SWAT: Swat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) has expressed concern over the government’s lack of interest in reviving the local industries.
Local industries in Swat suffered a huge setback during militancy and the subsequent military operation (Rah-e-Rast). Thereafter, they remained shut down due to the high cost of production and the lack of funds or grants to functionalize the same.
Physically damaged during militancy and the ensuing military operation, these industries employed thousands of workers. Most of them were the traditional silk industries, working since 1960. Others included Plastic, Rubber, Marble and Fruit industries etc.
Later on due to the lack of funds and other unavoidable circumstances including the high production cost, the silk units were either shifted to Gadoon Industrial Estate Swabi or scraped by the owners for want of any tangible monetary support from one or the other side, thus leaving the labour force unemployed.
For most part after the successful operation, it was hoped that these industries would be reopened with the help of grants or loans either by the government or other private firms. But unfortunately they are yet to be revived despite the lapse of more than seven years.
Hoteling industry was also badly damaged by the worst law & order situation. However, some of the hotels got relief from various firms and NGOs. Yet the hotels that were physically damaged during the militancy, the relief was not sufficient to meet the mounting requirements of these industries.
“The irony of the fate is that after the successful military operation, damage assessment surveys were conducted and tokens given to the owners of the various businesses, but no compensations were paid to them afterwards”, says the president of Swat Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Noor Muhammad Khan.
He further stated that now some of the owners of the industries want to restart their silk units. However, they are unable to do so due to funds constraints, he added.
Therefore, he underlined the need for a more substantive approach to enable the owners to start their businesses in the area in the larger public interest.
“For which the owners of the industries want that instead of financial grants to them, they may be given interest free loans for procuring machinery so that they can setup new industries in the existing premises of their buildings”, he informed.
He also demanded the government that as an exception to the normal practice, the banks may be directed to grant special long term loans. Besides low markup rate may be prescribed on the loans and the period for its repayment may further be extended. The period may not be less than ten years with a grace period of five years, so that the owners could pay the loans on easy terms, he added.
Noor Muhammad remarked that the same would serve as a working capital for revival of the local industries in district Swat. Furthermore, new jobs will be created by this way. In addition, the act would prove to be a milestone indispelling the menace of terrorism that will ultimately lead to instill normalcy in the area”, the president highlighted.
According the SCCI Senior Vice President Sultan Yousaf, three factors were mainly responsible for the unfortunate end to industries in Swat—militancy, the lack of interest by the government to revive the same and the cruel loadshedding.
Regarding the frequent power outages, he informed that the period of loadshedding is comparatively more in Swat than any other settled area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Moreover the unscheduled loadsheding and the low voltage has not only wrought havoc on the public lives, but has badly affected the industrial sector in Swat as well, he added.
He remarked that the involvement of these rather disturbing factors is like a hanging sword over the neck of the industrial revival in Swat. Additionally the same has been equally responsible for this sorry state of affairs, under which the industries are struggling for survival but have no way out to find, he added.
He went on to suggest that in order to resolve the thorny issue of the frequent power outages and low voltage, a new transmission line originating from Chakdara Grid Station may be installed to cope with the power supply needed to Mingora Grid Station.
“The existing main transmission line is unable to meet the growing demands and requirements of the area”. “Thus an additional line would be needed to cope up with the situation”, he added.
He demanded the government to approach the Minister of Power in this regard and also requested for directing the WAPDA authorities to reduce the menace of loadshedding.=DNA