Will Goa’s new CM Manohar Parrikar be able to woo investors in IT, pharma, entertainment?   4 comments

In April’s first Monday, just hours after Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar steeply cut value-added tax (VAT) on petrol, price per litre dropped to Rs 54.96 from Rs 65, gas stations in the state ran dry.

There were snaking queues at petrol pumps in the capital, Panjim, and elsewhere, and rumours that some operators were buying fuel cheap in Goa and selling it at higher prices across the state line.

Parrikar, whose radical move caught the eye of the nation, has only one thing to say: “We are suffering from inflation inflicted by a moronic Centre. If I was finance minister, I could think of 5-10 ideas of collecting revenue.”

It maybe such a can-do attitude, or simply the CM’s ability to convince people he means business, that resulted in the Parrikar-led BJP winning 82% of votes in the March polls. Unlike his first two terms in 2000-05, the BJP now has a majority; so Parrikar is unhindered by coalition politics.

Clean Up Goa

The CM has already begun delivering on poll promises. Alongside the petrol price reduction are subsidies and doles to various groups of citizens .

But for a state beleaguered by illegal mining, land grab, environmental degradation and a lack of industry and employment, the biggest salve comes from Parrikar’s self-proclaimed intention to clean up Goa. He wants to do this by cracking down on illegal mining and corruption, and plugging leaks in revenue collection.

“He is astute, technically and administratively strong,” says Ambar Timblo, MD, Fomento Resources Group, which focuses on minerals. “We have strong hope that he will effect reform.”

But here’s the problem: the reduction in petrol VAT will result in revenue loss of Rs 160 crore. “The sops are freebies the state can’t afford,” says Pratapsingh Rane, ex-CM and leader of the opposition Congress.

“It’s not a big amount and has been accounted for in the budget,” counters Parrikar. My tax revenues were about Rs 1,600 crore, of which I will lose 10%. But I have other sources of revenue for offsetting this.”

Parrikar is also mulling increasing the 5% royalty charged on every tonne of iron ore that leaves Goa. “Iron and tourism, the mainstay of Goa’s economy, can be great revenue sources,” says Timblo.

Casino Economics

According to Shrinivas Dempo, chairman, Dempo Group, Parrikar is also looking at revenues from Goa’s offshore and land-based casinos. “He plans to reduce the entrance fee but increase the licence fee, which will help him gauge how much revenue he can expect from casinos”.

Not everyone is happy about this. Sabina Martins of Goa Bachao Abhiyan says Parrikar’s stand on casinos has been a flip-flop. “When he was in the opposition…he organised several protests against casinos on moral grounds. Now that he’s become CM, he says shutting down casinos will send out a wrong message to investors.” Martins fears that reduced entry fees, Rs 2,000 to Rs 500, will lead to law and order problems and may induce young Goans to blow up their dole in casinos.

But more critical as a revenue source is plugging the leaks, either via monitoring or via action on corruption and red tape. The CM believes this can net him Rs 200-300 crore. “Any leak will be treated as theft,” he promises. “Once you put the fear of punishment in people’s minds, they won’t dare do it.”

Even in his previous terms, Parrikar had insisted on ‘zero-tolerance to corruption’. “But he couldn’t carry out all the changes because of the coalition he was part of,” says DV Salgaocar, MD, VM Salgaocar & Bro. “This time, he is determined.”

Wooing Industry

Parrikar is acutely aware that Goa’s future hinges on attracting new industry. Mining and tourism can be fickle and cyclical. The CM has been trying to woo IT and ITeS investors, and even created an IT park in Dona Paula. “We would like to invite sectors with little or no pollution,” says Parrikar. “That could include IT, pharma, entertainment, light engineering, where Goans can find work. I need to create such an atmosphere.”

Parrikar, a man in a hurry, has promised by May-end a long-term mineral policy addressing illegal mining and handling of waste ores. He also plans to replace the current Regional Plan on land use with one that takes into account forest, industrial and urban requirements.

Meet Me, Be Quick

Parrikar invites anyone with a grievance to visit him at the secretariat. But he doesn’t encourage long conversations. “He is happiest if you give him 5-6 points, rather than a note,” says Dempo, who was pleasantly surprised to find the CM and his senior team working one recent Sunday.

When Dempo went to meet him about Goa hosting the Under-17 World Cup, Parrikar didn’t just support the bid but asked Dempo for details. “In the very first meeting, he wanted to know if I had cost estimates,” says Dempo. “Parrikar keeps you on your toes.”

Parrikar, even as a single dad raising two sons, works 16-hour days, and likes to be kept informed about everything. When it’s downtime, it’s usually with a book on philosophy or a biography; Chanakya’s Arthashastra takes the pride of place.

The CM believes in leading by example. One of his first actions after winning was reducing the security for VVIPs, and settling for just one guard for himself. He is known to be hands-on, given to surprise checks and personally supervising infrastructure projects and road works; once doing this even at 2 am.

In his first term, some Parrikar warts did become visible. “He was known to be arrogant and high-handed,” says activist Ramesh Gauns. “He didn’t consult anyone on policy, didn’t see people and deeply hurt sentiments when he tried to scrap the Good Friday and feast of St Xavier holidays.”

This time, before he took office, he apologised in the Assembly for his arrogance, and said that he’s a changed man. “He asked Goans to give him another chance,” says Gauns. They certainly have.


Posted April 8, 2012 by avinash2060 in Politics

4 responses to “Will Goa’s new CM Manohar Parrikar be able to woo investors in IT, pharma, entertainment?

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  1. Reblogged this on souravmehrotra.

  2. Added to my favorites, I genuinely like your blog!

  3. Pingback: Victory in Goa, Party in Mumbai !! What’s cooking Mr.CM !!??!! | media laundry- @Dhobitalao

  4. Pingback: Old wine in new bottle: Mining is addiction, Goans will die if stopped says BJP CM Parrikar | media laundry- @Dhobitalao

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