In this period of a fiscal crisis and tightening of public expenditure budgets, it is interesting to look at the extent to which public expenditure is being made while ignoring the basic needs of the State.
One such project that came to the fore just recently was the announcement of a Ravindra Bhavan for Mapusa. The announcement came from Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude after a meeting of Bardez MLAs – Revenue Minister Rohan Khuante, Fisheries Minister Vinod Palyekar and Mapusa MLA Joshua D’Souza. Dy Speaker Michael Lobo and Aldona MLA Glenn Ticlo skipped the meeting for unknown reasons.
Now, Mapusa has several critical issues like the bus stand and market which are in shambles besides parking, traffic congestion, water, garbage etc. But what was decided by the elected members was that there was need for a Ravindra Bhavan as against all these priorities on a property measuring 22,000 sq meters, which will cost several crores. Yes, a Ravindra Bhavan is necessary for artistes and youth but it cannot be a necessity as are the above. The need is secondary as for artistes there is a Kala Academy in Panjim, North Goa for now, which is not all that distant from Panjim.
What is even more shocking is that the government had already identified 8,000 sq meters of land for a Ravindra Bhavan in Mapusa but the logic of the elected representative suggests it would be too small for any programmes. As for economics, consider this Rs 20,000 per sq mt of land in Mapusa, a 22,000 sq mt plot of land would cost Rs 44 cr, add to this the cost of construction of a Ravindra Bhawan as per GSIDC standard rates should not cost anything below Rs 100 cr. So then, we are again talking of cost of over Rs 100 cr for a project that is not an immediate necessity.
Similarly, Panjim, the State capital, has a host of issues like waste treatment disposal, bad roads, water, parking, traffic congestion, St Inez creek, stray cattle etc but what we get in the name of Smart City is CCTV cameras and some makeover spending more than Rs 1,000 crore. Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Private Limited (IPSCDL) could have very well taken over the Baiguinim site and brought the Waste Treatment plant under its purview, as suggested by the Mayor of Panjim. Not only Panjim and Mapusa, but entire Goa is crying for attention due to poor garbage management. The new plant at Baiguinim would cost around Rs 250 cr and that is just the 50 per cent of the expenditure the IPSCDL will spend on CCTV cameras, which is a whopping Rs 400 cr.
Why don’t the officials and the leaders understand the basic issue that Panjim would be called a Smart City only when the garbage issue is sorted out, or the parking, traffic issue is cleared and not by CCTV cameras or the intergrated monitoring headquarters which is being refurbished for another whopping Rs 22 cr? This is not a journalistic exaggeration but a figure suggested by the senior most civil servants and the heads of some of the largest public sector corporations in the State. Indeed, some secretaries to the government put the figure still higher. And though there is no way of arriving at a ‘verifiable’ figure, there is little doubt that the loss and waste are colossal.
So when government expenditure seems out of control, it is time to take a hard look at the flab. Each item of waste cannot be listed, but there are some seemingly immutable ‘laws’ which offer an insight into the numerous ways in which public money is wasted. At the end of it all, of course, the government takes no responsibility for any of the clearances it has given.