by Prakash Waman Kamat
Goa, the tiny coastal State, steps in the 47th year of its vibrant existence today. Liberated from the shackles of Portuguese rule on December 19, 1961 along with a few other territories, Goa rose to become the 25th state in the Indian Union in 1987. Located on the west coast, Goa has a population of close to 14 lakh in an area of around 3600 sq. kms. It has a coastline of around 106 kms.
Symbolized as Parashurambhoomi in the Puranas, land created by pushing back the ocean, Goa was ruled by Marathas, Adilshahas, Kadambas and then for a period varying between 150 years to 450 years by Portuguese that ended in December 1961. Over the past few centuries Goa has been exposed to varied cultures, resulting into a rich diverse and pluralistic cultural outlook which is based on peace, tolerance and hospitality. This speaks for its communal harmony which in turn makes it a hospitality destination of international repute.
The people worldwide know Goa as a tourists’ paradise blessed by silvery and pristine beaches, historical temples and churches and a place of peace-loving people who cherish communal harmony. Very few would, however, fancy that Goa is today turning into a fast developing economy with a vibrant citizenry that is perennially asserting itself over choices and options of development.
In other words, it is slowly but steadily transforming from a long laid-back society into a vibrant and dynamic churning of an enterprise which is becoming increasingly conscious of a continued struggle needed for preserving its ecology, environment for its posterity. As a result, Goa is witnessing a major citizen participation in the local self government process, where people across the State are seen questioning the type of development and the use of State’s scare land and other resources.
The State boasts of a very high literacy rate, almost second to Kerala. In terms of per capita income too, the State ranks among the highest. Yet a big concern continues to be its declining agriculture which is marked by the very high rate of urbanization which is driving it into an Urban-State.
Interestingly, Goa has been ranked among the leading states on the developmental scale by national magazines. Goa’s economy is growing at a faster rate than that of the country as a whole. While the rest of the country is growing at around 7 percent, the growth in Goa touched the double digit in 2005 and it has never looked back.
Goan economy traditionally hinged on mining, Gulf remunerations and now on service sector mainly tourism. Gulf remunerations have been on decline in recent times, so too is mining and tourism which are presently facing the pressures of worldwide economic meltdown.
For the State with its primary sector declining to around 10 percent, the secondary sector contributing around 36 percent and the tertiary sector touching almost 55 percent of the GSDP, the problem is to strive to mobilise resources to sustain the high level of economic growth. With high growth, the State is also witnessing massive urbanization. With rapid development coupled with declining agriculture, Goa has turned into a city-state with over 60 percent of its population now categorized into urban population. From traditionally an agrarian economy, which relied considerably on imports, trade and iron ore mining in its pre-liberation era, Goa today is undeniably an industrially-developing state. Known for its high literacy rate, widespread knowledge of English and pleasant environment, the State has developed into a pharma hub.
Goa has been on the lookout to attract investments armed with a pro-active industrial policy, which identified biotech, food processing, agro-based industries, IT and IT-enabled services and entertainment sector as core areas of focus. After the State was declared a permanent venue for prestigious International Film Festival of India(IFFI), the entertainment industry led by State-owned Entertainment Society of Goa(ESG) is making big strides in bringing to forefront entertainment as a significant revenue generating sector. The moves are on to make it a entertainment hub of international standards.
IT and IT-enabled services
Realising the potential of information technology (IT) to impact the growth of every sector of the economy, the Goa Government set up the Infotech Corporation of Goa Ltd.(ITG). The mandate of the ITG is to develop IT-related infrastructure, promote IT-enabled services and implement e-governance objectives of the government. It is acting as a single-window agency for IT and ITES units for incentives under the State Government’s IT policy.
On the educational front, higher education is one of the thrust areas the State is planning to make a foray as a natural corollary to its tourism sector. The economic growth is stimulating development in two ways. It is increasing per capita income by creating employment opportunities. The growth is also generating additional resources for the Government. If the government invests these resources primarily on focus areas of basic and social infrastructure, including social security cover for the poor, it will lead to a multiplier effect that would result in higher growth and better quality of life for the citizens of Goa.
The enlightened citizens of the State are, however, alerting the decision-makers about a dimension of the high growth and unbriddled industrialisation and development. Significantly, the State Government is presently seen as conscious of this concern which can be seen from its on-going efforts to have a State regional plan 2021, a State land use plan, which is being prepared with the active participation of experts and town planners and with process involving transparency with involvement of citizens and non governmental organizations and environmental bodies.