A few choice excerpts:
The lead author of the controversial Business and Economic Research Ltd (Berl) report on the social costs of alcohol, Adrian Slack, and economists Dr Eric Crampton and Matthew Burgess have squared off in a bare-knuckle brawl of the theorists to gtry to prove whether alcohol costs New Zealand $4.8 billion or $662 million -- and the price of your favourite tipple may depend on who's right.The article goes on to list some of the points left to one side by BERL in its rebuttal.
Mr Slack is standing firmly by all Berl's figures and has dismissed any criticisms of its report.
For starters, Mr Slack has reiterated that Berl was not commissioned to look at the benefits as well as costs of alcohol, which is why Berl has produced a figure that reflects the gross rather than net costs of alcohol to society.
But Dr Crampton and Mr Burgess contend Berl does consider benefits and that it is actually integral to its headline costs because private costs can only be counted as social costs if there are no offsetting private benefits.
So only the net social costs of alcoholic consumption were relevant for policy-making, which Berl chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana later conceded in a discussion with Jim Mora on National Radio.
Lion Nathan corporate affairs director Liz Read notes in the article that, as excise tax is paid by producers, it isn't necessarily passed through into retail prices so tax increases may not influence consumption. I think we have reasonable evidence in the literature of strong pass through, as we'd expect for goods that are relatively inelastic in demand. Tax incidence tells us that the producer bears the larger burden of a tax where demand is elastic but that the consumer bears it where demand is inelastic. The problem rather is that "harmful drinkers" are less price elastic, and so the burden falls disproportionately on moderate drinkers.