All businesses in the state in dire straits: GCCI

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Coronavirus disruptive impact on Goan industry is aptly summed up by Manoj Caculo, president, GCCI, finds out Team B&C

While coronavirus ordered lockdown caused immense hardships to all, the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) said that, the lockdown had a very disruptive impact on the national as well as the state economy.

According to the trade body, by and large the impact of the lockdown is negative but on the plus side it resulted in the creation of new entrepreneurs and also cleaned up the environment.

Assessing the impact of the lockdown on local industry Manoj Caculo, president, GCCI in his speech to members during the 112th annual general meeting touched upon various topics. He said that, all the manufacturing units barring pharmaceuticals units in the state had to shut down.

“Sectors such as construction and real estate as well as hospitality, tourism, retail industries came to a grinding halt. All commercial establishments, except those selling essential commodities, had to be shut down. With zero sales and zero recoveries, all businesses found themselves in dire straits.”

The state economy largely depends on manufacturing, construction, real estate, hospitality, tourism and  agriculture and all sectors were inflicted a huge economic setback by the lockdown, said the GCCI president.

Caculo said that, he supports the recommendations of the economic  revival  committee set up by the state to restart activities. The committee had said that, all industries in the state will take at least six months and tourism at least twelve months to recover. 

It said that, the  recovery  of the Goan economy  can  only  come through resumption of mining by amending  The GoaDaman & Diu Mining Concession (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act 1987,  which  will permit mining operations till 2037.

Caculo said that, GCCI has been very active on the legislation front by making various representations even to the Prime Minister to bring in the legislative cure soon.

“GCCI supports responsible mining and recommends controlling the greed of a few which caused misery to a large section of the society the last time,” said Caculo.

On the sensitive subject of migrant workers he said, “Goa  is  known  for its  susegad  lifestyle  and most Goans are known for only looking out for government or bank jobs. This laid  back  attitude  and    reluctance  to take up private sector  jobs, have  allowed people  from  other states  to  come  in and  grab  opportunities. Hence today  we  find  that  we are dependent  on  them  to  provide  us  the basic  labour  and  services.”

According to GCCI there  is   a marked undercurrent  of  animosity against  the  migrants  by  the  locals, particularly among the youth   evident  in social  media  campaigns seen over the last one  year or so. “We have to understand that these migrants came to Goa to take up the jobs since we were reluctant and were looking to take up jobs in the Gulf or European countries or on cruise liners only,” said Caculo.

To correct the skewed workforce profile of the state, Caculo suggestion is skilling of local youth. “To help the Goan  youth, the  state  government  and  business community  can  work  together to identify  the  job opportunities, and if need be  even  train the  youth  in  the required  skillsets,” he said.

“The  locals must  understand  that  the  government  can  offer  very  limited jobs  and  due  to  global  economic slowdown, the chances  of finding  jobs  abroad  or  on  cruise liners are  bleak.  Hence it is important that the Goan youth look at jobs in the private sector or work towards entrepreneurship.” 

To recover from the lockdown the Chief Minister on June 26 announced several relief measures, According to GCCI these relief measures will provide minor relief and only  to  some  of the sectors.

“Extension  of validity of all construction licences and other permissions  without  any  additional  fees are welcome.  Facility  to  pay  the  current  year’s  lease rent  over  the  next three years will help  the  plot  holders in GIDC industrial estates to  tide  over  the  current  cash  crunch.   Extensions  of  all licences, permits  etc  pertaining  to  transport  and excise  department, extension of validity of factory licences, introduction of the centralised inspection module  and  introduction of self certification scheme  will provide some relief  to factories, shops  and  commercial  establishments. 

“These  measures  amount  to  just  short term deferment of liabilities.  Industry  has  suffered  and  it  was  hoping  that  the government would  provide actual  financial  relief  and  to that extent, we  feel disappointed,” said Caculo.

In case of electricity Goan industry  had  requested  waiver  of fixed charges, demand charges  and  electricity duty  for  the  lockdown  period.   “Mere  moratorium  for a short period  is  not  going  to  really make a big difference to the consumers.”

Caculo had a good word to say on the  huge  number of entrepreneurs, both males as well as females,   who  emerged  during the  lock down.  “They are ruling the  social  media  currently  offering  a  large  variety  of goods  and  services.  Many of them, had to shut their existing brick and mortar businesses due to lockdown.  Instead of ruing their luck, they have sprung back with renewed product range or services.

Their resilience and will to overcome all hurdles is something that makes me feel that we are looking at a new Goa of tomorrow. Of course now they will have to come into the main stream and comply with the regulations in force, get licences and legalise their business,” he said.

“The only positive impact of the lockdown has been on the environment. All over the world there has been marked improvement in the quality of air and water, the living environment for flora & fauna and positive impact on wild life.

One  need  not  emphasise  the  importance of all these for  Goa  –  these  are  Goa’s  USP.  While  we may  not  afford  long  term  lockdowns, but as we  restart, we  can  take  special  care  to  ensure  that we do not do anything  that will harm  our  environment.