More than anyone else, it is the Parrikar government which has realized the downside of having an industry which operates on the borders of legality.
The sudden stoppage of iron ore mining has not only placed thousands of families in a dilemma but also robbed the economy and government of large injections of cash. Hence, when the Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar announced that the state would have a new investment policy, it has to be seen in the background of the ecological and legal concerns highlighted by the shock treatment recommended by the Supreme Court to the state.
Governments have been talking of pollution-free industries, both manufacturing and services, including tourism. The emphasis on pollution-free industries was a result of popular resistance witnessed to several proposed and new industries. Beach stretches were not allowed to be ruined, although this might not be the truth in certain areas in Baga, Calangute and Candolim. The need to protect the ecology was always emphasized, though not always adhered to. It is within this broad framework that industry has grown in the state with local entrepreneurs and ‘outside’ investors gradually setting up units in the small, medium and large categories.
The Chief Minister has chosen to focus on pharma, tourism and light engineering units, all of which already exist in the state. What Mr Parrikar has added to the list is research (a few units are already engaged in this activity) in pharma and entertainment including film studios. One presumes that information technology is also on the drawing board since a policy for the same already exists. Mining cannot be written off and will be part of the economy once the illegalities are hived off. Casinos are definitely not on Mr Parrikar’s agenda. He has hiked the licence fees, and the move to allow only tourists to visit the gaming vessels will trouble the industry.
Mr Parrikar hopes film studios to be set up. Goa is a destination for film shoots; so studios seem like the next logical step. Presently, post production work is done in either Mumbai or Chennai. Can Goa become an alternative place for such work? Goa has a natural ambience which lends itself to film shoots. A studio will increase options for film producers. It is a challenge, but the results could be rewarding.
The state has not received much investment in medium and large industries over the years. The limiting factors are availability of land, less competitive incentives and poor quality power and shortage of water. The Verna industrial estate has to depend on water tankers and expensive power. While the water problems are likely to ease off once the new pipeline is commissioned, the power problems continue to rankle. The state has to depend on power generated outside and unless generation plants are set up here this problem will continue to persist. The likelihood of natural gas being piped to the state in a month or two has given the state the options it desperately needs. Also, complete transparency in allocation of land to industry is essential for growth.
Goa is a fairly well-developed state with a growth rate of over nine per cent. The service industry, led by tourism, is growing steadily. The number of tourists has increased. Sadly, infrastructure has not kept pace with this development. Proper sewerage lines and treatment plants, broader roads in congested areas, sufficient parking space along beach roads will help in the long run. Also, Goa needs to rethink its tourism strategy. It needs to ask whether numbers matter more than quality and chart a course for taking the state into the upper bracket. The urge to build must be commensurate with the availability of land and the holding capacity of the state. Goa cannot move backwards to a nostalgic past. It needs to go forward.