 million dinars (85 million euros), acting finance minister Slim Besbes told the state TAP news agency.
MPs from the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that leads the government voted in favour but an MP from a rival Islamist outfit slammed the move as un-Islamic.
In its successful October 2011 parliamentary election campaign, Ennahda gave undertakings that it would do nothing to outlaw the sale or consumption of alcohol in Tunisia, which is heavily dependent on foreign, particularly European, tourism.
But party leader Rached Ghannouchi later called on supporters to shun bars and off-licences.
Bars have since been a repeated target for attack by hardline Salafist groups, who have succeeded in forcing the closure of a number.
But beer sales still rose by 20 percent in the first half of the year, according to figures from the brewers.