Tensing Carlos Rodrigues

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

As Goans dream walk to the precipice.

In Politically wrong on April 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

Recently I came across an interesting story in a local paper titled “Europe calling, Goans on the run”. The news story goes on to speak about two thousands and more Goans who hold Portuguese nationality or passport. The figure may be accurate or off the mark; but the fact remains that a large number of Goans are indeed on a run allured by Europe. Though they are Portuguese nationals, almost all of them live and work in Britain.

euroCrucial to the success of this ‘return voyage of discovery’ are answers to three basic questions : One, how long is Britain likely to provide employment to them ? Two, how long will the unique circumstance which provides these Portuguese nationals with unlimited access to Britain last ? And, three, will Portugal provide them with the conditions for the fulfillment of their dreams, if they have to return to it ?

 In the immediate aftermath of WWII Europe began a process of integration to avoid the extreme nationalism that had led to the devastating war. After a number of moves, in 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed; starting with 6 countries, EEC gradually embraced almost all the countries in Europe. The Schengen Agreement of 1985 led the way towards the creation of open borders without passport controls, ensuring free movement of people, goods, services and capital across the member countries of EEC. This is what makes it possible for Portuguese nationals to live and work without restrictions in Britain.

In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty was signed creating the European Union and a single European currency, the euro. But Britain negotiated an opt-out from the part of the Maastricht Treaty that would have required it to adopt the common currency. The coalition government elected in May 2010 pledged not to join the euro for the lifetime of the parliament. British public opinion has consistently opposed joining the euro. Britain therefore has always been on the fence of the European union – one foot in, one foot out.

LONDON: Record numbers of rich Indians are swooping on high-end residential properties in London, thanks to a booming economy, favourable foreign exchange rates and rise in number of students here from affluent Indian families.

 In the residential property market in which each house is worth 5 million pounds and above, Indians now figure as the second biggest foreign buyer group. European buyers top the prime market, while Chinese buyers are third, behind Indians, according to Savills, a prominent estate agent. EconomicTimes, Jan 21, 2011, 11.03pm IST

The Maastricht Treaty outlines 5 convergence criteria EU member states are required to comply with in order to adopt euro :

  1. Inflation cannot be more than 1.5% higher than the inflation rates in the 3 EU member states with the lowest inflation.
  2. The ratio of the budget deficit to gross domestic product at market prices cannot exceed 3% at the end of the preceding fiscal year.
  3. The ratio of government debt to GDP at market prices cannot exceed 60% at the end of the preceding fiscal year.
  4. The countries should have joined the exchange-rate mechanism under the European Monetary System for two consecutive years, and should have succeeded to keep its monetary exchange-rate within a +/- 15% range from an unchanged central rate. (Prior to adoption of euro.)
  5. Long-term interest rates cannot be more than 2.0% higher, than the similar 10-year government bond yields in the 3 EU member states with the lowest inflation.

germanyThe convergence criteria were and still are a must for the financial stability of the EU. It is the divergence from these criteria that led to the Euro crisis. But they were doomed to diverge from the very start. The member countries of EU were never on a level playing field; and they could never be. Adhering to these criteria would impose severe restrictions on their economic governance, and would go against their economic goals. That is the reason Britain opted to stay out of the European monetary integration. Further, more integrated a country is into the union, greater would be the contagion of any financial destabilisation within the union. For those countries which are already in, the choice is more difficult; they cannot opt out now; they have to leave the EU altogether. And one country leaving could open the flood gates for the dissolution of the union.

The member countries of EU basically fall into two categories : those which are worse off than the others (like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.) and those which are better off than the others (like Germany, France, Holland, etc.). Both are caught in a dilemma. The former need the union to tide over their bad times; but have to put up with the hurting domination of the others – beggars cannot be the choosers. The latter need the former (markets) to keep their fires burning; but have to put up with the burden of irresponsible extravagance of the former.

porThe question relevant to us is, in such a situation, how long can Britain remain dangling over the fence, particularly as it sees the union getting into bigger and bigger mess day by day ? Perhaps Britain finds itself at the tether’s end. A few months ago British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a clear message to the rest of Europe that the British wanted a few things changed; with a veiled threat that if not it will quit. Of course Britain is not alone in the disillusionment with the EU. Several economic groups in the continental Europe would rather prefer to be out of the union. But these countries have an overpowering political reason to see that the union survives – the memories of WWII are still strong; that is not true of Britain. So all said and done, it is difficult to say how long Britain will remain in the union, even if the union itself survives. Influx of migrants from the less

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prosperous countries of EU into Britain has been one of the most hurting consequences of Maastricht Treaty. 2.3 million people from the rest of EU live and work in Britain; as against this only 1.7 million British citizens live in the rest of EU. This needs to be seen in the context of the unemployment situation in Britain. It would not be surprising then if the sentiment against the migrants from the rest of EU picks strength as time passes.

Let’s now turn to the other two vital conditions for the success of the ‘return voyage of discovery’ : the economic health of Britain that is needed to sustain the Goan Portuguese nationals there if EU survives; and the economic health of Portugal that is needed to accept the Goan Portuguese nationals back if EU collapses; the graphs above speak for themselves. 

Britain

portugal

For the full story log on to : http://www.navhindtimes.in/panorama/goans-dream-walk-precipice

The Kristangs of Malacca.

In Goa at Crossroads on April 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Goa at Crossroads

#07

Christmas was the only time we could go on a trip overseas. So we wanted a destination where we would feel the spirit of Christmas. And we chose Malacca; just because of its association with St. Francis Xavier. Malacca, lying at the confluence of the South-Western and the North-Eastern Monsoons, has wooed the Chinese, the Indians, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Japanese at different times in its long history. Since times immemorial its port has been frequented by a multitude of ships and merchants from all the Asian nations of the time : Arabia, Persia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Ceylon, and Bengal. In it were gathered and sold all the Asian spices: pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, … . And that is what attracted the conquerors – the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Portuguese ruled Malacca for one hundred and thirty years between 1511 and 1641. Among many remnants of this sojourn are the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, the gate of the fortress “A Famosa” and the community of Kristangs – the offspring of Portuguese men and Malay women. In the mid-1920s, at the fag end of their rule, the British set off a large area of land along the sea, not far from the Malacca port, as a sort of a reservation for the Kristangs; what has since then been called the Portuguese Settlement or Portuguese Village or Kampung Portugis. Untitled But, it is not the history of Portuguese rule in Malacca or even that of the Kristangs that interests me at this point; it is their present. They are organised under the banner of Malacca Portuguese-Eurasian Association; and Michael Singho is the president of that association. This is what Singho wrote around the time of Christmas, 2010 : “The coastline at the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca has been transformed by the implementation of its Urban Renewal Development Program since 2003. The Portuguese Settlement literally grew by another 6 acres (2.4 ha), with land reclaimed from the sea. Of this, 3 acres now house the Hotel Lisbon and the rest a car park, a food court and a playground. The main purpose of the URDP was to enhance the settlement as a tourism attraction and further top its potential in this industry. This in turn could bring further benefits to the community in terms of jobs and business opportunities.” “There are, however, two glaring situations that need to be looked into seriously. The first revolves around Hotel Lisbon. The building initially planned as a cultural complex, housing bazaar lots and a budget hotel, is designed like a Fortaleza. It has the required features and elements that blend and fit with the Portuguese concept of the surroundings.” “The Hotel Lisbon, however, tells another tale. To start with, when the cultural complex metamorphosed into a hotel, opportunities to run the intended bazaar lots/stalls disappeared altogether. What followed was the acute alienation of the community, in the ownership, equity, management or operation of this hotel. Even as employees their participation was minimal and fell along the ranks of kitchen helps, receptionists or security guards even though they possess a natural flair and a wide spectrum of talents in the hospitality business.” “The Hotel Lisbon with its name explicitly in tow, and situated in the cradle of the Malaysian Portuguese Eurasian Society, is managed by a nasi kandar (Malay Muslim) entrepreneur and of course serves as its main cuisine, nasi kandar. Though exquisitely appetising this Penang speciality sits agonisingly out of sync in such a clearly defined theme and setting. It is like offering Punjabi cuisine as the main spread in a Minangkabau themed hotel in the middle of Rembau.” “To add insult to injury the hotel restricts the sale of beers, wines and alcoholic beverages. This is offensive as it imposes upon an inherent social feature where wines, beers and alcoholic beverages find fond indulgence, and are regarded customary within the context of Portuguese culture. Capitalising on the Portuguese theme but altering the portrayal of some of its social characteristics and mannerisms is rather disrespectful and subjugatory even. In fact whatever is relative about the hotel ends with its name and its building. Beyond that, it serves as an indignation that does not complement the overall surroundings except to, perhaps exploit it.” There are not many Kristang left now in the Settlement; many of them have migrated to Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Those who are still there look pretty affluent. But most of them do not talk the creole Portuguese; they have switched over to English. We went to the Settlement on the Christmas day expecting to savour some real Portuguese cuisine – after all we were missing the sorpatel and san’nas of back home. But nothing of it; all that we could indulge on was Spicy Baked Fish and Calamari in Garlic Sauce. Sounds very familiar, right ? If you find any parallels between Goa and Malacca, do not blame it on Albuquerque or St. Xavier; it’s much more basic.

An airport too far – 2

In Politically wrong on April 11, 2013 at 3:57 am

Let me now turn to the demolition of the second restrictive premise : that an airport is merely a place where planes land. An airport need not be merely a place where planes land. All international airports that have made big today are more than mere airports – they are integrated transport hubs which people prefer to use. That requires out of the box thinking; and that is what I want to show is necessary in case of an airport in Goa.  I am basing my suggestions particularly on my experience of the new Kuala Lumpur Airport.

mopaThe idea of an integrated transport hub suggests itself once we look at the map of the area around Mopa. NH 66 (old NH 17) runs at 1.66 km from the airport location; and the Konkan Railway line runs at 3.06 km. When the airport comes up it is likely to be skirted by the NH (though at different elevations) and will have the KR line within less than 2km from its periphery. Does that suggest to you a multimodal transport hub ? I know there are some ground level difficulties there; mainly because of the topography and the distance (about 2 km) between the KR line and the NH.

Move your sight a little lower on the map and you have the two lines – the NH and the KR – converging at the Pernem Railway Station – just about 6 km from the airport; considering the spread of the airport, the distance may be actually about 4 km. Here is where the out of the box thinking comes in. And this is what the new KL International Airport (KLIA) has demonstrated : the airport where the planes land and take off can be far from the Passenger Terminal. At KLIA , which is 60 km away from KL city, the major flights land and take off from what is known as the Satellite Terminal A, while the passengers check in and check out at Main Terminal or Terminal 1. It is here that the passengers complete their immigration and other tasks like buying local currency or SIM card or duty-free shopping. A dedicated passenger train called the Aerotrain takes the passengers from the Satellite Terminal to the Main Terminal.  The 3-car 250-person capacity driverless trains complete the 2 km journey in less than two minutes. If the Mopa Airport is so designed that the ‘Satellite Terminal’ is located at Mopa plateau and the ‘Main Terminal’ is located on the plain at the convergence of NH and the KR lines, a similar train should be able to cover the 4 km distance in less than 5 minutes. A smaller capacity train with a lower frequency may be what we will need to start with.

aeroAn integrated multimodal transport hub could be developed at the Pernem Railway Station where passengers can switch from plane to train or bus and vice versa, from train to bus and vice versa, all under one roof in absolute comfort. The complex would also provide for booking of tickets, sanitary utilities, relaxation while waiting, food and refreshments, booking of hotels and shopping. It is needless to say that the hub is not just a utility; it is a business proposition that will provide employment and income to locals and revenue to the Goa government. That is what it has to be eventually : a hub for growth of the entire region. Integrated hubs like this can provide tremendous boost to local produce as they attract large congregations of customers; it becomes a virtuous cycle : activity  attracts crowds, and crowds attract activity, and the growth effect trickles down over a wide region. And the right type of growth : growth without the ill effects of crass urbanization, rapacious industrialization and unjust concentration of wealth.

kliaEven looking from the narrow point of view of the viability of the airport, no major airport can be viable if it cannot derive more than half of its income from non-aeronautical activities; I suppose the ratio for a viable business model is something like 20:80 between aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. Or else the non travelling public has to bear the tax burden; or the airport has to simply price itself out of the competition.

 Crucial to the viability of the integrated transport hub is the connectivity. And that is the locational advantage of Mopa : the KR Station, the NH 66 and the airport will be in close proximity, providing connectivity within the region as well as with the rest of the world. But this advantage will work for the viability of the hub and the airport if and only if the KR line and the NH are used optimally. Passengers landing at Mopa need to be shuttled to their destinations in comfort and in the shortest possible time. One excellent option is to use the major KR stations as the hubs for disembarkation of air travellers and run fast trains connecting these stations. This is again a superb idea that has been tried out by KLIA. A high speed non-stop train KLIA Express connects the airport to another marvelous transport hub KL Sentral in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – in just 28 minutes; another train KLIA Transit makes two stops in between; what is the most important, the trains start from within the Main Terminal of the airport. Other railway lines – metro, suburban, intercity and transnational (going to Bangkok and Singapore) – either originate at or pass through KL Sentral; as a result the air passengers have unsurpassed connectivity with comfort, speed and economy. (For more details see https://olvaddo.wordpress.com.)

krSimilar trains could start from the Pernem Integrated Transport Hub or the trains passing through Pernem KR Station could be utilised for this purpose, depending on the traffic volumes and track availability. They would have to then connect to the major stations on the KR route between Ratnagiri and Bhatkal; some trains could connect to only few stations, others could connect to more. If we are to get back to the narrow context of tourist flow to Goa, as an illustration, Thivim would cater to the Calangute-Baga belt, Madgaon would cater to the Mobor-Bogmalo belt, and so on. This would also provide impetus to the up gradation of KR infrastructure, and make KR the dream lifeline of Konkan, that it was supposed to be.

Integration is very critical for the success of this model. Or else, we will have a situation similar to that in Chennai. Chennai International Airport (CIA) is one of the few in India probably which can be accessed by a train. The other one is Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI); I am told the Metro connection from New Delhi to IGI is of global standards. CIA has the rail connectivity, but the switch is not at all smooth. Chennai city is served by the Metro; the metropolitan area is served by local trains. So if you are somewhere in the city – say Triplicane, Royapettah or Mylapore – and you have to fly, you need to take a Metro train to Chennai Fort and then catch a local train back to Tirusulam – the station close to the airport. The subway at Tirusulam station opens out into the airport area; but the subway stinks and is usually inundated; and after that you need to walk about 400 metres through dusty rubble to enter the Terminal. Hopefully, once the Metro line gets extended to the airport, the switch should be smoother. Integrating the airport into the local transport network goes a long way in making an airport passenger friendly.

The beauty of Pernem Integrated Transport Hub is that it offers a parallel mode for dispersion : the NH 66. Fast and comfortable coaches could carry the air passengers to their destinations in the hinterland. The two modes, therefore, would complement each other, offering flexibility and wider reach; NH 66 would provide access to those areas lying away from the KR line.

The question is, why not follow the same model at Dabolim ? Dabolim has the added advantage of access to the South Western rail line. Yes, Dabolim has access to SW line; but, as said before, it is a weak link. Well that could be strengthened. So I will not discard that point altogether. But Dabolim is too far from the KR line, which is more vital to service the hinterland of the airport. (Actually that is not really true : the KR line passes very close to the airport, but some half a kilometer below !) Dabolim is also far from the NH 66; that however is not a big problem, as NH 66A (the so called Four Lane Highway), which passes by the airport, can be a strong link to NH 66. But most important handicap is the unavailability of space to develop an Integrated Multimodal Transport Hub in the neighbourhood of Dabolim. Some 25 years back it would have been possible; that is before Verna was developed as an industrial hub. Verna Plateau would have been an excellent site for an Integrated Multimodal Transport Hub.

To conclude, the choice today is not between Mopa and Dabolim. The only real challenge that I perceive for Mopa is Sindhudurga. Because, all that I have proposed for Mopa will also work for Sindhudurga. If Sindhudurga materialises in a big way, Mopa will have to bow out; and even Dabolim.  If we do not want that to happen, we will have to act fast  and act decisively on a massive scale to emerge the winner between the two. 

For the full story log on to : epaperoheraldo.in and check the March 10, 2013 edition.