Social costs of excess alcohol consumption cost New Zealand's economy NZ$662 million (US$421m) annually, not the $4.8 billion cited in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Health, according to a study published this week by two researchers at the country's University of Canterbury. The Government study, completed by Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL) and published in March 2009, found that social costs of illegal drug and alcohol abuse were a combined $6.8 billion.
"We find substantial flaws in BERL's method that together account for well over 90% of BERL's calculated costs of alcohol use," said researchers Eric Crampton and Matt Burgess, of the University's Department of Economics and Finance."The BERL report is wholly inadequate for use in assisting policy development," they said, adding that New Zealand recoups $516 million annually in alcohol duty taxes.
The researchers claimed that the BERL study contained "serious deficiencies" in methodology, including double-counting the cost of insurance and insured losses and not accounting for differences between alcoholics and the rest of the drinking population. Several differences between the BERL and Canterbury studies rest on what can be counted as a cost directly related to alcohol consumption.
I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find misrepresentation of numbers going on here! Now...would some U.S. researchers please do the same kind of analysis for the bizarrely huge numbers always thrown around by New Dry groups like CASA, PIRE, and NIAAA? And learn how to put out a decent press release when you get the results? Might be interesting to take the "cost of" numbers put out by various groups -- cost of alcohol, drugs, back pain, improper office furniture -- add them all together, and see if it's true that we're not actually producing anything in this country because it's all being eaten up by lost productivity and healthcare expenses.