SRINAGAR: Logistics was going to be the big thrust area for the government and it would become a force multiplier for all businesses in Jammu and Kashmir, Minister for Finance and Labour & Employment, Haseeb A Drabu said on Thursday.
“Three years as finance minister had made me cynical. But today has given me hope. For the first time, I am feeling that there is life beyond government and government jobs. Forums like this are nothing short of inspiration,” Drabu said at the ‘Ideas Summit’ organised by the Foundation for Resource Development and Education (FRDE) which was attended by hundreds of entrepreneurs and established businesses in hospitality sector of Kashmir Valley.
The function was also attended by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation (Government of India), Jayant Sinha and Vice-Chairman of JK Projects Construction Corporation, Khalid Jehangir among other officers of the state government, an official handout read.
The finance minister said a major concern for JK was lack of private investment and the forms of it. “Private investment needs to be spurred. What I see for J&K is to be a knowledge economy. Every single art in Kashmir is a creative art which is a knowledge asset to preserve which the banking sector must find ways of funding. By leveraging outpouring of creativity, we will be leveraging the state’s economy of future,” he said.
“Entrepreneurship is a dignified existence and our rich cultural heritage and crafts prove Kashmiris are born entrepreneurs. We have it in us to excel. Every household has an entrepreneurial capability since our valley used to be a small artisanal craft based economy. We need to think at bigger levels to market our state and its produce at higher levels,” he said.
Regretting the slump registered by the handicrafts industry of Jammu and Kashmir, the finance minister said the society had to share the blame for it as well. “We have in many ways downgraded our own distinct crafts. The prices they are sold at are ridiculous. We haven’t valued our crafts, our artisans, our culture and our heritage. While crafts are produced world-over, our crafts are aesthetic and functional which is a very rare combination,” he said.
“The problem is thoughtlessly converting the state into an industrialised economy when we don’t have basic infrastructure. At least 27 percent of GDP comes out of crafts and other one third comes from horticulture, yet we didn’t have a management course in craft or horticulture management till recently in any of our academic institutions,” Drabu said.
He said the state government was aligning the structure of economy with what the state offered best. “There haven’t been many interventions by government, yet all these trades survived all kinds of assault without government support and being surrounded by immense amount of social trauma,” he said.
The finance minister told the entrepreneurs to think big. “Our businesses don’t grow beyond a certain level. We have just one publicly listed company. We all have to devise ways to scale up businesses. There are 7.4 lakh enterprises in JK which employ 16 lakh people. Most of them have two or so people. If they just increase the manpower from two to four, it will increase businesses and help the economy in growing,” he said.
Drabu said Kashmir as a tourism destination is pre-sold and all it needs to attract huge tourist numbers is a peaceful atmosphere, “The day yo u say with confidence that the situation is peaceful, tourists will flood the valley. Younger people havebigger stake in peace and you must contribute in building a sustainable peace in JK,” he said.