Incentivising to reverse exodus; or the agenda of Goenkarponn?

TCP Minister Vijai Sardessai’s appeal to industry to hire locals in return of relaxation in laws has the stakeholders divided in opinion, reports RAMRAI NAIK

The unemployment problem in Goa has taken a centre stage in the recent years. The government, along with the business community, have been trying to turn the tables but has not managed to achieve reasonable success.

In these distressed times, some western countries are talking about reverse migration by looking inwards and making employment regulations favourable for the locals. The same line of thoughts have been echoed by Town and Country Planning (TCP) Minister of the state Vijai Sardesai; who expressed willingness in relaxing some laws if private companies keep more Goans on their rolls.

In 2016, when he was in the opposition camp, Sardesai had also demanded 80% reservation for the local youth in private companies. However, now as part of the ruling dispensation, his stand has weakened. Sardesai has now settled for incentivising private firms, bringing down certain restrictions, increasing floor area ratio etc. in lieu of more employment opportunities for Goan youth.

Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai has expressed willingness in relaxing some laws if private companies keep more Goans on their rolls. The debate is whether this is the Goenkarponn agenda of the alliance partner

The senior coalition partner BJP, however, has remained mum on the issue and has shown no intention of bringing changes at the policy level. Nonetheless, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has, in principle, directed the Investment Promotion Board to only prioritise the projects which provide employment to the skill sets available in the state.

All these moves are not surprising, given the rising unemployment in the state resulting in massive brain drain. Especially due to over-flooding of government sector, which has been the preferred field for Goans at large. Currently there is a brief ban on the state government recruitments, which will be resumed in a few months’ time.

Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be hosting an international level investment summit in Goa under the ministry’s “Invest India” initiative. The special programme would attract environment friendly businesses in the state.

“We are trying to get investment for eco-tourism, logistics, information technology and other sectors which generate good jobs. We will also emphasise for hi-tech industries like artificial intelligence, bio technology and others. The idea is that, we should preserve the ecology of Goa and at the same time, brings in investments in Goa so that development happens,” Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry told PTI.

The state government has also been working on improving the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings. Parrikar has set an ambitious target to take Goa to the top 3 business desination in India by 2019. All these attempts might revive the state of business in Goa; but political pressure would still mount due to rising local unemployment. Some of the locals we spoke to had mixed reactions about Sardesai’s offer and incentives to private companies.

Industry Reaction

Milind Prabhu, Chief Executive Officer, Genora Infotech Pvt Ltd says, “We should look at a clause to employ certain percentage of Goans in the companies established in the state. That will be a big benefit to Goa. However the percentage of locals employed has to be decided carefully and should vary across different sectors. At the same time one has to ensure that any such clause should not create problems for new businesses to set up shop in Goa; as it would decrease the number of new job opportunities.”

Prabhu adds that, “When it comes to skilled availability or when there are job opportunities, our people will find a way to get themselves trained and do the necessary work. If implemented with proper due diligence across industry segments, this would be a great opportunity for Goans and we should definitely look into getting this done.”

Prakash Kamat, Sr. Asst Editor, The Hindu, Goa, feels that relaxing of rules should happen in a transparent manner. “Government can incentivise industry for giving a certain percentage of jobs but can’t allow illegalities and discretion.” Further, Kamat broadly outlines the reasons why the industry prefers to employ migrants, “Considering Goa’s lack of absolute poverty, the demand of pay by locals is higher than the migrant workers which comes in and are willing to take jobs at low salary. Secondly, in some cases Goan youth like too many holidays for festivals, nightlife, etc., which is also another reason the industry prefers employees from outside the state. To avert trade unionism also they prefer labour from different parts of country.”

Kamat also feels that Government should encourage students to look more into private sector than focussing on government jobs. “So far we have failed to work effectively with industry to produce employable workforce. Skill development, education will also have to undergo a huge reform to make our youth job ready,” he added.

On being asked about how relaxation of certain regulations to hire local youth will affect the startup culture in the state; Jervis Pereira, CEO of Goa Entrepreneurs Mentoring Services Trust says, “Startups need a highly focused and skilled teams of individuals looking to provide a product or service that is better than what is available in the market. Better in terms of efficiency, in terms of cost, or in terms of quality. Given these measures, a highly skilled team is required for a successful startup. Skills as stated before may or may not be available in a given location so it may or may not necessarily always be to the benefit of the startup to hire only local talent. However, the other side of the coin is that startups will find  relaxations favourable because they may not have legacy for banks to provide them funding for their expansion projects or operations. Therefore in the case of startups, specifically benefiting from relaxations, government subsidies, benefits and packages, will all be a support to startups across the state or a given location.”

“People are losing the land, have to face pollution in their backyard; but they are not well compensated for the same. Hence there should be some reservation for the locals in the private companies,” said an anonymous source.

Amogh Desai, IT Professional feels that, “It is clear that we cannot force the industry to only employ Goans. There must exist some diversity and that will help improve the local talent. If local employment is forced upon the industry, lack of immediately available Goan talent in the knowledge based industry skills like Software Development, IoT, AI, and many others will force such industries to move elsewhere. We are already stuck with “missed IT Bus” problem for over a decade.”

Alternatively, Desai suggests improving EoDB rankings and promoting knowledge based industries like IT. He continues, “Currently we are stuck at policy making. Government needs to come out of that and start implementation of the policies, giving out incentives and actively pursue mid-sized companies to set up shop in Goa. Imposition of rules to force local employment will definitely affect the industry and will also close the doors for future investments from outside IT companies in turn degrading the already tiny talent pool.”

Now there are various platforms for locals to try their hand at entrepreneurship. Assistance comes from all corners – more than government, there are private initiatives in the same regards. Entrepreneurship at every level helps create job growth in the industry; but there is less focus given to skill development at the lower level. The issue of lack of job preparedness in the educational system is also a reason why the exodus happens from the state.

There has been too much talk for a long while about uplifting the business sentiments of the state; but lesser work has been executed on ground. Several policies have been formulated in the direction to create job growth but it has failed to revive the industry. All these factors directly affect the employment opportunities that a youth in the state enjoys.

Incentivising businesses to hire locals can certainly help in retaining the jobs for Goans; however, forceful regulation across any sector needs deep thinking. In the short term, these measures might change the trend of hiring; but in the long run, it would hamper the competitiveness of the market. Level playing field is an essential factor for future investments that will come in the state; therefore it’s safe to not try radical changes. Nonetheless, infrastructural boost to open other channels of avenue can achieve lasting results for employment generation.

“We should look at a clause to employ certain percentage of Goans in the companies established in the state”     Milind Prabhu – Founder-CEO, Genora Systems

“Startups need highly focused and skilled teams. Such skill sets may or may not be available in a given location”                          Jervis Pereira – CEO, GEMS Trust

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