Friday, January 11, 2008

Trouble Brewing

Police in the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, have found an illegal vodka distilling factory, believed to be to blame for the recent deaths of 14 people. Lots more people ended up in hospital after apparently drinking the stuff on or around New Year's Eve.

This sort of story's not unusual. Variations on the homebrew horror theme regularly crop up in Latin America, Africa and the former Soviet Union among other places. It's a sign of the desperate lengths some people will go to, in order to get their hands on booze. And it's a serious problem, because alcoholism among the population is a significant factor keeping countries such as Mongolia from dragging themselves out of poverty.

In Mongolia's neighbour Russia, life expectancy among males is now down below 60, as many unemployed men with few prospects drink their lives away a day at a time. Increasing the price of alcohol can be counter-productive, because it only makes the sort of dangerous homebrew seen in Ulan Bator more common. The only obvious cure for such widespread alcholism is jobs - it's creating the jobs that's the hard part.

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