Goa’s economy needs orientation

Pramod Khandeparker
Thursday, 12 March 2020

Tourism industry groaning as Coronavirus scare is in the air

The impact of these two factors is almost disastrous. Closure of mining activity has forced thousands of families to lead a life of abject penury and now the Chinese viral diseases has paralyzed the life-sustaining tourism activity with the beaches wearing a forlorn look, hotel rooms going empty, taxi service losing business, air travel being canceled and erosion of the income of state exchequer.

Diversification and orientation hold key to the sustained growth of Goa’s economy now that it has faced at least two major reverses due to the closure of the mineral ore mining industry and the tourism-cum-hospitality industry groaning under the influence of fast-spreading Coronavirus globally with neighboring China being the epicenter of the new epidemic.

Goa had never bargained for such a scenario though some of the founders of the state’s corporate sector had visualized trouble if the managers of the economy and well-meaning people ignored the risk of relying on only one economic activity just because it appeared to be like a goose that lays golden eggs.

That was the era when India was trying to race towards self-sufficiency in all that the country needed. But, then, there were other thinkers who believed that the world was moving towards free competition by breaking the shackles of isolation. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev’s clarion call for Perestroika and finally the dawn on Globalization gave an impression that the world was learning to co-exist by sharing wealth. The laws of economics always come under influence of manipulations simply because man has never been that honest. Greed and lust of power always played spoilsport.

It is time that the planners, administrators and all stake-holders of Goa’s economy come together and decide how to save the state from the predicaments of the type it has been facing lately. This is because, it is difficult to hazard as to when the scourge of Coronavirus would abate or come to an end. Even a man-made tragedy like the closure of mining industry could not be resolved for nearly eight years.
The question is whether Goans could have a safe activity or vocation which could sustain them eternally and protect them from the type of predicaments it has been facing lately. People have been talking about Knowledge Economy. There has been lots of talk about IT industry. While not much is being heard about Knowledge-Economy, there are positive steps to give a push to IT Industry on the part of the government.

After Verna IT Estate, there are moves to have similar facilities is some other parts of the state. What lies in store for these projects is difficult to hazard at least at present. The problem lies with the Goan mindset. This is because Goans have not sat together yet to thrash out their economic future, pluralism being the dominant factor even when it comes to secular issues. There are some people who believe that Goa should not have industries at all. There are others for whom mining industry is anathema. There is yet another group that holds the view that any upcoming economic activity should not be established in their proximity.
Goa has progressed a lot since the Liberation. But this has been mainly possible due to the one-time prosperous mining industry and later the life-sustaining tourism-cum-hospitality industry.

Identity crisis has been a major issue in Goa in the past. Fortunately, the same has been taken as settled at least partially. And, it is time to banish the hangover of the past. For example, in the absence of any consensus, Goa’s physical growth has been largely haphazard. And, the government and the village panchayats concerned must be warned against granting permissions to establish mega housing complexes, which not only prove to be big drain on basic facilities but are centers of unnecessary people coming down to Goa to enlarge the demography. We must plan housing essentially for our own people and those engaged in different economic activities. Why should Goa become a bastion of second homes to moneybags from other cities like Delhi and Mumbai?

The government itself has been the biggest culprit of haphazard physical development. Look at the manner in which it has been scattering the location of different departmental buildings. They are spread all over Panaji and Porvorim. For example, the new Government Secretariat building and the Assembly complex are situated at Porvorim, which is a village and comes under Penha de Franca village panchayat. Now, the High Court complex is also coming up nearby. It means, all the three wings of the State namely, the Executive, The Legislature and the Judiciary would be located in a village.

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In the past, there were some moves to upgrade the village into a town give it a municipality. The local people opposed the move suspecting that they may have to pay more taxes if a municipality came up there. Now, the government is toying with the idea of forming the third district. Some people like former chief minister Ravi Naik, who resides in Ponda, have welcomed the move saying that it would help to take the administration to the doorsteps of the people. However, there are others who keep their fingers crossed and saying that the state exchequer, which is already going through a severe resource crunch, would not be able to shoulder the additional burden of creating facilities like construction a suitable building for the new district. Goa had only one district until its status was upgraded to that of full-fledged statehood in 1987.

The creation of the South Goa district then proved to be a boon to the people. Otherwise, people from far off places like Canacona and Sanguem had to come to Panaji to visit the Collectorate. Now, they do their work at the Margao Collectorate. One, however, does not know for certain whether the headquarters of the new district would be located at Ponda or Dharbandora. In any case, the issue of discussing and thrashing out a plan of action to reorient and diversify Goa’s economy can be ignored only at the peril of the interests of the future generations.

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