Tax tourists, generate revenue : PC

| 01 October 1998 11:55 IST

In order to make Goa's tourism industry self-sustaining, the planning commission has suggested the local authorities to raise its excise duty structure while also taxing the domestic tourists coming here in large numbers.

However, the government is silent on the proposal as both the measures may prove fatal for the local tourism industry, which is already on decline due to overcrowding, lack of infrastructure and lose administrative control.

Though Goa is a favourite destination for the foreign tourists, the tiny state receives almost 80 per cent domestic tourists out of total 12 lakh coming here to enjoy the coastal beauty. Yet another attraction for the Indians is the liquor available for a song in the tiny state.

The planning commission team led by its member secretary S R Hashim and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who visited the tourist state to finalise its annual plant outlay this week, however suggested to levy taxes on domestic tourists for revenue generation since foreign tourist is already highly taxed.

Pointing out at a low excise duty structure compared to even Pondichery, Ahluwalia also suggested to levy more tax on quality brands of liquor in ad-valorem and not on per litre basis. There is no other way to make the growing industry self-sustaining, feel the PC team members.

However, Hashim fully agrees with chief minister Dr Wilfred de Souza's contention that the tourist state contributes almost Rs 4000 crore every year in terms of foreign exchange through tourism, mining and port operations while it receives no financial assistance from the centre to build the infrastructure which would support these three key sectors to grow.

The planning commission thus assured the Goa government to help in raising assistance through external borrowings from international institutions, provided the packages are linked to development of panchayat and municipal communities and not the industry alone.

One such proposal of water consolidation programme worth Rs 1100 crore, which includes development of water supply, irrigation, sanitation, sewerage and soil conservation, is still pending before the water resources ministry since it clashed with the sanctions imposed on India after the nuclear explosion at Pokhran.

The state authorities however admit that no comprehensive programme for infrastructural development in terms of roads, bridges, energy and communication facilities has been prepared yet.

On the contrary, the new coalition government is still lobbying at the centre for one-time grant of Rs 150 crore, to be utilised in these areas.

Regarding changing the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, due to which Goa's central assistance is being slashed remarkably, the final decision would be taken at the National Development Council meeting after taking note of various complaints of all the state chief ministers, informs Hashim.

Meanwhile, the planning commission has fixed Goa's annual plan outlay at Rs 291.07 crore by granting a loan of additional Rs 20 crore than the projected outlay, to be divided equally for rural roads and bridges and minor irrigation. The authorities however expect at least eight times more help to overcome the financial crisis it is presently going through.

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