A delegation of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Inc) headed by its President Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, participated in the pre-budget discussions with Advisor to Governor, Kewal Kumar Sharma on Sunday at Srinagar.
The KCC&I spokesman in a statement said the delegation apprised the Advisor about the precarious economic condition of the businesses.
“We have no hesitation to state that the condition of our economy is precarious. The Government has also expressed it’s concern at the last few years being damaging for the business establishments and of the dire need for putting in place serious enabling measures for supporting them in this hour of weak growth and uncertainty. That was nine months ago. The stress has steadily worsened since then,” said the spokesman.
“In addition to the above, the unstability on the political front has created further complications. You would appreciate that since the previous budget was presented on January 11, 2018, we have witnessed no less than four changes in the Ministers/Advisors in charge of the Finance Department. As a result, the policy to aid and enable businesses has not taken off as envisaged in the previous budget. Most of the announcements made have either not been acted upon or stand shelved,” the spokesman added.
“Having a direct interest in it, the KCC&I is keen to assist the State in the revival of our economy. We suggest that, as a first step, the threads be picked up from the previous budget and announcements made therein regarding trade, commerce and industry be acted upon urgently. Stability and continuity in fiscal policies is essential for ensuring appropriate growth and development,” he said.
“In view of the unrest of 2016 further impairing the capacity of businesses to repay their loans, the then Government had taken up the case for giving a suitable financial package with the Central Government and the Reserve Bank of India. After meeting with trade bodies, the then Chief Minister had rolled out the “CM’s Business Interest Relief Scheme” as an interim measure to support the businesses till the proposed financial package was finalized. This scheme was also declared to be beneficial to the banks who were at that point of time facing “huge NPA build up”. A large number of businesses have since either closed down or are on the verge of closure. The NPA build-up has multiplied. We urge you to kindly take up the finalisation of a package for which Central Government and RBI intervention at the highest level may be required,” KCC&I spokesman in a statement quoting delegation as saying.
According to the spokesman the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry discussed and sought specific interventions for Tourism, Handicrafts, Industries, Horticulture, Power, General Trade, Information Technology, and other sectors.
“For the tourism sector, the KCC&I, among other things, urged for upgradation of the tourism-related infrastructure and engagement of a professional PR Firm for countering of negative publicity given by sections of the media,” said the spokesman.
“The need for inclusion of tour and travel operators for availing various marketing and promotional schemes at national and global levels was also discussed. The Budget allocation for tourism promotion was requested to be augmented,” he said.
The diversion of funds from the Prime Ministers package meant for interest subvention for Hoteliers was also taken up. The delegation also strongly protested the non-implementation of budgetary commitments regarding the electricity tariff on industrial rates.
The Kashmir Chamber raised the need for allocations for the 2.5 lakhs artisans who were under huge financial debts. The issue of creation of a Carpet Village for which already recommendations had been made was also discussed. The delegation sought marketing assistance for ensuring rotation of carpet stocks and other handicraft products. The negative impact of GST on our handicraft sector and the need for it’s removal was also highlighted.
The Chamber urged for allocation for an Information Technology Tower on the lines of the Software Technology Park of India (STPI) in Kashmir and pressed for SGST exemptions for national level players who offload their work through this IT Tower. This would boost the local IT talent and open up new avenues for employment. Various other proposals for engagement of local IT Professionals were taken up for discussions.
“The lack of proper warehousing facilities for the businesses was also taken up and facilitation of warehousing in industrial areas was also discussed,” he added.
“The problems being faced by the Power Sector were brought to the notice of the Advisor. Several suggestions were made for encouraging private investment like the execution of Power Purchase Agreements with the private sector for hydro projects up to 25mw. A special budgetary allocation for the infusion of Capital Equity by the State Government for projects under PMDP Schemes was discussed. The delegation also urged for finalisation of the Hydro Policy for JKSPDC for Small Hydro Independent Power Producers (IPP’s) for facilitation of local players. The delegation also discussed the potential and problems with regard to utilisation of solar power sources in the State,” the spokesman said.
“The problems caused due to the delay in releasing of GST refunds to our industrial sector was also taken up,” he said.
The Chamber delegation while thanking the Governor’s Administration and the State Administrative Council (SAC) for their decision for extending support for new Walnut Processing Units, Nurseries and Controlled Atmosphere Cold Stores in September, 2018 but expressed concern at the delay in finalisation of guidelines for it’s implementation, despite the passage of a reasonable amount of time.
“We appreciate the approval for supporting of new Walnut Processing Units, Nurseries, and Controlled Atmosphere Cold Stores by the SAC in its meeting held on 12 September 2018. In this regard, we would request for effective follow up for ensuring implementation as the proposal appears to be caught up in procedural delays. Other issues regarding agriculture, floriculture, and horticulture were also discussed including the development of rootstocks, setting up of Horticulture Parks, infrastructure for post-quarantine and assistance in the transportation of stocks to markets and mandi’s,” the spokesman said.
“The Chamber delegation also requested for allocations to cater to the Poultry Industry for which purpose a new policy was shortly being rolled out,’ said the spokesman.
“The suggestions put forth by the KCC&I evoked a positive response from the Advisor and the delegation was assured that due consideration would be given to the suggestions,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile an official statement said that various suggestions were received from representatives of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Kashmir Brick Manufacturers Association, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Association, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurants Owners Federation, Kashmir Economic Forum, Bread Manufacturers Association of Kashmir, Cold Storage Association and Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir.
“Besides, the representatives from Education Sector, tourism, Agriculture, Horticulture, tour and travel operators, Industrial Estates Zakura, Industrial Association Rangreth and others also put forward their suggestions while requesting Advisor Sharma to incorporate them in the upcoming budget,” said an official statement.
“The representatives of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association requested for the formulation of the budget for few power projects which will be owned by the state, saying, this will help in further adding to the financial stability of the state to a greater extent. They also called for inclusion of Petrol and Diesel under GST. The representatives urged the Advisor to relieve the handicrafts from the domain of GST,” it said.
“These representatives also brought to the notice of Advisor that various promises with regards to the GST have been made to the people but are yet to be fulfilled adding to the increasing concern to the business fraternity. They also demanded that there should be proper awareness with regard to the process and issues under GST,” it added.
On the occasion, Advisor Sharma directed the concerned officials to set up the training centers in every district where the businessmen can get themselves acquainted with the know-how of the GST. In these centers training will be given about all the basics of GST including how to file a return, he added.
The demand for constitution of the GST Advisory board in the State also came up during the discussion.
The representatives from the Private schools demanded that the government should identify the place in Kashmir which can be later developed as the education hub. Around 2000 crore rupees is spent by the Kashmiri students to study in various parts of the world outside Kashmir, the representative said.
The issue of not implementing of Amnesty Schemes for industrialists and hoteliers including waiving off of interest, penalties, and charging of power tariff at par with industrial rates for industrialists and hoteliers announced in the State Budget 2018-19 was also discussed by various representatives.
Transporters said that the transport sector is in very bad shape and demanded special focus on its betterment.
While calling tourism one of the huge employment generating sectors, the representatives from tourism sector demanded the establishment of an agency to look into the wrong and negative perception is given through media about Kashmir.
“Advisor Sharma gave a patient hearing to the suggestions by various stakeholders and assured the delegations that their submissions will be given a thorough deliberation for inclusion in the State Budget to achieve better results on the ground,” the statement said.