Thanks to recent Indo-Pak hostilities and uncertainty over hearing of Article 35A in Supreme Court, Kashmir businesses do not see any hope coming out of prolonged slump.
The economic condition of Kashmir may further deteriorate due to dwindling tourist footfall, traders say.
While post 2014 flood Kashmir economy is in doldrums, the situation further deteriorated when the valley faced more than six months shutdown and restrictions in 2016 unrest. Since then the businesses have failed to keep pace with their counterparts across the country, traders say. The other factor which further added to the slump was extension of Goods and Services Tax regime to the state, they claim. The decision, they said, not only ‘diluted state’s special power to tax goods and services’ but impacted the businesses as well.
Commenting on the current business sentiments in Kashmir, president Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sheikh Ashiq said “business scenario is volatile with unpredictability”.
“Important driving forces of economy in Kashmir are jammed. There is lesser investment sentiment. People are shying away from investing, either due to situation or they are already under debt as previous five years have given severe body blows to businessmen in Kashmir. In this situation, when you have lesser investments, it results in less business with it job creation too gets hit,” he Ashiq.
Ashiq said peace is pre-requisite for thriving economy. “Civilian killings, political conflict are the main reasons for negative impact on our economy. Even if we compare ourselves with newly carved states, we are lacking behind them in almost all the aspects. Reason is not only the situation, but also government policies which needs drastic reforms,” he said.
The other factor which according to the business community this year led to further downfall in the prolonged closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway.
“Irony is that not a single place in earth that too which is capital of a state remains closed for over two month in last three months. This obviously will have severe repercussions on the economy of any place, leave aside Kashmir which is already facing financial onslaught due to host of reasons,” said chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan.
Khan said markets here are presenting a sordid tale of Kashmir economic depression. “Tourism is not picking up, last year our horticulture produce too suffered losses due to untimely snowfall which further complicated the situation,” he said.
While businesses in Kashmir continue to bleed losses, the hospitality sector too is facing financial crunch.
“After Pulwama attack there has been a massive negative campaign against Kashmir tourism sector. Tourism players are recording massive cancellations which are a cause of worry for coming months. Last year, we had also faced lesser tourist inflow which means losses,” said chairman Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club, Mushtaq Chaya.
He said that now tourism departments along with stakeholders are trying their best to promote Kashmir tourism and remove negative perception being propagated by outside media against Kashmir.