New Year Cheers
Another year gone by. It seems like just the other day that we were bringing in a new year. This also marks a year and a half of this magazine’s existence. Our columnist Swapnil Kamat has preached the power to introspect, which makes me take a bird’s eye view not of my life (let’s not go there) but the world as a whole and Goa in particular.
The decision of the Hon’ High Court in upholding the Government’s stand to scrap the SEZ projects may look like a victory to the Government. Victory to the people, yes. But mistake not that this was the same government which had brought the SEZ projects to Goa and after buckling down to popular sentiment, it did an about turn. The irony of debates regarding public projects in Goa is that they are brought in through the backdoor, oftentimes by stonewalling the stakeholders and then when the protests gather critical mass, they either drop them like hot potatoes or make it look like an unwanted baby. Now I personally would not like to see an SEZ project in a small and eco-sensitive place like Goa. But what happens to all those businesses that had put their top dollar based on the assurances of the State Government? Why did the State Government in the first place allow SEZs to put their money paying heed to public sentiment? The Government rarely shows respect to the commitment that it has made to investors.
Another issue that will gather momentum now is the road widening for highways. We have a PWD minister who is known for his political sways. Not too long ago he was anti road-widening. Now, in an influential position, he has changed his mind. But then again, who would want to draw the ire of the voters when elections to the State Assembly are a little more than a year away? It is definitely not an exaggerated belief that Goa being so densely urbanized will be completely in the net of the toll booths that will be installed to collect the monies that will go towards extension of the highways, thereby increasing the cost of travel for all and sundry. We need to seriously look at the highway issue from an out of the box perspective.
The HSRP project is also before judicial consideration. The same story unfolds again. Minister assumes that a project will change the destiny of Goa. Tenders are invited. Bids are opened. Project gets awarded. People see red. Tendering process challenged. Government backtracks. Should there be no mechanism to ascertain public opinion in the initial stage itself and thereby make sure that we do not turn into a stonewall State? The size, demography and apparent educational levels, besides a media with good reach makes it a conducive atmosphere to gauge public opinion. But who cares?
In the coming year, I am hoping that the State Assembly will pass the Heritage legislation that is much needed for Goa to retain its character, lest we become like some other faceless town. Perhaps Gurgaon? These and several other issues will be heard of in the coming year. Not to forget the elections to the Corporation of the City of Panaji. This could possibly serve as a semi final to the Assembly elections.
Now it looks that I’ve used this space to blow off some serious steam, but I hope it gets us thinking about what we want to see in Goa in the coming year, now that 2010 is nearly over. Business Goa has tried its best to bring to the fore pertinent State issues which affect not only the businessman but Goans as a people. So on a personal note I wish to thank you one and all for picking Business Goa, month after month. I wish you and your dear ones a very happy new year. May happiness be with you in 2011 and always.