16 Oct 2020  |   04:13am IST

Shack owners unshackled, but what about others?

While the much-awaited Tourism policy of the Goa government is finally out, it’s the decision on the reduction of 50% fees for shacks, which has become a major talking point. Clearly, this is with an eye towards keeping very strong and politically liked stakeholders happy
Shack owners unshackled, but what about others?

Team Café

On one hand, the long time coming Goa Tourism Policy underlines the government’s vision to make Goa the “most preferred destination, for high-spending tourists”. 

On the other, it has conceded to one of the most important demands of shack owner to waive off or slash their license fees. Clearly sensing that  it’s impossible to kick-start tourism m without keeping the shack owners happy, a major move to slash license fees by fifty per cent has been made. 

The government also approved the extension of date of payment of renewal fees up to December 31, 2020. 

 the annual beach shack fee shall be paid every year latest by September 10. In case of non-payment, the applicant/beach shack allottee shall not be allowed to erect the beach shack on the allotted location. 

Dean D Cruz eminent architect and observer of all things Goan felt the move could not be criticized but one had to ask the question if it was going to benefit the locals. He said “We have seen such initiatives in the past and it is basically a political move and usually it is someone else who seems to benefit. I welcome the move and hope for the best.” 

That may be the answer of a realist but Jack Sukhija an hotelier felt this move was uncalled for. He said “Why has this been given only to shack owners? It does not make sense. We were not allowed to sell alcohol till July but we had to still pay excise license, property tax, trade tax sanitation and waste management tax on time. Several establishments were not allowed to run due to the lockdown but had to still pay all these taxes. Now the shack owners have been given this, what about us”. Perhaps in it lies a kernel of truth. 

Another long time resident of Goa, Maneck Contractor a businessman said he had nothing against the government giving concessions in the license fee but it felt like it was all a political stunt. He said “Whenever concessions are given to trawler owners or taxi drivers it is only given to the local people who are connected politically. I feel it should be given across the entire board to ensure everyone benefits, which would be nice. ” 

Savio Messias former President of TTAG said they were not against anyone getting subsidies but it would make sense if everyone in the industry benefit. He said “The hoteliers deserve relief, so do the taxi drivers who want an exemption. The restaurateurs and hoteliers also need help but it is surprising an exemption was given only to the shack owners. We want equal treatment for all.” 

Clearly the move is being seen as favouring one- albeit a very important stakeholder group. The new tourism board which will supersede all existing committees and groups running tourism and look at improving tourism infrastructure and assets and widen the scope of eco-tourism initiatives. It is here that the government will be tested. If they don’t live up to this vision, then the move to rescue the fees of shacks- prima facie a much-needed move- will be seen as an isolated move to keep one local group who are vote banks, happy.

We will run a series of reports on reactions to different aspects of the Goa Tourism Policy over the next fortnight)



Iddhar Udhar