Medical equipment sector asks for tax sops, removal of customs anomalies

Written by R Ravichandran | Chennai | Updated: Jun 28 2009, 03:14am hrs
Incentives and capital subsidies to boost medical technology products parks across the country, removing customs anomalies on raw materials and 10-year tax holidays to attract overseas investments into manufacturing of medical equipment in India are some of the important measures the Centre should consider in its forthcoming Budget, says the Rs 12,000-crore medical instruments industry.

In its pre-Budget memo to the finance ministry, the industry said the medical instruments and devices segment is the third vital pillar in the healthcare industry in India, apart from healthcare services and pharma segments. This segment is being continuously ignored by the Centre and the industry is completely import dominated, with over 80% of the medical technology products demand being met by imports alone.

According to GSK Velu, a senior committee member representing the medical instruments sector in India, Almost Rs 10,000 crore, out of the estimated Rs 12,000 crore of medical technology products consumption in India, is being imported to meet the domestic requirements. With continuous incentives and motivation, China, which was in the similar position a few years back, has moved up to become one of the top three exporters of medical technology products within 10 years.

Unless and until the government consider the demands of the industry, particularly encouraging Indian companies setting up medical technology products parks in collaboration with foreign partners by removing custom anomalies on medical equipment and with tax holidays, the healthcare expenditure will continue to be on the higher side for individuals and affordability become difficult for those poor people living under below poverty line, he said.

Hence the industry expects the government to come out with a specific scheme like setting up of parks with capital subsidies, 10-year income tax/sales tax/excise duty exemption to attract investments from both domestic and international medical technology companies into India in a big way.

Apart from this several customs tariff structure has inbuilt anomalies with inverse duty structure wherein components/raw materials are being charged in higher customs duty compared to finished goods.

This is acting as a disincentive for manufacturing initiatives of technology products in the country, he added.

Meanwhile, the stem cell industry has also asked the finance ministry to introduce stem cell banking payments under individual tax benefit schemes like medical insurance.

According to Mayur Abhaya, a senior committee member of the stem cell industry in India said that the move will encourage more individuals to bank their childs stem cells as a future health insurance. The government should make it mandatory for the gynecologists to educate and inform their patients about the benefits of stem cells and make them familiar with the potential of this new science, he added.

According to him, the stem cell banking is a very nascent concept in India and the growth of this industry would solely depend on the aid and recognisation gained from the government.

With 4 million births every year in the country, the industry has a huge potential. The industry requires special attention from the government in its fiscal plans which would catalyse its growth in a big way, he added.

Awaiting aid

The industry is completely import dominated, with over 80% of the medical technology products demand being met by imports alone

The stem cell industry has also asked the finance ministry to introduce stem cell banking payments under individual tax benefit schemes like medical insurance

The industry expects the government to come out with a specific scheme like setting up of parks with capital subsidies, 10-year income tax/sales tax/excise duty exemption