Opinions of companies importing medical supplies to get out of the crisis

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In light of the stifling crisis that the medical sector is going through in Lebanon, especially the crisis related to the import of medical supplies of all kinds and the arrival of this country to the gates of the health disaster, as many operations and treatments are postponed by hospitals and medical centers because the importing companies are unable to meet their requests, Al-Gomhoria interviewed the head of the Syndicate of Importers of Medical Equipment and Supplies, Mrs. Salma Saba Assi.

To get the opinions of the importing companies and the solutions they propose in order to get out of the current crisis, Ms. Assi responded to all inquiries.

1 – We heard from you that you can no longer sell medical supplies at the subsidized price. Why?

The dispute first and foremost is over the interpretation of the word “supported”. On the one hand, companies consider the subsidized goods whose price the Central Bank has transferred abroad, and not words, promises, or even pledges that have lost credibility, especially since many files were rejected by the Central Bank after they were sold at the subsidized price.

On the other hand, the word “supported” or “paid” means the price of goods in the country of origin only! Without taking into account the other costs incurred by the importer for shipping, clearing, supplying, installing, financing and other direct and indirect costs, i.e. what is known as direct cost and operating cost, i.e. operational costs.

Yes, we are committed to the basic support price, but with the addition of the costs mentioned above that are not subsidized, and most of them are provided in hard currency or fresh money.

Therefore, companies today cannot sell at the subsidized price because, quite simply, the state asks them to sell at a loss… To explain the point of view of the importing companies, which is a valid point of view and documented scientifically and practically, I give the following example: Let us take, for example, a medical device imported from abroad whose price is 1000 dollar.

According to the current support mechanism, the price of this device in the Lebanese market is 1,500,000 Lebanese pounds. But the problem is that the state does not take into account other costs that must be paid in hard currency, such as the shipping cost, which is approximately 10%, and other costs, which are approximately 20% (customs clearance, technical support, fuel, etc.). The total costs of purchasing this device required by companies are actually 7,000,000 Lebanese pounds. As for the Lebanese state, it is equal to 1,500,000 Lebanese pounds. In other words, importing companies are required to sell at a loss, and this is against logic, and as a result of these practical and purely mathematical justifications, companies today are unable to import and meet the market need.

2 – According to the idea extracted from this speech, are there not scientific and accounting standards for calculating the cost? Therefore, what is the method that you rely on to calculate the companies’ budget and settle their accounts, knowing that you have confirmed that you are unable to determine the cost price in the event that the Central Bank rejects the files?

This question reminds me of a question put to us by one of the deputy governors of the Banque du Liban, where we asked in one of the meetings, how can companies importing medical devices and supplies close their budgets if they are ignorant of the value of the basic cost? How do certified financial auditors accept this? Today I am answering this question again: We cannot sell because we do not know the actual cost of the goods we are selling. This is a flagrant violation of the law of commerce and the rules of accounting and logic. Thus, we are not actually able to close our companies’ balance sheets.

3 – What is your comment on the accusations leveled against you about your high prices?

Thank you again for asking this question. There is absolutely no problem with prices, because they remained in US dollars as they were in previous years, but it was the Lebanese pound that changed, and unfortunately collapsed. The problem is not with the importing companies, but rather it lies in the Lebanese economy and in the national currency, which is with the Lebanese state.

This is something that companies have absolutely no control over. In this context, I add a very important piece of information, which is that despite the recent announcement of the new price mechanism by the ministry, which we cooperated with the ministry to put in place, the problem was not in the prices at all, but in the exchange rate! Since prices have always been set by the National Social Security Fund with clear price schedules and for many years, the Ministry of Health follows it! The importing companies have always adhered to all these schedules without exception and the pricing was according to it. Therefore, accusing companies is inaccurate, and this is an eloquent slander, an escape forward, and an attack directed against the weakest link that is not responsible for the deterioration of the exchange rate.

4 – Amid these difficulties, what are the possible solutions?
The priority is to return the wheel of import in order to provide goods in the market without any obstacles by the state, especially under the pretext of subsidy or the pricing mechanism. Therefore, the solution is very clear and practical: We ask the Banque du Liban, in order to ensure the continuity of the private sector and the resumption of work and in order to reduce the severity of the crisis, to give a quick and clear answer about the date on which it will pay the value of all the pending files related to the medical supplies that were sold at the price. backed. She urgently urges him to also give an explicit answer as to whether he will grant prior consent or not.

In the same context, the Syndicate requests the Ministry of Health to issue a decision allowing companies to import unsubsidized goods and secure them for the local market, provided that the Ministry defines a support mechanism to help patients who really need it.

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