As the economic slowdown swallows more jobs, many expatriates from the Indian state of Kerala are now being forced to go back home.
February 22, 2009 11:29 by Aarti Nagraj
As the financial crisis begins to push people out of the Gulf, their home countries are preparing to welcome them home. The Indian state of Kerala has offered to provide financial support to its people returning from the Gulf, to help them set up shop in the country. The state has offered an Rs100 crore (more than $20 million) loan package for them, and has also allocated Rs10 crore ($2 million) for immediate relief. It has also assured them that schools will accommodate their children if they return to India.
Thomas Isaac, Kerala’s finance minister, said that by the end of June, 200,000 people are expected to return from the Middle East, and most to Kerala, because of the global economic crisis, reports The National.
Interestingly, earlier this month, Emirates Airlines vice president for India and Nepal, Orhan Abbas told the Economic Times that while its global operations have been hit by slowdown like all the major airlines, its services to Kerala have been running with nearly 80 percent occupancy.
“We have increased our frequency to two flights a day to Kochi, our biggest market in Kerala. This means 14 flights a week, which is 100 percent increase from middle of last year. While several airlines are downsizing we are increasing capacity,” he said.
He however clarified that the increase in traffic was not due to exodus from the Gulf to Kerala.
While Indians in the UAE appreciated the gesture from the Kerala government, they dismissed the amount as being minimal. “With the general elections coming up, this is just an effort to appease the voter community,” NP Ramachandran, the general secretary of the Indian Overseas Congress in Dubai told The National. “Expatriate Indians send millions to India as remittances each year and the package offered is dismal.”
According to a recent study conducted at the Kerala-based Centre for Socioeconomic and Environmental Studies, the state’s overseas remittances are equivalent to 20 percent of its net domestic product. “In fact, the value of these remittances exceeds the value of income originating in the state’s primary sector as well as in the manufacturing sector,” the study claims.
Another study by the Centre for Development Studies in the state says that 1.9 million Malayalis (or Keralites) live outside India, with about 90 percent of them in the Middle East, specifically in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Due to Kerala’s dependency on remittances from the Gulf, the effects of the financial crisis in the GCC will be felt as strongly in India as in Gulf nations. Considering that India is already affected from credit crunch, a sudden drop in remittances may put more pressure on the nation’s economy.