Goa needs a growth story

By Prabhakar Timble
24 October 2012 07:31 IST

Goa falls in the category of the most developed States of the Indian Union with the highest per capita income. If the Human Development Index (HDI) is construed in terms of access to education, health, public goods such as roads, power, water, social infrastructure and financial products, Goa is indeed fortunate. Whether scams, corruption and loot lubricated this development or whether in their absence the visible development would have been still better is another debate which I would refrain from at this stage. Despite a highly educated and literate population and an almost zero population growth, Goa faces a serious problem of unemployment. Looking at the immigration of workforce into Goa, it looks like there is also the issue of unemployableness.

Goa needs a sustainable growth model rather than a rejection of growth. Growth could increase inequalities in the initial stages is well established by economists. But, with a mix of economic decentralisation, social sector spending and fiscal consolidation that growth and equity go together is also demonstrated by growth models. I also stand by the hypothesis that a slump in growth also increases inequalities by aggravating poverty on the one hand and reducing access to goods and opportunities on account of reduced purchasing power. Everybody talks of sustainable development without specifics. This is a rifle in our armoury to shoot down growth initiatives. At the most, we are vocal on what is not sustainable growth rather than putting the logistics and essentials of growth models considering the natural, land, human resources and identity concerns of the State.

Looking at the past one decade of Goa’s growth, it is amply evident that growth is different from development. The absence of growth strategy is writ large looking at the uncontrolled progression of mining industry and the related logistics falling a part of the services sector. More than the anti-mining lobby, it is the beneficiaries of the mining industry including the politicians, who stand vicariously responsible for the current stalemate.  Growth of industrial estates has not been accompanied by a sound base for industrial growth due to the absence of a composite strategy. It was a total ‘laissez-faire’ approach ----anybody can open any shop anywhere, anyhow and anytime. The approach to growth of tourism and hospitality industry was also no different.

The two models of growth which are hotly discussed today are those that emanate from the stories of Gujarat and Bihar. Both the States are dissimilar in terms of natural and human resources but the common thread is the optimism and the pride for the region-State generated by the respective political and bureaucratic machinery. Both the growth models are focussed to free economic space for private initiative and enterprise with the government creating enabling environment. Both models have increased the expectation levels through bureaucratic empowerment. Mr. Nitish Kumar has been successful to change the agenda of the politics of Bihar which was a dump of bribery, extortion, abduction and caste. So to say, these were the economic activities of Bihar and the state was in a poverty trap with income declining every year. Today, Bihar speaks a story for other states to emulate. The Gujarat model of growth has harnessed the tradition and culture of private entrepreneurship to ensure a trickle-down effect. There is criticism that the strategy is capital-intensive and discriminatory. The India Human Development Report (2011) underscores that the high growth rates achieved by the state of Gujarat over the years has not percolated to the marginalised sections of the society. These are areas on which public expenditure could be pumped through specific schemes but should in no way belittle the growth in terms of the Gross State Domestic Product.

There are sound lessons for Goa worth importing. Goa in the recent past and present is extravagantly projecting negativism. Gujarat injected a solid dose of a positive outlook by wooing investment pushed out by other states. Both Gujarat and Bihar has improved on the efficiency of public expenditure in terms of cost and time. There is an attempt towards fiscal consolidation through stepping up of public revenue and a focus on creating opportunities for private expenditure. What is more notable is the tuning of public administration to make it responsive and responsible to the call of business and investment. The political executive expects the bureaucracy to achieve the growth objectives.

Mere talks of identity without a push to growth and employment will not help Goa and its people. The government has to hoist a growth model for the state and sow the seeds of sustainable development with specific and clear policies and programmes. Regulations such as buffer zones, coastal regulation zones, and green zones should not be considered as “untouchable” locations for development. These locations need to be preserved in the interests of business, people and their occupations. They would remain preserved and protected only if these locations are utilised and exploited productively for people. Preservation is for sustained development and not to keep the resources in a state of idleness. By development I also do not mean excavation and extraction. However, the curtain of negativism would prove negative for Goa’s ‘asmitai’ and environment. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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