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NRAI delegation meets Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman; seeks a mix of policy and liquidity support for the beleaguered F&B Industry

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Following the announcement of the economic stimulus package where the Hospitality sector did not receive any specific relief despite widespread speculation, a four-member delegation of NRAI had a meeting with the Finance Minister yesterday to discuss urgent industry-specific issues.
Apart from the Minister, the meeting was also attended by the Secretary-Economic Affairs Dept and the Revenue Secretary. The NRAI delegation comprised President Anurag Katriar, Trustees Riyaaz Amlani and Rahul Singh and prominent restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee.
While appreciating the hard work being done by the Union Govt, the delegation spoke about the core issues impacting the sector due to COVID-induced lockdown. All these issues were largely around policy and liquidity support; none of the suggested measures being expected to put any major strain on the exchequer. The key issues discussed were as follows:
Employment Support: Request for unemployment pay support for our lower end employees through ESIC corpus. Out of approximately 3.20 crore beneficiaries of the ESIC scheme, over 50 lakh belong to the hospitality sector. (Policy cum Liquidity Support)
Working Capital Support: Request was made to make available urgent working Capital support at the lowest possible interest, as close to the repo rates, with a six month moratorium for the Restaurant Industry. (Liquidity support)
Force Majeure towards rent: It was expressed that the current pandemic is one of the worst human crises ever, and the event should therefore be declared as force majeure. This is similar to the invocation of force majeure made in the Real Estate sector. (Policy cum Liquidity support)
E-Commerce Support: The delegation apprised the Minister and the officers that how these modern-day digital landlords are hurting the interests of lakhs of small and large entrepreneurs in the sector. It was requested for an immediate clarification bringing them under the ambit of Press Note-2 of the Commerce ministry of December-2018. A proposal to regulate and cap platform-led discount & commission was also made (Policy support)
GST: Request for allowing an option to avail Input Tax Credit (ITC) on GST for the Restaurant Industry was repeated again. Proposal was made to have dual rates, currently 5 percent for those not availing ITC and 12 percent for those availing ITC. (Policy support)
Refund of Pending Income Tax dues: Request was made to expedite the refund for all pending tax claims at the earliest. (Liquidity support)
Speaking of the meeting, Anurag Katriar, President of NRAI; CEO & Executive Director of deGustibus Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. said: “I profusely thank the Finance Minister for granting us a patient audience of over half an hour despite her busy schedule. It is a testimony of her serious intentions that she was accompanied by two key Senior Secretary-level Officials of the Ministry in the meeting. We conveyed to them that we are fighting a grim battle for our existence and we will need urgent policy and liquidity support from the Govt to survive this phase. We informed them that if we fail to do so, it may lead to massive job losses in the sector. Each issue was discussed in detail and she has promised to look into all of these issues at the earliest. She also gracefully offered to hold a more detailed meeting at a later date.”

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