In these Covid -19 crunch times, The TO Do list for CM Sawant includes scrapping the sheer extravagance of building the 75 mt tall administrative building, postponing IFFI, which is a drain on the Goan tax payer, for 2 years, solving the debilitating issue of GIDC paying Rs 1 lakh per day as interest, taking back the Rs 26 crore owed by Meta Strips and sacking the 30 per cent government employees who own private businesses financed no doubt by their ill-gotten gains.

April 12, 2020

Lion Roars

Covid-19 has made that mandatory on him, but can he see through the blinkers? Thus far, for the BJP government it has been more a question of flirting between throwing good money after bad or, simply spending lavishly on so-called infrastructure projects that only China with a trillion-level dollar economy can afford.

The writing is on the wall rather clearly this time around and so here is my To Do List for Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. SCRAP PERMANENTLY THE SHEER EXTRAVAGANCE OF BUILDING THE PROPOSED 75 MT TALL ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLEX to cost Rs 150 cr and designed to be 5 mt taller than the 70 mt tall third Mandovi bridge. Scheduled to be completed by 2021on paper at least, this project as we all know will take the minimum guaranteed five years, with an assured cost escalation of up to Rs 450 cr just like both the Mathany Saldanha complex and the South district hospital did.

DEFINITELY POSTPONE THE INTERNATIONL FILM FESTIVAL OF INDIA (IFFI) FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS which has a parasitical existence on the Goan taxpayer with zero returns and in fact is more of a rehab center for over-the-hill actors and aspiring producers to metamorphose and third-world films to try and stay alive. According to the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) whose existence depends entirely on holding IFFI despite all the low probabilities of success, all well-documented thank you, and whose cost of maintenance and salaries is paid for by the tax payer again; it cost Rs 18 cr to hold the 2019 edition against an as yet unconfirmed expected sponsorship money of Rs 5 cr. Beginning 2014-15 to 2018-19 the five-yearly generated revenues were Rs 4,10,59,853, Rs 4,53,99,449, Rs 4,36,67,233 (2016-17), Rs 4,20,60,965 and Rs 4,55,18,651 cr respectively.

Clearly no serious attempt was ever made by ESG to increase revenues beyond Rs 40 lakhs as the overall annual increases prove. The ESG simply assumed it had a mandate to hold IFFI no matter what the cost to the taxpayer.

The taxpayer paid dearly. Expenditures for the five years were Rs 12,92,69,000, Rs 13,55,17,000, Rs 22,62,11,080 (2016-17), Rs 17,44,56,527, Rs 12,05,30,38 cr respectively, with 2016-17 being the biggest burden on the taxpayer. The ESG claimed the increased expenditure was due to ‘technical costs’ which it said was for décor, housekeeping, security, electrical works and repairs to the venue. You can well imagine where all that money went, which is what I mean when I said in the Covid-19 year of 2020, IFFI like the Olympics and every other world sporting event including Wimbledon, all continental football tournaments must be postponed for 2020 to begin with.

THERE IS RS 26 CR OWED BY META COPPER AND ALLOYS LTD (a.k.a Meta Strips) after it was discovered that Meta Strips broke rules when it transferred 2.41 lakh sq. mt land to Varama Sir India Logistics and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. Meta Strips paid just Rs 1.47 cr for the land through a lease deed signed on December 24, 1998, but got nearly Rs 80 cr for the transfer. With the corrupt Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) involved, no surprise, it broke its own rules. The GIDC rules are clear: transfers can only made within the same category of industry. The government’s advocate general has already said the money can be claimed from Meta Strips.

That is Rs 12 cr IFFI's lowest expenditure plus Rs 26 cr which makes it Rs 38 cr for a hopelessly broke government to dip in to.

THE GOVERNMENT MUST SOLVE THE DEBLITATING ISSUE OF GIDC PAYING RS 1 LAKH PER DAY INTEREST for the Rs 200 cr loan GIDC took from Oriental Bank of Commerce. The GIDC which has fine-tuned the ill-advised art of throwing good money after bad, took the loan to pay the five SEZ promoters and get back land virtually gifted to them in 2006-07 in what will eventually turn out to be the mother of all scams in Goa. The land involved was a huge 38.4 lakh sq. mt. Long story cut short, it was deemed necessary to sell a fraction of the land to pay off the loan. But as is the case in Goa, the political class and industry lobbies pulled in different directions and succeeded in stalling the take back. Not to be outdone, the corrupt GIDC soon enough decided it had to pay the five SEZ promoters an additional Rs 28 cr over the original gift-wrapped Rs 228.5 cr it agreed to pay. Mysterious are the ways of the diabolically gifted GIDC.

By remarkable coincidence, the GIDC initially calculated the amount payable to the promoters as Rs 256.5 cr. Or, was it coincidence? Because Rs 228.5 cr added to Rs 28 cr is Rs 256.5 cr! If Sawant could end this toxic strategy of delay and thus prolonging the scam, he could also save money by preventing the industries department and GIDC lawyering up each time including one private consultant hired to arbitrate the price. And as you know with kick-backs inevitably involved, nothing comes cheap in Goa.

SACK IMMEDIATELY THE THIRTY PERCENT GOVERNMENT WORKERS WHO OWN PRIVATE BUSINESSES and as a result neglect official work. The then revenue and IT minister Rohan Khaunte disclosed the astounding figure in June last year. Wonder of wonders, these men and woman are otherwise gainfully employed mainly with the PWD, tourism department, transport department, even the mines and geology department. Khaunte, himself later unfairly ousted from government, said it was ‘no secret’ they were also into businesses related to the departments that employed them. A kind of forward integration if I am allowed to apply business terminology here.

You ask how could this happen? The answer is in the fact that CM Promod Sawant also holds the vigilance portfolio. According to Sawant then ‘a list had already been prepared, but could not be made public because it was confidential information.’ Confidential information, ha! There are roughly 60,000 regular government employees in tiny Goa, at 30 percent, both secrecy and confidentially are the last words that come to mind. This is probably Goa’s worst kept secret.

FINALLY, TRANSFER THE ROUGHLY RS 15 LAKH IN FINES imposed by police on lockdown violators to the relief fund. That’s the least we can do for those idiots who decided to lock horns with the law rather foolishly.