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Enhancing A Fragile Economy

Enhancing A Fragile Economy

For a state that is in the throes of an economical predicament, it comes as quite a bit of surprise that nothing much is being thought of as solutions to tide over the crisis.

Data released by the state economic survey for 2016-17 indicates that Goa’s economy slowed down sharply in comparison to the national average.

Despite the Modi-sarkar’s tall claims, it is difficult to perceive that the demonetization drill hasn’t had a detrimental effect on the Indian economy. As in the other parts of the country, Goa too has had its share of melancholic outbursts at the impromptu announcement that caught the whole nation unawares.

Be that as it may, it however remains a fact beyond dispute that faulty planning and a lack of political will to push through good schemes beneficial to the state have been contributory factors towards the financial mess that Goa today finds itself in. The rest have only been additions to the misery!

Where the economic liberalization policies of the government in late 90s saw Goa welcoming the MNCs with open arms, a quarter century later the exhaustion of the tax concessions and other benefits accorded to them has seen a steady exodus of these companies to greener pastures elsewhere in the country. With plans afoot to set up a food-park gathering dust, Goa can now hardly boast of an ‘enviable’ industrial footprint.

In such a scenario, it thus becomes essential that the state government makes the maximum utilization of all the resources at hand to counter the fiscal shortcomings and stabilize the situation.

Believing it to be an unending treasure-trove, the mining ‘industry’ continued to be the economic-backbone of a state that was not averse to turning a blind eye to the plundering ways of marauders who were literally denuding the region of vast reserves of natural wealth. It was but natural that the ban and the subsequent restrictions imposed on the rampant mining paralyzed the economy of the state.

Yet the state doesn’t seem to get over its mining ‘hangover’!

Rather than sit back and shed tears over the wrought brought over by the mining imbroglio, it is necessary that the government seriously mulls over effective ways to enhance the tourism potential of the state.

Therefore it’s about time Goa opened its eyes to the wonders tourism could do for the state. But somehow, the tourism policy the state governments over the years have been endorsing leaves much to be desired. For long now, the state’s over-dependence on five-star culture has seen an influx of tourists who have viewed Goa as a place for fun and frolic. Is Goa all about beaches, temples and churches only!

This sort of unplanned tourism only adds to the woes of the locals. With a steep escalation in the cost of essential food items, Goans are staring at a bleak future. To their utter dismay, even fish, their staple diet, has all but vanished from their dining table. 

Sustainable tourism demands that special emphasis be laid on complete utilization of local resources. Exploiting the natural assets, various states have thus been successful in showcasing their regions and in raking in considerable revenue. Why should Goa lag behind!

For instance, Goa has never thought of promoting tourism in and along its inland waterways! The state of Kerala is an apt example of how a region could attract tourists through innovations to its surroundings without affecting the sensitive zones that make up for our environment.

A cruise in the houseboats on lake Vembanad and Punnamada Kayal is a must experience for visitors to God’s own country.

Allowing the boats to cruise along in the lakes all day, but at the same time making it mandatory for all of them to be moored at sunset so that the traffic does not interfere with the traditional fishing carried out after that all through the night by local fishermen, speaks for an adjustment that has created a win-win situation for everyone.

Karimeen Pollichathu , or poached Pearl Spot fish, is a very popular dish with tourists to the backwaters of Kerala. Duck meat and various other delicacies prepared from locally netted shrimp and other varieties of shell fish; a combination of mashed tapioca, spicy Tuna curry (‘meenchar’ they call it) and freshly tapped toddy served in an earthen urn to go along with it!

It is really interesting to have visitors to Kerala asking for these culinary delights by their local names. So much for the local flavor and ambience!

Goa’s bountiful backwaters require no special introduction! But tourists to Goa often complain that they are not as good as the ones in Kerala. Nor have the authorities been very enterprising when it comes to developing backwater tourism. There were thoughts on ‘hinterland river cruise tourism’ some years back, but as has been the custom, for reasons best (un)known, all such discussions were unceremoniously shelved.

Where the tourism department should have been pushing the proposals for river cruises and houseboat-stays for tourists in Goan rivers with that special touch of Goan hospitality rendered, the monotonous view of several floating casinos crowding the waters is what greets visitors on their arrival.

During a recent visit to Munnar in Kerala, our driver wouldn’t tire of showing us the famous waterfalls there. For people used to the glorious spectacle of the cascading waterfalls at Dudhsagar and Harvalem here in Goa, the sights at the upper ranges of Idukki region were nothing more than rainwater rivulets gaining momentum at steep points to shape into falls. Yet the crowds admiring those scenic wonders were much more than what we would find at Dudhsagar waterfalls during peak season. Blame it on faulty promotion!

A fellow-writer has rightly mentioned that rain-drop tourism is one way of promoting the state as a year-round tourist destination. It is well-known that during monsoons almost all the waterfalls in the state happen to be in full flow and are heavenly sights to behold. Goa is also blessed with several smaller falls that could attract nature lovers. There will be plenty to gain by introducing the concept of monsoon destinations for tourists. 

Besides, doesn’t Goa have age-old customs and traditions that any guest to this heavenly land would love to understand and appreciate? The Goan-culture is a blend of its people, festivals, music and dance. With a multicultural past the Goans have rich traditional customs and rituals which are practiced and adhered to very religiously. Tourists could also be attracted through local food. Goan cuisine is a reflection of the state’s history and heritage.

Instead of concentrating on the sustainable use of natural resources to enhance tourism in the state, successive governments seem to have been preoccupied with grand designs to have revolving restaurants, oceanariums, theme parks, shopping malls, and entertainment and handicraft centers after every foreign jaunt by ministers who held the tourism portfolio. 

The state in this respect is guilty of having tried all this, but only as experiments.

(Published on 19th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 25)