Kashmir’s business associations on Sunday participated enthusiastically in the first-ever business conclave here to put forth their problems and suggestions on revival of the Valley’s economy. At the conclave organised by the Kashmir Inc, the J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was the chief guest while finance minister Haseeb Drabu was the guest of honour.
In his opening remarks, president, Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Muhammad Ashraf Mir spoke about the present position of businesses in Kashmir. He said that businesses in Valley have been suffering from nineties till date, “as a result of which our economy has not seen much growth. But the last few years have been backbreaking for the business community which is in distress.”
Mir said that despite the government announcing incentives, these are not paid in time “which forces businessmen to pay interest on the money borrowed.”
He suggested to the government to constitute a task force to deliberate on ways and means to take Kashmir’s business community “out of the fiscal quagmire.”
Chairman, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya said that the tourism industry has “suffered a lot in the past few years. There is a war going on against Kashmir tourism by outside media houses that are scaring people from visiting Kashmir.”
He urged the finance minister to exempt the hospitality sector from Goods and Services Tax. “Earlier we were exempted from service tax. We urge the government to have the same pattern for tourism sector,” he said.
Chaya urged the government to extend the moratorium period on finances. “We are not seeking waiving off our loans, but give us time. Kashmiris have shown it again and again that they are not looters. J&K Bank has NPAs more outside the state than in Kashmir. 97 percent NPAs of the bank are from outside,” he claimed.
Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan stated that Kashmir’s business is witnessing 80 percent slump post-2016.
“Our trade is passing through the worst phase. There is need for the government’s intervention,” he said, adding that the government should come forward and “take the business community out of distress.”
Chairman, Private Schools’ Association, ShowkatChowdhary said that private schools don’t require financial assistance, but “should be allowed to do things which would help Kashmir to improve the education system.”
He said that there are 3,500 private schools imparting education to over 7.5 lakh students with employment generation of 80,000.
Chowdhary stressed on the need of investments in higher education. “Every year Rs 2000 crore is spent by Kashmiris on education outside the state. We need to provide such facilities in Kashmir for which the state government has to play an active role,” he said.
Member, CEPC, Sheikh Ashiq highlighted the problems being faced by the handicrafts sector. This sector, he said, needs attention and the government must announce creation of a separate ministry for it.
Ashiq urged the government to waive off loans taken by artisans under the artisan credit card scheme.
Prominent hotelier MushtaqBurza and Muhammad Iqbal Trumboo also spoke on the occasion.
The conclave was attended by heads and members of PHD Chamber, FCIK, JK Private Schools Association, KHARA, KHAROF, PLTOF, Cement Manufactures Association, JK Hoteliers Club, CCIK, Kashmir Artisans, Kashmir Youth Entrepreneurs Forum, CEPC and other business associations.