The bill for 10 years of meal tickets: €500 mln


Over two million Romanians, or almost half the country’s employees, receive meal tickets worth RON 8.5 (€2) for every working day, which means annual payments of some €2 billion.

However, even though the past ten years was marked by a visible rise in the standard of living, including the modernization of the economy, and payment systems on IT platforms, the mechanism got stuck and is functioning at very high costs, according to those who are against meal tickets, while issuers say that it is too soon for a change.

“The meal ticket system is sickening the economy (…) a debate on its functioning would be appropriate, but not before the end of this year,” said Andreea Vass, Advisor to the Prime Minister. “As long as you have costs for printing some value tickets and introduce a lower value on the market, the difference between the offered ticket and that recovered seems totally irrational from an economic point of view (…) It is a completely unhealthy economic mechanism,” Vass added. The first effect of eliminating meal tickets would be felt by the budget, Vass told Business Standard.

The meal ticket mechanism means that the state grants a RON 8.5 salary deductibility for each working day, the employer raises the salary at no additional costs, the employee can use these tickets to pay for foodstuffs, and stores recover their money from the ticket issuer for a fee. For hypermarket chains, this fee is one percent or less. For very small shops, the commission may exceed five percent.

Constantin Voloceai, a business owner who publicly proposed founding a state monopoly on tickets, argues that the state could benefit from money at no interest, if these tickets were issued like any other invoice or vignette.

Attempts to reform the system have not had any results. The National Union of Romanian Employers recommended the granting of card deductibility in 2005. Moreover, former Minister of Labor Mariana Câmpeanu, said at the end of 2008 that the state should eliminate the meal ticket system.

According to a source in the industry, who asked to remain anonymous, the proposals to eliminate the printed system “are not substantiated and well documented.” “There has been talk for years about introducing a card system, as in many other countries, but there the penetration of points of sales (POS) at store level is 70 percent, while here it is below 40 percent. All those in the rural and small-urban environment would face tremendous difficulties. Of course this is an idea worth considering, but the time has not yet come,” the source said.