Environment is an important issue not only from the tourism point of view, but also for the locals. A serious problem faced by the locals of Vasco town is the pollution caused by the heavy flow of trucks and other cargo vehicles passing through the town carrying coal and other such cargo from MPT to other upcountry destinations. Not only are many of them reckless and a potential accident hazard, but they also overload the cargo, do not care to cover it adequately and cause spillages and pollution. The port town of Vasco and its inhabitants have always supported business and the port and related industry in turn, support many a livelihood in Vasco. However it is equally valid that business is carried out by taking adequate safety measures to protect the environment and people. We think that this issue merits serious attention. GCCI therefore requested the Deputy Collector, South Goa, to convene a meeting of all the related Government Offices such as Traffic Police, MPT authorities, RTO, MMC, and Transport Contractors and Owners and also representatives of the business providers such as Adani, Jindal and other companies, to discuss the problems such as overloading of vehicles, verification of documents, Pollution Certificate etc. for ensuring a safety and hazard compliant transport.
We complimented the Commissioner of Commercial taxes and the government for coming out with the Goa Recovery of Arrears of tax through Settlement (Amendment) Act 2016 for settlement of disputed tax arrears . However, we brought it to the Commissioner’s notice that though the Act provides for two alternative modes of redressal of disputes, the present scheme addresses only one mode of redressal. It does not address the cases for remission of dues for a similar period . So we requested the Commissioner to modify the scheme accordingly. Also, the scheme was to expire on 8th Dec’16. However, due to the uncertainty prevailing in Goa earlier due the mining imbroglio as also the current financial upheaval due to demonetisation and the consequent liquidity crunch, many dealers who were keen to avail the scheme have not been able to focus on this aspect. They feel that the time limit of three months for settlement of dues is too short. We have therefore requested the authorities that the validity of the Scheme be extended from 8th December 2016 to 31st January 2017. It was also requested that the dealers who opt for settlement of disputed tax arrears may be asked to file their application for settlement in the requisite form before 9th December 2016 , but may be allowed time till 31st March 2017 to make fifty percent of the settlement payment and till 30th September 2017 for making the payment of balance amount.
Representatives of GCCI and GSIA had met on several occasions and vide a joint representation in December 2015 had suggested some changes in the GIDC’s Plot allotment / Transfer / Sub-lease Regulations – one of the main issues being change in sub-leasing charges levied by GIDC. These suggestions were also accepted by GIDC Board in its 347th Meeting held on 4th March 2016. However, due to bureaucratic delay the desired changes in the GIDC Regulations were not notified. The issue was once again taken up strongly by GCCI and GSIA Presidents in the 349th Meeting of the Board held on 3rd October. We, the Presidents of GCCI and Verna Industries Association, have since finalised the changes to be made in the Regulations – the main point being linking of the sub-leasing charges to actual area sub-leased and not to the plot area as was currently being charged. A notification to this effect is expected to be issued soon and this will provide a big relief to the units which wish to sub-lease part of their premises.
Demonetisation has been the November buzz word. To say that it was unexpected would be an understatement. While the unorganised sector is mainly feeling the heat , many industries such as real estate, travel, logistics which deal with a large component of the business in cash are uneasy. The stated objective of demonetisation is to topple the cash economy and facilitate a move towards a ‘less-cash’ economy. GCCI does support the need to snuffle corruption and black money as rather unfortunately India fares high on the ‘bribery and corruption’ front. In all this turmoil, we feel that the tourism industry deserved some concessions – at least those catering to foreign tourists. While those tourists staying in 5-star resorts are not really affected, the mid-range ones occupying smaller hotels, guest-houses etc. are facing a hard time standing in line for long duration to withdraw cash. Many of them have shortened their stay in the country, many have cancelled their visits. I am sure that this has affected many tourist destinations in India and Goa has certainly been severely affected. We totally agree that an exercise of this magnitude is bound to have severe ramifications on all sides, however, one could always review situations. A lot is invested in a brand name and it take years of effort to build a brand. However it is relatively easier to destroy a brand. Though Goa has a strong brand name, it is already reeling under garbage issues as far as tourism is concerned and its unmetered and expensive taxis are posing another deterrent to international travelers. With relatively unknown countries such as Vietnam and others offering cheaper options , even one bad season could make a huge dent in the perception of Goa. We hope that the government relaxes the norms for foreign nationals as far as cash withdrawals are concerned so that a visit to India and Goa are viewed as a memorable experience.
(President – GCCI)