As Union finance minister Piyush Goyal is all set to present the interim central budget for financial year 2019-20 in the Parliament on Friday, Kashmir-based trade bodies are expecting special announcements and packages for state’s tourism and handicrafts sectors, including GST exemption for the same. At present both Kashmir handicrafts and tourism attract 12 percent and 18 percent Goods and Services Tax but a Parliamentary Panel Committee had recently expressed concern over adverse effect of GST on Kashmir tourism and has recommended its abolition on the same. The local industrialists and business community is also seeking speeding up of the work on the long-pending central projects.
However, the expectation from the common people is that the slab of income tax exemption should be increased to Rs 4 lakh from present Rs 2.5 lakh and a special package for raising state’s infrastructure. President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Ashiq said the finance minister should announce a special package for trade and industry in Kashmir who suffered huge losses due to 2014 floods and 2016 unrest. “Implementation of GST and an end to IST refund from the Centre also added to woes of traders and industry. Now we seek special trade, industry and tourism packages, which can provide a boost to overall economy of the state,” he said.
Chairman, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kashmir-chapter) Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya said a series of measures should be announced in the budget for providing a boost to business in the Valley. Chaya said Kashmir tourism should be exempted from GST as suggested by the Parliamentary Panel report recently. “Trade and tourism in Kashmir is in desperate need of a stimulus. We are hopeful that maximum sops will be announced on Friday. There should be exemption of GST on tourism as suggested by the Parliamentary panel report so that tourism and hospitality business, which has suffered a lot in the past, witnesses growth,” Chaya said.
However, chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan, said he does not have any major expectation from the budget but demanded an announcement regarding return of the power projects. “How can I expect something when the Government of India has snatched the fiscal autonomy of the state by implementing GST here. I hope they realise this and atleast our power projects are returned back,” he said. Most business heads said the primary demand is the continuation of pre-GST incentives for the industries. They said extension of central tax refund to all local industries must be announced in the Budget. “The 52 percent CGST refund provided by the central government recently to handful of industry must be extended to all the stakeholders so that there is an end to disparity,” said another business representative.