Ahead of Union Budget 2022-23, which is coming in the midst of the third wave of the Covid-19, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the central government to hike the corporate social responsibility (CSR) levy by an additional 1%, apart from the mandated 2%, for a period of 12 months to provide booster shots to the community.

“CII requested that the government should encourage industry to deploy CSR funding towards providing precautionary shots to the community. Further, industry is ready to contribute an additional 1% under the CSR norms to the national vaccination mission, apart from the mandated 2%, and this can be part of the Budget for a period of 12 months only,” the apex industry body said in a press release.

CII President, T.V. Narendran, said that India Inc. is keen to contribute to the world’s most ambitious vaccination mission. He suggested that 1% of mandated CSR funds be earmarked for vaccination.

“In fact, our recommendation has been that if companies spend on vaccines for their employees, their families and members of the community, then that expense can be set off against this additional CSR spend. Besides the government provided boosters, the market mechanism should also be made to work for people, who can afford to pay for their booster shots. We have to understand that vaccines are the best stimulus that the government can make available for preserving livelihoods,” Narendran added.

The industry body believes that Budget 2022-23 is expected to focus on measures for strengthening economic recovery. In a bid to support the economic recovery process, CII has also requested state governments to lift restrictions on business activity, citing that the occupancy rate of hospital beds due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is well within the manageable level. It has written to chief ministers to consider curbs at micro containment zones only when hospitalisation rates are over 75%.

“Hospitalisation rates in the present wave stand at manageable levels and therefore, industry feels that Covid-19-related restrictions can be removed to enable the robust recovery process to continue. Our earlier recommendations in this regard found favour with the Government of India and we are thankful to the Hon’ble Prime Minister for it. In line with the Prime Minister’s guidance to state governments to undertake restrictions where required at a localised level,” said Narendran.

CII has also made recommendations to chief ministers regarding level of curbs on markets and factories. The industry body suggested that social and economic activities should be considered separately. “Social activities, in particular mass gatherings for any social, sports, entertainment, recreation, etc. purposes, should be restricted in general to curtail spread of the Omicron variant,” it said.

The industry body has also suggested a containment strategy based on micro containment zones. Besides, it has recommended using a combination of vaccination rate, hospitalisation incidence and sero-prevalence, if available, to determine the level of restrictions in the micro containment zones.

CII has also requested for fast-tracking of imports of all international approved mRNA and protein-based vaccines at a price to be determined by the government. This would open up booster shots to all sections of society.

“With bounceback in demand, the economy is expected to achieve 9.2% growth rate over 2021-22. However, this pace must continue for full recovery and faster growth in the medium term and to ensure that workers and small enterprises do not suffer. While vaccinations have helped in dampening the impact of Omicron on the lives of people, the present conditions are conducive to opening up the economy completely while keeping large social gatherings to a minimum,” noted Narendran.

Making a strong pitch for investment revival, the CII President further stated, “The investments under National Infrastructure Pipeline and Gati Shakti program must be fast-tracked and it is expected that the Budget would provide for this. These activities will be dampened if curbs on economic activity were to continue.”

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