Pre-budget Discussions Start in Srinagar

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SRINAGAR: Reiterating that the Government attaches much significance to good and cordial relationship between administration and the trade and industry, the Minister for Finance and Ladakh Affairs, Mr. Abdul Rahim Rather today said that effective and judicious use of resources and better deliverance of services to the citizens is the main policy framework of the states planning process and its implementation on the ground. 

Speaking at marathon seven hours long pre-budget discussions with the nominated representatives of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Kashmir Hotel Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Associations (KHARA), Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Federation (KTME), Federation Chamber of Industries, Kashmir (FCI), Transporters Federation, Goods carriers Transport Association and the Association of Kashmir Motors and Drivers Association at the Excise & Taxation Complex, Solina Srinagar today, Mr. Rather said that synergy of Ideas between the Government and the Civil society, including traders and business community, was primarily imperative to harness goals and benefits of various government programmes and schemes aimed at state’s sustainable socio-economic development with focus on employment generation and economic emancipation.

The Economic Advisor to Government, Mr. Jalil Ahmad Khan, Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Mr. Kifayat Hussain Rizvi, Director Budgets, Dr. M. Ishaq Wani, Special Secretary Finance, Mr. Zubair Ahmad, Additional Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Mr. Rafiq Ahmad Hakim, Deputy Commissioner Commercial Taxes Central, Mr. Showkat Aijaz and other concerned Officers were also present in the meetings.

Rather announced that representatives of Trade and Industry would be included in the permanent grievance redressal Committee (PGRC), so that their grievances and demands are heard appropriately at the highest level for immediate redressal.  The PGRC is a high powered committee headed by the Financial Commissioner Finance, to address the day to day problems.  Responding to queries of the business community, Mr. Rather assured that Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode for undertaking mega projects and schemes will be given first priority adding that PPP mode of development is emerging as the preferred mode for the self sustained progress and economic development in the 12th Five Year Plan.

He said that he has personally ensured that pre-budget discussion take place with representatives of trade, commerce and industry, civil society, economists and intellectuals, so that government keeps itself abreasts with the vision, inspiration and ideas of the stakeholders and every effort is made to accommodate as many ideas as possible in the new Budget proposals year after year.  “There discussions bear fruit and stakeholder in the socio-economic development feel as much involved in budget preparation as Government” Mr. Rather added.

 “I have earlier also impressed upon Union Finance Ministry at a pre-budget meeting with the State Finance Ministers of the Country held at New Delhi to give further boost to the PPP mode through adequate budgetary initiatives to attract additional investments in different sectors of economy”, Mr. Rather added.

In response to another query, Mr. Rather said Government has in clear terms asked the Officers of Excise and Commercial Taxes that business community is a respectable and reasonable segment of the society and all precautions need to be taken that no trader is unnecessary harassed  during his dealings with the department.

 “I have strictly instructed the Officers and field agencies to ensure better tax management system at various Toll Posts of the State so that there are ‘zero seizures’, Mr. Rather said and added that this will be a step forward towards removing complaints about alleged harassment to the traders. Last year only 2% seizures have been registered through test checks at Lakhanpur toll plaza, though about 6000 vehicles move to and fro daily through this Checkpost. While assuring that all the possibilities will be explored to make the next year’s Budget proposal more people and trader friendly, Mr. Rather asked the business community to discourage tax evasion attempts by a few unscrupulous traders and to bring it to zero level so that there are no seizures at all and the system of random checking is done away with steadly with the passage of time.  He also sought co-operation of trade and business community in revenue realization as tax revenue was also important for development of the state which cannot be compromised.

Rather asked the business community that before implementation of Goods and Services Tax regime in the State alongwith other states of the Country, all the stake holders including trade and Industry will be taken on board adding that  the interests of the State’s people would be protected at all levels.

The representatives of the Trade and Industry, while thanking the Minister for providing them an opportunity to highlight their demands, congratulated him for achieving the distinction of No. 1 state in the country with regard to tax collection, i.e. highest tax collecting state.

Main demands which were made during the pre-budget discussions included VAT exemption on handicrafts including handmade walnut wood carved furniture, made-ups of chain stitch and raw pashmina wool, making Kashmir a free economic zone, budgetary intervention for promotion of MSME sector, promotion of handlooms, food processing, Tourism and horticulture sectors on modern lines, establishment of marketing HAATS under SGSY and food streets, creating lank bank for development of Industrial Estates at District levels, solid waste management, construction of mini power projects under PPP mode, setting up of a single Toll plaza at Lower Munda for general trade, creation of VAT return Filing Facilitators on the pattern of Income Tax Facilitators, VAT rebate on items needed for consumption in hotel and restaurant sector, exemption of service tax on room rent, implementation of 30% Capital Outright Investment Subsidy to the existing tourism infrastructure and treating tourism industry at par with small scale industries.

The KCCI, KHAROF, KHARA, KTMF, FCIK and Transporters federation were lead by their respective presidents, Mr. Ab. Hamid Panjabi, Mr. Faiz Bakshi, Mr. Showkat Chowdhary, Mohammad Yasin Khan, Mr, Zahoor Ahmad and Abdul Rashid Tichoo, Ghazi Abdul Majid and F. A. Batqoo.

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