ALEXANDRE MONIZ BARBOSA
In the often raucous debate of determining what is best for Goa, with socially conscious citizens adopting rigid positions in favour of or against certain government policies, programmes and projects, the common man often does not get a say, or just remains unheard. The relevant question of where is Goa headed and how will it reach that goal is engulfed in discussions that sometimes arrive at no conclusion as consensus is elusive. It has been seen so often with the government and the people on different sides of the issue. While these may be larger issues, the common man can play a major role in the small steps that also contribute to the Goa of the future.
What Goa requires is to bring doable ideas on the table that can be taken up by any interested person. On a positive note, there already exist such ideas in public domain which can contribute to the economy and the growth of the State, but only if they are implemented.
Two years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns and upended normal life as we knew it, the economy took a tanking but simultaneously, this same period perhaps brought about the best among many of those individuals who were forced to stay within the confines of their homes and had time on their hands to turn their minds to thinking positively about the future and not merely rue the lost opportunities. Among the many initiatives that came to light around that time was an open sourced internet platform – Ideas for Goa – which Herald had partnered with, that was meant to generate thoughts to make Goa more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive. As stated by the platform, the aim was to sustain livelihoods and reignite Goa’s economic engine for a post COVID-19 world and for this it invited ideas from people across the spectrum.
Ideas did come, plenty of them. There were 350 of such unique visions spanning 12 sectors for the future from 155 visionaries. The largest number of ideas had come, and unsurprisingly, in the tourism sector, followed by local food ecosystems, with housing drawing the least number of ideas. It was clear that tourism, which plays a key role in the Goan economy, was on the minds of the people during those silent days of the lockdowns who foresaw that the pandemic would deal this sector the hardest blow. It did do just that, tourism was the last of the sectors to open and naturally suffered the most losses. It is pertinent to note that sustainability, a term often repeated in discussions involving the future of Goa, was one of the key thoughts on this platform, as making Goa food independent by investing in local food ecosystems, generated 22 per cent of the ideas, while the business and industrial scenario was also on people’s mind, with improving administration and governance to facilitate ease of business followed next with 15 per cent of the ideas. If one recalls the scenario two years ago, a large number of people did go back to farming, so it was natural that ideas of food independence would crop up.
If the ideas are there, the question that arises is what next? Naturally, they shouldn’t remain as mere ideas and so have to be taken forward. As the report that compiled the ideas states, ‘The good news is the vision of Goa 2.0 is closer to reality than we might think as 210 (60 per cent) ideas are either concrete (at least an initial implementation plan is in place), incremental (require only a small improvement over existing systems) or require repurposing of existing capabilities. This optimism is further borne out by our assessment 265 (76 per cent) ideas require low to medium levels of investment.’ This report was compiled 24 months ago, as on May 25, 2020. It would be interesting to know whether two years later any or how many of these ideas did make it beyond the planning board and were put into practice. The platform facilitated the generation of ideas, it was for anybody interested to then adopt these and bring them to reality.
Besides the ideas, lots of positives did emerge from this facilitation of ideas. The most prominent is that there are individuals who care enough about Goa to create such a platform and then leave it open to anybody to take the suggestion forward, without claiming any copyright on this. It also emerged that there are people who may remain faceless but are very concerned about the future of their State and how it can grow and so took time to generate ideas that others could work on. There were no selfish interests here and that is the biggest takeaway from the platform. If only this could be emulated by the political class who would do something without seeking credit for the deed, the future would indeed be bright.
We are now in the post COVID-19 period and the need to reignite Goa’s economic engine is being felt more than ever. There were suggestions on improving the ease of doing business and the government has recently been speaking the same. But how does one do it? Can any of the ideas that were generated on this platform reach the government planning tables and be implemented? Planning for the State essentially comes from the government and if the people can play a participatory role that creates a partnership of sorts, even a loose one, the results could be so different.
Goa needs new ideas as much as it needs action on them. There is nothing achieved if the idea does not get converted into a deed. The private sector can initiate, but it then depends on the public and private sector to take it forward. Some ideas can be crystallised into action by private parties, but many would require government intervention or facilitation. With an eye on the future, Goa needs some repositioning to get where it should be. It has not set the goalposts yet, so that process has to start now, for unless the destination is known the journey cannot start.