Opposition NC calls Budget the ‘same old words spoken in new tune’
Srinagar: The annual budget presented by finance minister Haseeb Drabu on Thursday met with criticism from Opposition parties and the trade and business community of Kashmir.
National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar termed the budget as “anti-youth” and said it was “beyond ground realities”.
“Given the hype the coalition government gave to the budget, saying it will open a new chapter in the development of Jammu Kashmir, it (budget) was nothing but the same old words spoken in a new tune by the finance minster,” Sagar said.
He said the government was quick to announce that they will get back power projects from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to end the power crisis in Kashmir but these were “just words sold by the current regime”.
“The budget had nothing of the expertise of an economist, though Haseeb sahib is considered as one. The youth of Jammu & Kashmir is the primary stakeholder in development but the government seems to have other concerns. The Budget also made no mention of the rising inflation, electricity woes, and other issues that the common man is battling with,” he said.
Sagar said no step was taken by the government to make J&K self-sufficient in resources, and that the “dependence of the state on imports is growing every day”.
“In the last budget, government had increased pension for widows and that was appreciated by everyone, but later we came to know that the amount was withheld and the deserving had to fend for themselves. I would like to say to the government that it should not restrict itself to mere announcements. Implementation is what matters in the end,” Sagar said.
He said the Budget should have included some initiatives so that the current “fragile” situation in the Valley is “normalised”. “Government seems hardly bothered that youth are joining militancy. Encounters are happening every now and then. Peace won’t come by regularising daily-wagers but by addressing the basic issues that are forcing youth to pick up guns,” he said.
Chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), Mohammad Yaseen Khan, said the budget has been “just to appease government employees” and contains “nothing for commoners”.
“Because government employees have been loyal to the government, the Budget has been made accordingly to suit and benefit them, most of all to reward their loyalty. Commoners figure nowhere in the budget,” he said.
He said there was “nothing special” for the business community in the Budget. “After implementation of GST, all the taxes had already vanished. So what kind of taxes has the finance minster abolished now? Toll tax, the abolishment of which has been mentioned in the Budget, was running illegally. The business community was seeking waiver of interest of two years – due to the floods in 2014 and the agitation in 2016 – but nothing of that sort is in the Budget,” he said.
However, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industries (KCCI) said this year’s Budget is “encouraging to a large extent in certain sectors”.
Appreciating the government for focusing on Public Sector Units (PSU), the KCCI said that these units are important for development and needed infusion of capital and professionalism. The KCCI said these units should be made free of all political and bureaucratic intervention to make them autonomous.
The KCCI said it welcomes initiatives like inclusion of tourism industry at par with industry in regard to power tariff, reviving of the transport sector, education loan interest intervention, the intervention proposed in respect of silk industry, bat industry, walnut, national saffron mission, apple industry, etc.
Seeking more interest waiver on loans of traders on account of the September 2014 floods, the KCCI said the government should increase the waiver amount to double, or the loans will turn into Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).
“We appreciate creation of Carpet Villages, although it is lower than our demand of Handicraft Villages as there are other handicrafts like shawl, crewel, etc, which have the same potential. Moreover, no venture capital fund has unfortunately been provided for helping local entrepreneurs, which was our demand,” it said.
Chief spokesperson of the Kashmir Traders Federation (KTF), Aijaz Shahdar, said there should have been waiver on interests of loans of traders.
“Trader community has suffered badly due to the turmoil in 2016 and the floods in 2014. We were expecting some special initiatives in this budget but it has disappointed us. The government has again ignored the traders’ community,” he said.
President of the Shehr-e-Khas Coordination Committee (SKCC), Bashir Kenu, said the Budget should have had allocation for tourism infrastructure.
“Business would flourish and development would come once you have high-end business and tourism infrastructure available. But we lack even basic facility here,” he said.
Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) criticised proposals for industry and trade, terming them as “inaccurate, insufficient and discriminatory”.
In a statement, Er Mukhtar Yousuf of FCIK termed the budget as the “last nail in the coffin of indigenous industry, which has been reeling under tremendous stress post floods, particularly after the implementation of GST (Goods & Services Tax) in the state.”
He said the government has “backtracked” from its promise of continuing with 100 percent tax reimbursement to the industry under the new tax regime, which was implemented “against the will of people as well as the industrial community”.
“The Budget proposals suggest reimbursement of SGST on value addition only. It is highly deplorable that the Finance Minister has not considered the majority of local industrial units even at par with a small section of industry by extending similar tax benefits as those extended recently to them under SROs 519 and 521,” the FCIK said.
The federation asked how the finance minister can be so involved in “brazen discrimination” as to be paying 42 percent of CGST and 100 percent of SGST to a section of industrial units while denying benefits to others.
The federation also rejected the proposal of 33 percent interest subvention for restructured and rescheduled accounts of trade and industry because of the 2014 floods, terming it “insufficient”.
“While the amnesty on surcharge and interest on power dues to industry was announced in the previous budget, too, yet the government order was not issued for full one year, after which the relief has been rehashed in the next year’s budget,” it said.
The FCIK, however, expressed a sigh of relief on the continuation of toll tax and an increase in its rates. It hoped this is not reversed under “tremendous pressure” from the trading community of Jammu.