According to conservative estimates, about 800 small businesses (shops, stores, godowns, fruit orchards, and set-ups) are fully damaged during the recent floods and earthquake while more than 600 partially damaged.
The damage is not only to the physical infrastructure of the businesses but also to the assets. Some shops have been washed away such as those in Muzgole Mulkow and Shoghore where tens of shops are gone with the flash floods.
The cash crop growers such as potato farmers and apple merchants lost major portion of their produce either to floods or collapsed transportation infrastructure. The total financial impact of the business losses would be in billions. Many water mills are damaged and people have to travel miles to buy floor from town markets.
The local shopkeepers as well as consumers are facing unbearable hardships for transportation of commodities from Chitral Town to the remote villages where roads are broken, and suspension bridges are collapsed. After the floods, the recent terrifying earthquake has added salt to the injuries of the poor consumers as well as small scale businessmen.
On one hand the purchasing power of the consumer has decreased as their wealth is now distributed to cover additional rehabilitation costs and on the other hand the prices of necessary commodities have increased due to increase in demand and constraints in supply. Two of the major reasons of supply constraints are floods and earthquakes that have broken the regular supply chain and added to transportation costs. These natural disasters have exacerbated the already existing problems of the rural market of Chitral. The small scale businessmen are now more risk averse and it would take more than five years for them to regain the same pre-disaster operational capacity. In an area where entrepreneurial culture is not that encouraging, these disasters have pushed the local small scale businessmen way back.
They either have to start from scratch or put together the broken pieces of their assets to restart what was once a well established butcher shops (such as in Shogore), general stores (such as in Muzhgole), bakeries (Reshun), hotels (as in Bumburate) easy-load points (Muzhgole and others) and auto service stations (such as in Kuragh).
Although some might argue that these disasters also gave business opportunities such as solar panels business, generators sale, construction materials retail, transportation service etc but given the magnanimity of the business losses and dent in the market structure, these opportunities have minimal impact on the collective economic activity within the district.
The people of Chitral are currently living in a depressed economic state and the small scale businessmen need a big supporting hand to restart their business activities. Last and not the least, it’s the private sector which is the key to the development of any region, district or country. This sector needs attention of the Government too.
Otherwise, the local consumers would be dying in harsh winters due to unavailability of commodities and the small scale enterprises of the district will be no more available for the next 3-5 years. The writer is a business graduate and blogs at: http://attasabir.blogspot.com)