Rich, powerful hive off tourism profits in Goa: Church

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 28, 2012 07:30 hrs

Panaji, Dec 28 (IANS) The rich and the powerful hive off profits earned by Goa's multi-million dollar tourism industry leaving virtually nothing for the indigenous inhabitants of the state, the influential Catholic church in Goa said Friday.

Speaking at an annual civic reception in the Bishop's House here, Archbishop Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao said the state government needed to pursue "ethical and holistic" tourism initiatives.

"Our people seem to be systematically dispossessed by the powerful and the rich, who see their own profits as being of higher value than the people of the land," Ferrao said.

"Our anxiety stems from the fact that too few of benefits seem to percolate down to the genuine holders of rights over tourism, that is, the original inhabitants of our coastal areas where the bulk of tourism happens."

Admitting that the Church was unable to suggest "concrete technical guidelines" to make tourism sustainable, Ferrao said the development in the sector should not only consider economic, but also ethical issues.

Goa hosts about half a dozen offshore casinos and over a dozen onshore casinos, and active promotion of Goa as a gambling destination has attracted considerable ire of the Church.

"We would like to see the development accompanied by ethical guidelines which inspire respect for the people," Ferrao said.

He suggested that the growth plan of the tourism sector take into consideration the interests and the wellbeing of the local people, particularly those who were "adversely affected by the tourism industry".

He added that if those in traditional occupations were being displaced by the "new circumstances" created by increasing tourism activity then they should be allowed to run "small businesses along the coast in order to compensate for their displacement".

With over 25 percent of the state's population being Roman Catholic, the Church has a significant sway in Goa, which also attracts over 2.6 million tourists annually.

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