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Goa’s IPB regresses from single window to additional window

The Investment Promotion Board was the brainchild of the CM, Manohar Parrikar who was keen on promoting the State as an ideal destination for investments. It was a move aimed at ensuring jobs are created in a State with a young population. A segment of the population has been leaving the State to search for jobs in Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru in increasing numbers.

This decision caught the imagination of the business class, hopeful of a turnaround in the economic climate of the State which had been in a slump following the ban on mining. The wheels of the bureaucracy moved surprisingly fast no doubt pushed by a very determined CM and the IPB was constituted in October 2014 as per the Goa Investment Promotion Act.

The aim of the IPB was to ensure that 50,000 jobs were created for Goans. A very important requirement to ensure young Goans stayed in the State.

Ground rules were put in place. The Board was to be a one point contact authority for all investments made in the State which meet any or all of the criteria specified for investment above Rs 5 crore; requirement of an area equal to or above 3000 square meters.
Industry Classified under the Orange Category as per the Goa State Pollution Control Board guidelines; or expansion of any Red Category Industry as classified under the Goa State Pollution Control Board guidelines referred to the Board by the Government.

Investments less than or equal to Rs 5 crores and not meeting any of the criteria specified in sub-section (3) may approach the Board and the Board shall refer such proposal to a sub-committee headed by a vice chairperson and appointed by Board under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 5 for evaluation of investments of value less than or equal to Rs 5 crore.

With land being such a sensitive subject in the state, restrictions were placed.

The Board would not recommend following class of lands for the purpose of setting up of projects or for investment promotion under this Act –

(i) Khazan Land and low lying paddy fields except for the purpose of activities as permissible thereon, such as, agriculture, dairy farming and other allied activities; (ii) Sloppy land with a gradient of more than 25%; (iii) Forest lands and wild life areas except for the purpose of activities as permissible thereon, such as gaming reserve, sanctuary lodges, eco-tourism, forest tourism, etc; (iv) Coastal Regulatory Zone areas except where the foreshore facilities are required. (v) Tenanted agricultural land except for agricultural activities carried out by tenant /deemed purchaser.

Given all these conditions around 156 projects with a total investment of Rs 12,374.36 crore was cleared. There was a great deal of heat and dust, with interested parties either supporting or going to court to protest the clearance of certain projects.

Goa Foundation filed a petition, alleging approvals granted by the IPB were illegal and void since the Investment Promotion Board Act explicitly prohibited the board from considering or granting recommendation in case of projects in CRZ and khazan areas, among others.

The petition was filed against Yacht Heaven Pvt Ltd, Mormugao, Kargwal Construction Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, Ace Hotels and Resorts Pvt Ltd, Benaulim, Chaksu Properties Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, Niraamaya Retreats, Bengaluru and others. This was a regular affair with various parties filing cases.

Then, it was announced that the CM had to leave town for treatment and everything went absolutely still. It is estimated his illness has taken a toll on investment proposals worth over Rs 6000 crore, which are awaiting an in-principle approval of the Goa Investment Promotion Board (IPB) which has not met since his absence from the state.

Attempts to ascertain the views of the members on the board of the IPB was not successful as most were either travelling or could not be reached. Nitin Kunkolienkar who was closely associated with the IPB with the earlier CM said the functioning was paralysed. Mr Kunkolienkar said “As per the IPB act, a meeting had to be held every month but that has not happened. Now every month only paper instructions are being done but no work is being done.

Investments are not being backed by administrative action. Practically it has become just another window to comply with formalities.”

Shekhar Sardessai a member of the board said “It is moving and once the CM return, it will be all smooth. Now a lot of the paper work and other modalities are being sorted out,the new CEO should be on board soon and things will move.

Goa will find its place.”Another senior business executive who did not want to come on record said “The problem is that he is the de facto chairman and only he can move things ahead. The Law does not allow us to do anything. Everything is stuck, till he returns”. Another long time observer of the system said “

It is a pity instead of being system led , we are personality led. The CM I suppose will take some time to return and nothing is moving. The economy is not moving and the sentiment remains depressed”.
Only time or a very prescient fortune teller will have to be predict when the situation will change for the better. [H]

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