13 Sep 2018 04:21am IST
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), not to be confused these days with the popular fictional agency IMF (Impossible Missions Force) of Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise, has predicted that Macau is poised to be the richest country in the world by the year 2020. At the moment oil rich Qatar is at the top, with the highest per capita gross domestic product of around US Dollars 125,000 followed closely by Macau with approximately US Dollar 114,000. The World Bank and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have their own set of data which more or less concur to the IMF. Macau has a population of around 650,000 all packed in around thirty sq km which also makes it the most densely populated place on the planet.
Macau and Goa have a lot in common, both were Portuguese colonies, and although Macau has gone on to become the gambling capital of the world, Goa seems to have lost its way big time, even after making the tactical call of allowing casinos against popular sentiment. So the excuse that Macau is rich because it allows gambling really does not apply here, because Goa has its fair share of casinos. The Portuguese left Goa in 1961 and Macau in 1999 yes you read that right in 1999 and in just twenty years Macau is poised to be the richest place on the planet. Proves, when the Portuguese left Goa and Macau, they left the place pretty intact, for the local population to takeover and thrive. Macau seems to have taken the opportunity with both hands and surged far ahead almost like magic, leaving Goa so far behind, even after it had a head start of about 35 years.
How far behind is Goa, well here is some data pointer, Goa’s per capita gross domestic product is around US Dollars 5,000, we are that behind. The data might look reasonable if you compare it with the other states of India, but absolutely pathetic when you compare it with Macau. To come to the level of Macau, Goa will need to grow at least twenty times from the present data point and hope Macau’s loses its way and its growth plateaus to allow Goa to play catch up.
What has Macau been doing which Goa is unable to figure? For starters China has given Macau a very high degree of autonomy that allows Macau to have its own independent currency, immigration, customs territory, police and border control. Probably because China is bound by the joint declaration they signed with the Portuguese, that it will maintain its social and economic system, lifestyle and freedoms at least for 50 years. The entire administration is run by the Chief Executive of Macau and although Macau’s economy is based on tourism, it also has a clothing industry that earns almost 75% of its export earnings. However, the most dominating is the gambling industry and 70% of Macau government’s revenue comes from it.
Nobody is suggesting we blindly copy the economic model of Macau, because what works for Macau might not necessarily work for Goa, but then we really don’t have our own economic model, do we? Goa’s liberation was sudden and so we were unable to have a Macau type of declaration that would protect the interest of Goans. But it’s half a century since then and Goa is yet to have a vision as to where it wants to go. Instead, politicians from Goa have learnt most of the corrupt traits from fellow politicians of India, whom they meet during their course of legitimate and illegitimate business. These corrupt practices now have become part of the Goan system and a system that is marred by corruption can never rise to the top.
Indian politicians have never allowed businesses to thrive without their consent. The only ones that received some sort of freedom to do their business are the IT companies because most of their customers were from foreign countries, earning foreign currency for the nation. For other industries it will not be wrong to say that in the name of regulations, a lot of bureaucratic blackmail does happen. These days companies are forced into bankruptcy either by the rigid Reserve Bank of India’s hard line on loan default cutoff dates, or sometimes because the government is the customer and refuses to pay on time for the job done, thereby messing up company financials. Most power and infrastructure companies are on their knees and it’s not entirely their fault.
In a hostile environment such as this, how are businesses supposed to thrive, create employment and generate wealth. No wonder even though our economy is growing at a very fast pace, it does not reflect on the wealth of its citizens. Of course calculate the per capita GDP of only the crooked and corrupt politicians and that will exceed way above the Macau average. Goa being part of India cannot be different, add to that when Goa was liberated most Goans never really understood the true meaning of democracy. They never made the elected representative work for them, instead they chose to adore them and become their followers.
Today if Goa is left so far behind in spite of being rich in natural resources than the blame should come on the politicians and their faulty policies, but let’s not forget that we as Goans allowed them to get away with baloney for long period of times. Our liberation was not handled as professionally as Macau’s, and even after we have some comparable data now, we still do not question the wisdom of the Goan politicians of that era. Agreed we have the benefit of hindsight now, but it is our inability to question the past that has not allowed us to correct our faults and move forward.
Sadly we Goans equate politicians to be Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible to do impossible feats to save us from every mess. But movies are supposed to be like that, to entertain you and take you on a fancy trip of make believe. Once you are out of the movies you still have to deal with the boring International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, and that data is not a happy picture for Goa.
(The writer is a business consultant)