In a freewheeling chat with BUSINESS GOA editor, HARSHVARDHAN BHATKULY, Goa’s Chief Minister DR PRAMOD SAWANT spells out his ideas to attract industries to Goa, generate employment and do away with bottlenecks that impair industrial growth
HB: You have been replicating the Telangana model in Ease of Doing Business (EODB). What is it about Telangana that has attracted you to imitate them?
Dr Pramod Sawant: Telangana has been giving permissions for setting up an industry within a month and a half, for any industry to set up their businesses. They are following not only a single window clearance system, but they are fast, as well. Not many states follow a single window system in the true spirit. We are trying our best to have something similar in Goa and we want to have it here. It is my wish to get this done. I don’t know whether we can implement this model in these two or three months, but I am trying my best to do this. The only difference that I see is that Telangana is a big state with large land parcels, while Goa is much smaller in size; and our land parcels to attract industry is proportionately smaller.
On the administrative level, to facilitate Ease of Doing Business (EoDB), we have to make a few changes when it comes to our revenue laws. We will have to bring in amendments in the TCP Act and Panchayat Raj Act to bring in the true essence of EoDB. If we don’t get in a single window system; and an industry wants to set up its business in Goa, and we are not able to fast track their permissions, other industries may feel reluctant to look at Goa as their choice to establish their ventures in the future. If you look at other states, they are all rolling out a red carpet for these industries by giving them incentives and other benefits.
There are so many industries that Goa can attract, for instance in the hospitality space, IT, education, manufacturing. We cannot go in for massive or polluting manufacturing industries; but we can surely have education hubs by making it feasible for the leaders in the sector to be present in our state. We have to also attract creative industries to harness Goa’s local creative talent. We have a large talent pool which we can utilise this opportunity to its fullest. We need to promote R&D facilities and provide them with a proper EoDB. I have an intention of rolling out a red carpet for these kinds of industries. I have been struggling with this issue for the last three years with so many administrative barriers and the legal ones, too; besides the pandemic. In addition, there are many people opposing projects from the environment point of view. But we will come up with some good initiatives and do what we have to do.
ON MINING REVIVAL – There are three things to keep in mind as far as mining is concerned. We have formed a mining corporation; second, there is a dumps policy in tune with the Government of India’s dumps policy; and thirdly, we are doing auction of mines and have started taking steps in this direction
HB: You are looked upon as somebody who is young, dynamic and people see that there seems to be a roadblock from the administration and bureaucracy. How are you going to tackle this for the sake of the young entrepreneurs who look up to you as a CM who will deliver his promise?
Dr Pramod Sawant: I do not feel that there is a roadblock from the bureaucracy. There are roadblocks in the form of our old and archaic laws which are obsolete today. There are some provisions of the revenue laws and other laws which require amendments and need to be cleared first. If we can clear that, it will be a comparatively easy process. In the upcoming assembly session, I plan to put this forward. The bureaucracy is very much cooperative and they are ready to work hand in hand with us. Even our ministers are taking initiatives to facilitate the coming in of different industries. Recently, I had a meeting with the Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry who have suggested various initiatives for the sake of EoDB. Those initiatives are welcomed by us and we have reached out to such trade bodies to share their suggestions which we will try to implement in the upcoming assembly session. There is a scope to make amendments to various laws which are outdated. This time we are seriously focusing on industry. When I say industry I mean the hospitality industry, the IT sector, the educational sector, and the electronic manufacturing cluster. All these industries don’t have to be set up in an industrial estate only. I am thinking of having a theme park too, in the tourism belt, where different investors will come and invest in Goa. We have also had a meeting with the Goa Investment and Facilitation Board (IPB), the Industries Minister and Chairman of Goa IDC. Members of the IPB and IDC have visited different states, studied their business models, and have suggested various changes to be made. IPB has suggested giving them the power for a single window clearance and we are making amendments to the different laws like the Panchayat Raj Act, and other revenue laws and Town and Country Planning Act which hinder the single window concept. Then only can we delegate power to the IPB, which will be the final body for giving permissions as well as monitoring projects with various other departments.
HB: What is the status of mining now, as people are saying that mining has to start after such a long hiatus and everyone needs some kind of clarity as to where mining is going now?
Dr Pramod Sawant: There are three things to keep in mind as far as mining is concerned. We have formed a mining corporation; second, there is a dumps policy in tune with the Government of India’s dumps policy; and thirdly, we are doing auction of mines and have started taking steps in this direction. After 10 years, from 2012 till date we have cleared many cases and closed some of them, too. If we had kept any backlog, it may have created a problem for mine leases auctions. So the first step that we have taken is by sending out a notice under the law to vacate the leases by giving a notice of a month to the leaseholders, so that we can auction these particular leases. We have already taken SBI onboard for the auction of these leases. Once this process starts, mining companies will come onboard who will take these leases.
HB: Will the existing and traditional Goan mining companies enjoy any preferential treatment at the auction or will be it an open auction of the mining leases?
Dr Pramod Sawant: We won’t be giving preference to any of the previous mine holders and it is an open auction for all. But we want genuine players to come in and we will be putting in some clauses to that effect. We want miners who want to do actual mining and not just traders who will do a fly-by-night operation.
HB: Your Swayampurna 2.0 is pegged to be a game-changer for the grassroots level for self-employment. What is the stage that it is in right now?
Dr Pramod Sawant: It is the vision of our Prime Minister which we have converted from Atmanirbhar Bharat to Swayampurna Goa and we plan to take the idea across Goa. Swayampurna Goa 2.0 has two phases. The first phase has been 90% completed with ten focal points related to housing, finance, and everything related to our economy. Now we have started to make people self reliant. We are imparting training to the Swayampurna mitras as to how to make people self reliant (Swayampurna). We want this for every village in Goa. Our focus will be on starting skilled employment in villages. We also want to tie up with financial institutions to create Joint Liability Groups. We can take every concept and start it in each village. We can’t provide government jobs to everyone. We can only give jobs in the government sector once someone retires. Employment can be generated in the private sector or people have to become self-employed. So we had floated a Swayampurna Yuva Program where we have connected the youth to the private industries. Now how do we go about creating self employment? This is what we are taking to every village so that these villages can also be swayampurna. We can also use solar power in these villages to make it Swayampurna. We can also start a Swayampurna Youth Club to motivate our youth to get into community farming. In order for the simplest of villagers to understand our idea of Swayampurna Goa, we had our mitras going to villages every Saturday. These mitras have now increased their activities and will be going from different departments to these villages and provide information to the people. Based on their potential, the target group for Swayampurna Goa will be allotted the opportunities. For example there are weavers who weave Kunbi sarees and there were only 4 or 5 of them first, especially in Sanguem taluka. Now there are more than 60 people who weave these sarees and we have trained them with the help of NABARD. So if a private sector were to open an industry in this village, at least 200 people can be employed there. A handicraft village is being established in Sanguem with the help of government schemes. We have already received 10 crores in funding from the Government of India to boost the concept of cottage and village industry. This will be the true intent behind Swayampurna Goa.
HB: For the longest time, people have been talking about hinterland tourism. Goa has hardly taken any steps in this direction. What can we do in this regard?
Dr Pramod Sawant: Let me tell you this, the Government can’t put up a hotel there. We can provide them with basic infrastructure like roads, water and electricity. Most importantly, we can promote these places. While promoting these places we have to make facilities available there and this has to be done through a Public Private Partnership. My idea is to share government land in these areas with private partners so that they can at least start with something small out there. We usually give permission for huts on the beach and if we allow such ideas in the hinterlands, automatically there will be people who will want to set up their hospitality ventures there. We have to share our resources with private players and automatically it will be possible to start tourism here. We have yet to explore the tourism potential in these areas. If we do this then definitely private players will invest in such areas. Now, in Sanguem we have strawberries growing abundantly. If we promote this there are chances of this clicking.
HB: To attract industries to invest in Goa, people have been talking about SEZ land. Where has that reached and what is the solution to this?
Dr Pramod Sawant: We still have SEZ land with us, we have auctioned some and we had to refund some land too, which we have already done. Once again we will be auctioning these lands. Those who are interested can take these SEZ lands and put them to good use. Around 25% of SEZ land is gone off and we have advertised twice in this regard. Now we are advertising this for the third time. For good projects, we have industrial estates like the Latbarcem Industrial Estate, the Shiroda Industrial Estate and Tuem Industrial Estate for good investors looking for good land parcels.
HB: Are you planning on going outside the State to market Goa’s industry potential?
Dr Pramod Sawant: Yes of course we plan on doing that. Once we have finalised our industrial policy, in three months or so we will go ahead and do that. We don’t want many players but we want few players with potential.
HB: What about NGO pressures on Goa’s development? If the Government is floating a particular project what is the Government doing to convince people for such projects?
Dr Pramod Sawant: I feel that the Government should take such initiatives. If we get in the marina project for example it will help the hospitality industry. There are so many players in the hospitality industry. They have to talk for our side, too. If the Government does all the talking, then what is the point? The Government will go ahead and get its work done. We want good projects coming in the State. Last time just because we kept quiet about going ahead with these projects, doesn’t mean we will keep quiet again. We will go ahead and do it. We hope that people will support our stand on these projects.
HB: On similar lines, is the call for app based taxi operators which will be a good statement for Goa that we are in tune with what’s happening with the world, prove that we are a world class travel destination?
Dr Pramod Sawant: I am the only person who is supporting app based taxis. But due to elections and other commitments we have yet to take this idea forward. We plan on starting this within another two months in Goa. Before Mopa International Airport opens up, the taxi issue should be resolved. More app based taxis will come in the state, by taking our taxi drivers in confidence, else we will go ahead and start app based taxis.
HB: How will Mopa help Goa’s business? There was a talk of having a logistics hub there.
Dr Pramod Sawant: Mopa International Airport will be cargo based. Having a cargo based airport will give a boost for many industries given that it will be an international airport. This will help our industrial sector apart from the tourism sector. It will help support a logistics and cargo hub.
HB: What is your Statehood day message as somebody who the industry looks up to for bringing change, clearing roadblocks and as Chief Minister of Goa?
Dr Pramod Sawant: For the industrial sector I have to say this, this year we are celebrating our 35th Statehood day. For the best industries to come into Goa we will make the necessary changes to our policies this year. Be it EoDB or facilitating industries to generate employment, we will do it all.
HB: Tell us something about Investment Promotion Area (IPA)?
Dr Pramod Sawant: The concept of IPA is to facilitate or promote investments in various sectors by setting up either hotels, malls or any other commercial establishments including manufacturing industries. In general, realisation of such investments was a tedious and time consuming process. However through the route of IPA, the process is simplified and carried out in a time bound manner. The recent amendments in the Goa-IPB Act further simplifies the process, since all the permissions after the notification of an IPA, would be given by the Planning development and construction committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, formed under the Goa-IPB Act 2021. The main focus would, however, be to promote non-polluting and green industry in Goa and thus member secretary of Goa State Pollution Control Board is one of the member on planning development and construction committee. If a private player owns land and wants to set up an industry, s/he can directly approach Goa-IPB and apply for an IPA. Further, the interested project proponents can develop private industrial estates which again are approved through the Goa-IPB single window system.
HB: Students who study in Goa have very little employment opportunities. What are you doing to retain good talent in Goa?
Dr Pramod Sawant: The talent that we have in Goa is a lot and they are getting good opportunities outside because of the facilities and attractive packages that are available to them there. We need to create such an environment in the state so that IT and other industries can come in here. These industries can then pick up the best of students from this talent pool from Goan educational institutes. We have already started working on this aspect and it will definitely help us in the long run