While coronavirus ordered lockdown caused immense hardships to all, the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) said that, the lockdown had a very disruptive impact on the national as well as the state economy.
According to the trade body, by and large the impact of the lockdown is negative but on the plus side it resulted in the creation of new entrepreneurs and also cleaned up the environment.
Assessing the impact of the lockdown on local industry Manoj Caculo, president, GCCI in his speech to members during the 112th annual general meeting touched upon various topics. He said that, all the manufacturing units barring pharmaceuticals units in the state had to shut down.
“Sectors such as construction and real estate as well as hospitality, tourism, retail industries came to a grinding halt. All commercial establishments, except those selling essential commodities, had to be shut down. With zero sales and zero recoveries, all businesses found themselves in dire straits.”
The state economy largely depends on manufacturing, construction, real estate, hospitality, tourism and agriculture and all sectors were inflicted a huge economic setback by the lockdown, said the GCCI president.
Caculo said that, he supports the recommendations of the economic revival committee set up by the state to restart activities. The committee had said that, all industries in the state will take at least six months and tourism at least twelve months to recover.
It said that, the recovery of the Goan economy can only come through resumption of mining by amending The GoaDaman & Diu Mining Concession (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act 1987, which will permit mining operations till 2037.
Caculo said that, GCCI has been very active on the legislation front by making various representations even to the Prime Minister to bring in the legislative cure soon.
“GCCI supports responsible mining and recommends controlling the greed of a few which caused misery to a large section of the society the last time,” said Caculo.
On the sensitive subject of migrant workers he said, “Goa is known for its susegad lifestyle and most Goans are known for only looking out for government or bank jobs. This laid back attitude and reluctance to take up private sector jobs, have allowed people from other states to come in and grab opportunities. Hence today we find that we are dependent on them to provide us the basic labour and services.”
According to GCCI there is a marked undercurrent of animosity against the migrants by the locals, particularly among the youth evident in social media campaigns seen over the last one year or so. “We have to understand that these migrants came to Goa to take up the jobs since we were reluctant and were looking to take up jobs in the Gulf or European countries or on cruise liners only,” said Caculo.
To correct the skewed workforce profile of the state, Caculo suggestion is skilling of local youth. “To help the Goan youth, the state government and business community can work together to identify the job opportunities, and if need be even train the youth in the required skillsets,” he said.
“The locals must understand that the government can offer very limited jobs and due to global economic slowdown, the chances of finding jobs abroad or on cruise liners are bleak. Hence it is important that the Goan youth look at jobs in the private sector or work towards entrepreneurship.”
To recover from the lockdown the Chief Minister on June 26 announced several relief measures, According to GCCI these relief measures will provide minor relief and only to some of the sectors.
“Extension of validity of all construction licences and other permissions without any additional fees are welcome. Facility to pay the current year’s lease rent over the next three years will help the plot holders in GIDC industrial estates to tide over the current cash crunch. Extensions of all licences, permits etc pertaining to transport and excise department, extension of validity of factory licences, introduction of the centralised inspection module and introduction of self certification scheme will provide some relief to factories, shops and commercial establishments.
“These measures amount to just short term deferment of liabilities. Industry has suffered and it was hoping that the government would provide actual financial relief and to that extent, we feel disappointed,” said Caculo.
In case of electricity Goan industry had requested waiver of fixed charges, demand charges and electricity duty for the lockdown period. “Mere moratorium for a short period is not going to really make a big difference to the consumers.”
Caculo had a good word to say on the huge number of entrepreneurs, both males as well as females, who emerged during the lock down. “They are ruling the social media currently offering a large variety of goods and services. Many of them, had to shut their existing brick and mortar businesses due to lockdown. Instead of ruing their luck, they have sprung back with renewed product range or services.
Their resilience and will to overcome all hurdles is something that makes me feel that we are looking at a new Goa of tomorrow. Of course now they will have to come into the main stream and comply with the regulations in force, get licences and legalise their business,” he said.
“The only positive impact of the lockdown has been on the environment. All over the world there has been marked improvement in the quality of air and water, the living environment for flora & fauna and positive impact on wild life.
One need not emphasise the importance of all these for Goa – these are Goa’s USP. While we may not afford long term lockdowns, but as we restart, we can take special care to ensure that we do not do anything that will harm our environment.