No freebies needed, focus on entrepreneurship.
By Pinakpani Bharadwaj
A YEAR back attention was drawn to a news report that Goa needs a special status. Buoyed by the fire in the Telangana agitation, the urge to negotiate a special status for Goa was vehemently spoken about. Additionally, the recent trend of various political parties announcing freebies and promissory cards before the election is catching up in the skies.
A party that has to its credit one of the worst governance records in West Bengal is now trying to make an entry in Goa, by announcing a host of promises which they also know cannot be kept. The eastern province under its administration over the last ten years has seen an unprecedented level of meaningless violence on opponents, cut-money corruption, syndicated hooliganism, authoritarian and anti-democratic attitude, and anti-industry policies. Goa would be well-off without these qualities. Insiders say that this party (in exchange for go-slow promise on corruption cases against many of its leaders by the Central agencies) may have been receiving money from the industrialists close to the government at the Centre, to specifically divide the opposition votes in Goa and help the present government to retain power in the coming election.
GOA STILL TALL!
ALTHOUGH on a downhill journey at phenomenal speed in the last few years Goa still stands tall! That is in comparison to several fellow Indian states, in terms of per-capita income, gross domestic income, high level of literacy, high social development index, relatively tension-free socio-political environment, moderately good connectivity and hospitable public mind and its accommodative attitude.
In contrast, the weaknesses of Goa are reflected by less responsive, slow, opaque, corrupt, fundamentally vision-less governance, shallow financial sectors, high rate of school dropouts and unemployment, insufficient tertiary education and vocational training, masses unable to look beyond inconsequential inner circles, shortage of intellectual leadership, immoral politicization, absence of scientific input for environmental decisions, monopolized and inefficient transport system, and no apparent solution for garbage disposal, sewerage cleaning and water conservation.
Even amidst all this, Goa records several opportunities. Such as being the dominant English-speaking multilingual state. Moreover, Goa is small, governable and largely integrated throughout with the same history and philosophy. Besides a majority of corrupt politicians, other major threats to Goa come from polluted beaches and the not-so-friendly mining industry. There is a danger that Goa may lose its unique identity if uneven development and unsustainable use of natural resources — mines or beaches — is not arrested.
IF mining and tourism, the two boons of bountiful nature, have rendered the launching pad for the economic development of Goa for decades, it is time to look beyond these areas to develop sustainable, environment-friendly entrepreneurship with a human face. The state needs to grow a culture of innovation and support a knowledge-based society. I focus here to explore an agenda to make Goa a First-World State (FWS) in the least possible time. For this, I tried to first identify the characteristics of any first-world state. Later, I investigate the scope and opportunity of newer grounds and possibilities for Goa.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A FIRST-WORLD STATE
ALTHOUGH there are no clear-cut qualifying characteristics for an FWS, food security is given a fundamental responsibility of the government. To make it happen, the government should ensure optimum production (and acquisition) of food grains and an effective distribution of the same to the public. The second most important aspect that an FWS ensures is to provide its citizen with healthcare facility on par with global standards. In addition to social healthcare insurance, investment in human welfare is a must. Encouragement to public-private partnership to ensure an accessible and efficient healthcare system for all the citizens- rich and poor alike is a must. A society having respect and dignity for the human being would bring equality and real democracy.
Almost all the FWS have developed need-based, human-friendly, sustainable infrastructural support for their citizens. Wide, neatly tarred roads, well-marked bus lanes; wide footpaths, clean bus, train and affordable taxis (also for differently-abled person), efficient multi-storied parking space, uninterrupted good-quality electricity, and clean potable water – these are some of the basic needs no FWS would compromise on. To this list add an efficient garbage and sewage disposal system. The plan for these projects must be prepared in consultations with political, social and environmental stakeholders in a democratic, fair and transparent manner.
Innovative informal education at the lower level and well-structured secondary and tertiary level education are the founding pillars of any FWS. This inculcates an element of inquisitiveness in the minds of the students, installing an automatic monitoring mechanism to ensure efficiency and openness in the system. The dignity of labour is given utmost importance and hence vocational training institutions receive equal accreditation and grant from the state like tertiary university education.
In addition, the state should ensure safety, security and protection of one’s intellectual independence. Ideological, religious, cultural and regional tolerance is being inculcated through impartial governance, uniform civil and legal administration, and absolute equality before the law for all citizens.
AGENDA FOR THIS ELECTION!
NOW that another election is knocking at the door, Goans instead of asking for a political issue like special status or manipulative issues like freebies, must demand the following no-nonsense actions from the political parties. Goa, according to experts, has all the potential to become an outstanding FWS within the next ten years, provided a transparent, corruption-free, proactive governance is in place. The knowledge economy implies a sustained economy that derives its strength from pure knowledge. Knowledge emerges through invention and reinvention and moves much faster than goods, services and capital across political borders. In a nut-shell: It is where knowledge is more important than labour and capital.
Development does not mean production alone but should be coupled with distributive justice. Hence, the areas which can be developed into major pillars of the economy in Goa are pharmaceuticals, healthcare industry, tertiary education, entertainment industry, information technology, and financial and offshore banking services. Major investment in the field of infrastructure development is essential to support the above listed activities. Major investments in power and water sectors are essential. Revamping the sewerage system and managing the problem of solid waste should be among the priorities. Investment in the transport sector can, in fact, double the return. A faster, less pollutant, congestion-free, comfortable transport system from north to south (105 km) and east to west (60 km) can bring about desired results. Enhancing the facilities at the airport, seaport, and road is a must.
The time has arrived for Goa to move beyond the age-old mining and tourism industries to strike out a sustainable, environment-friendly, win-win strategy to ensure development with a human face. A knowledge-based economic progress with private-public partnerships appears to be the best option. This approach will not support the erection of a reckless settlement zone to make Goa look like another Singapore, Dubai or Hawaii, but would support economic turnaround to ensure an environment friendly balanced growth!
(Pinakpani Bhardwaj is a marine scientist and is now active in bridging the gap between natural and social sciences!