Ahead of the Budget session 2016-17, Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Ahmad Drabu today held first pre-budget consultations with representatives of the business chambers and traders associations of Kashmir. Commissioner Secretary Finance, Navin Kumar Choudhary, Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Baseer Ahmed Khan and other officials were also present in the meeting. The Finance Minister listened to the suggestions of the representatives of various trade bodies and assured that their genuine demands would be given due consideration while framing the state budget. He said that holding of these types of pre-budget consultations is important in getting the required suggestions and feedback from various stakeholders besides getting the requisite knowledge and awareness about the problems confronting trade, commerce, industry and other sections of the society. The representatives of Chamber of Commerce of Kashmir, Houseboat Owners Association, Goods Transport Association, Travel and Tour Operators, Poultry and Farmers Association, Anantnag Traders Federation, Pahalgam Hoteliers Association, Hotels Association, Tourism Alliance and other trade bodies attended the consultation meet. The representatives of Hotels Association demanded that interest rate charged for upgradation or construction of hotels be revised and VAT on food items be made uniform across all items. There was a unanimous demand from travel and tour operators, houseboat owners and other trade bodies that houseboats should be declared as the heritage of Kashmir, which will go a long way in their preservation. The traders working in Tourism Sector demanded that government should earmark funds for the promotion of tourism in the state. There was a demand of enhanced and simplified relief and rehabilitation process for flood-affected businesses. The poultry traders demanded that the sector be given industry or agriculture status and other steps be taken to make it flourish. The traders suggested prioritizing the development of handicrafts, sericulture and cricket bat sector, which can provide employment avenues to thousands of people. While noting suggestions put forward by various industry and trade representatives, the Finance Minister assured them that their genuine demands and suggestions will be given due consideration while framing the state budget. He said that simplifying business system and its policies will be among the priorities of the government and focused attention will be given to the growth of business sector by providing necessary support. Dr Drabu in his concluding remarks said that the relation between business community and government is symbiotic in nature and efforts should be made to strengthen it for mutual benefit. “Any effort to weaken this symbiotic relation impacts economy and livelihood of people,” said Dr Drabu.
2015 Kashmir Despatch