Goa eyes Rs.25,000 crore industrial investment

Panaji, May 24 (IANS) Holding a fig leaf to protect its shrinking identity, Goa wants to roll out a red carpet for a Rs.25,000 crore investment it needs to set its industrial ambitions in order.

After decades of cozying up to family-run mining companies and power-guzzling, polluting smelting units, the Goa government is now eying light-weight, technology-heavy industry, which will harness local talent and avoid immigrant labourers, according to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar, who has advocated a freeze on immigrant labourers in Goa, has set the tenor for the proposed Industrial Investment Policy (IIP) 2013, which will lay down the kind of industry which Goa wants to pursue.

"I am very clear about it. We need to put a freeze on the incoming population while looking at an industrial expansion. I am happy when one person from another state comes to Goa for a job, but he comes with two other unemployed relatives. That adds to the number of unemployed people in Goa," said Parrikar.

Identity has been one of the buzzwords in Goa lately, with political parties as well as civil society groups clamouring for a special status for the state on the lines of Sikkim, Uttarakhand or the seven northeastern states.

Mining, a sector which requires large volumes of labour -- almost invariably sourced from Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka or Orissa -- does not feature in the early list of suggestions made by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) chairman Atul Pai Kane, who heads the state-appointed taskforce for putting together suggestions for the IIP.

In Kane's early wishlist are aviation, aerospace, information technology, IT-enabled services, integrated educational hubs, tourism-related light engineering, food processing and logistics, to name a few. But not mining.

"The goal is to create sustainable employment for the local workforce," Kane said.

Goa's industry is largely service-oriented and its worker profile is largely literate and semi-skilled, which the Rs.5,000 crore pharmaceutical industry has tapped efficiently over the years. Tourism too has benefitted from the workforce, which is known to shy away from blue-collar chores.

One of the major responsibilities at hand for the taskforce was stopping Goa's brain drain, which annually sees hundreds of fresh graduates, techies and management professionals leaving the state for better pastures due to lack of opportunities here.

In the words of Shekhar Sardesai, Goa Small Industries Assication's (GSIA) top executive, the brain drain will continue until and unless "suitable" employment is generated in Goa itself.

"Until you create employment, you will see a brain drain happening. There is a mismatch between output and opportunity here. There is a need to dove-tail the education and industrial policies of Goa," Sardesai said. He added that Goa should not rely on heavy polluting industries but instead focus on developing the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

The Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), an apex trade body here, wants the IIP to be in place as soon as possible and calls the investment climate in Goa as "very discouraging and pathetic".

"Employment for locals was never made an issue. The seeds of today's socio-economic stress, emerging out of the unprecedented inward migration, were sown in this unplanned industrialisation," it claims.

It cites the mysterious setting up of power-guzzling steel units as an example of gross mismanagement by the governments during the 1990s.

"Driven by personal greed and corruption, Goan politicians and bureaucrats conspired in the early 1990s to allow power-guzzling rolling mills from north India to Goa. Cheap power was what these units wanted. Goa had opened the door for polluting furnace units where no Goan is ever willing to work," GCCI has said in a report to the Kane-headed taskforce.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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