Industry body FICCI said there were hopes of relief measures for the health sector, but the coronavirus economic relief package hadn't fulfilled them. FICCI, however, welcomed the government's long-term strategy. The body said while the government had been "considerate towards agriculture, one of the key pillars for the economic growth of a country, the health sector that is the epicentre of the ongoing crisis has been ignored."
FICCI hailed the government's Atma Nirbhar Bharat stimulus measures that aim to augment public health infrastructure in the country but said these announcements would not provide respite from the immediate crisis arising out of the pandemic. FICCI said it was also crucial that the long-term policies announced by the Centre were put into immediate implementation to realise their impact in the next 3-5 years. It said the Centre should ensure public spending on healthcare was increased to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP, as mentioned in the National Health Policy 2017.
"The well-thought-out strategy for creating the public-private infrastructure of hospitals, public-funded labs across the country, emphasis on preparedness for infectious diseases at block level as well as greater importance to research and digital health will indeed form the pillars of growth for the sector," the industry body said.
FICCI said provision of 30% viability gap funding (VGF) for PPPs for hospitals in tier- II & III cities was also a welcome step. "Last year, the government had announced the 20 per cent VGF scheme, which has not seen many takers. VGF for capex only is not viable for the healthcare sector and should be considered both for capex and op-ex financing," it added
The industry body has made certain recommendations to the government to revive the health sector:
- Support through liquidity infusion for financing of the operating losses through short-term interest-free or concessional interest rate loans
- Unutilised past MAT credit while transitioning to the new income tax regime
- Indirect tax reliefs like recoup amount equivalent to ineligible GST credits paid on procurements for a stipulated period
- Customs duty or GST exemption on essential medicines, consumables and devices for treatment of COVID patients
- Waiver or reduction of health-cess on all essential medical devices
- Extension of the timeline (up to 3 years) the EPCG scheme
- At least 50% rebate on the current commercial rates of power