Cash-strapped State chooses ECONOMY over HEALTH

Panjim: Even as the threat of a second wave of coronavirus looms large, considering the spike in cases in neighbouring Maharashtra and Karnataka, ‘cash-strapped’ Goa appears to be in a hurry to lift the lockdown in the State.

Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s media briefing after the video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an indicator that the State cannot continue with the lockdown for long.

“Suggested restricted lifting of curbs, especially the inter-State public transport. Also put forth Goa’s perspective on revival of State’s economy including resumption of mining and tourism,” the CM tweeted soon after the meeting.

Speaking to the media later, the CM said the State will develop its own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for tourists visiting the place. Sawant said he explained the situation of the State, which has been mostly dependent on mining and tourism.

As tourism has suffered a lot during the lockdown, it is important that a SOP must be developed to welcome tourists post COVID-19, he said and added that the State will have to finalise its SOP and the Centre too will have to finalise it for foreign tourists so that they can enter the country.

The Chief Minister also talked of encouraging ways through which tourism can grow and be promoted in the post-COVID-19 world. As on today, the State is in Green zone, with all seven COVID positive cases cured.

However, there has been criticism that opening inter-State bus services, trains and flights seems to be risky. Opposition MLA Rohan Khaunte said, “The government has also started a Delhi to Goa train without any checks and mechanisms to ensure we aren’t inviting any COVID-19 positive carriers in Goa. This highly irresponsible action and incompetent planning by the government will put the lives of every Goan at risk.”

While the State cannot blame COVID-19 alone for its financial conditions, as it was borrowing much before the current situation, this has made matters worse.

Sources revealed that in the last month the State had to borrow nearly Rs 300 plus crore. Not only borrowings, with tourism coming to standstill, taxi operators, motorcycle pilots, auto-rickshaw drivers have been demanding economic packages.

“The lockdown is doing no good as the State has no money even for its day-to-day affairs,” a top official, seeking anonymity, said. He added that the resumption of economic activity with strict social distancing and other restrictions is the only way forward for the State. [H]