NC demands stimulus package for JK economy

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National Conference on Monday sought an effective and inclusive fiscal stimulus package for Jammu and Kashmir economy to tackle with the impact of Post August 5 clampdown and COVID19 induced lockdown saying that there can be no escape from the fact that that local businesses including public transporters are on the brink of collapse.

With the Kashmir economy sliding into an abyss, to assume that the traders, small scale manufacturers, tourism players and transporters will pick up on their own with the opening up of COVID-9 induced lockdown is no less than a wishful thinking, said Party’s Members of Parliament Muhammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi while expressing concern over the predicament of wretched condition of all the sectors of Kashmir economy.

“J&K economy suffered a whooping Rs 270 crore per day due to the COVID19 induced lock down and the previous year’s clampdown following August 5th measures undertaken by GOI.  Massive losses due to the clampdown, communications curbs since August last year have been incurred by local traders, businessmen including transporters.  Due to the continuous losses in Kashmir, borrowers of financial institutions have lost their capacity to keep their businesses afloat and pay wages to their employees. Substantial numbers of accounts have also become bankrupt, and scores are unfortunately contemplating closing their businesses. The situation of people associated with tourism, and agriculture is no different. Horticulture and arts and crafts that contribute the most to Kashmir’s export oriented economy has also faced the major brunt of the situation that has prevailed in Kashmir since August last year,” they observed.

Reflecting on the issues faced by local traders, agriculturalists and people associated with the tourism, transport and handicraft sector, Party’s Members of Parliament said the government has failed to confront the problem and that the businessmen ,traders and agriculturalists have been left to their own fate.

“Credit driven stimulus packages won’t work if it is not supplemented with other drastic measures focusing on providing relief to micro, small and medium enterprises, agriculturalists, transporters, and people associated with the service sector. The need of the hour necessitates that all the impending water, electricity bills and other taxes of traders, businessmen and other players be waived off. The mortgage period of all borrowers should be increased by six months. A massive bailout package of no less than 40% of the total GDP of J&k is what could put the economy on the track again. The major thrust of the government should be to deal with the liquidity crises of the businessmen, traders and agriculturalists. Unfortunately the incumbent government is clueless on the issues that are pestering the local economy. There is a great need to curtail the taxes deducted at source, the move will increase the amount of money the people will have at their hands. The measure will keep markets afloat,” they said.

Handicraft sector, it goes without saying how important it is, keeping in view the sheer number of workforce associated with it. It is one of the largest employers after agriculture in Kashmir. Far from reaching out to them, the administration has shut its eyes towards their sufferings, the duo said. “The craftsmen are the most vulnerable of our society, and should get the priority in the outreach, rescue and rehabilitation plans of the government. The long term revival plan of the handicraft sector should espouse bumping up of demand by giving zero interest loans to the people employed in the sector, and waving off all existing loans with immediate effect,” they said.

The duo  stated that the transport industry in general and the passenger transport in particular already crippled by post August shutdown, has been adversely affected by over two month long Administrative lockdown ordered to combat COVID-19 crisis.  “A comprehensive rehabilitation package for transport industry and passenger transport in particular including interest waiver on the loans extended by the financial institutions to the transporters August 2019 onwards and a reasonable amount on monthly basis to compensate the loss of income suffered due to the lockdown and on account of mechanical breakdown will go a long way towards alleviating the sufferings of people associated with the sector,” they said.