Kerala allocates Rs.100 mn for returning expatriates

February 20th, 2009 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 20 (IANS) Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who tabled the state budget in the assembly Friday, has allocated Rs.100 million (Rs.10 crore) for the newly-floated Pravasi Welfare Fund, a scheme to help those non-resident Malayalis who have not completed two years of employment abroad but have to return on account of the global meltdown.
“This is basically for those who have spent a lot of money to go abroad, and as the first step, we will have a registry of those returning and the money will be allocated after studying their needs,” said Isaac.

The finance minister, who had earlier this week criticised the central government’s interim budget saying it had ignored expatriates, has also set aside Rs.1 billion (Rs.100 crore) to help people returning from abroad to start business in the state.

The money will be routed through the state-owned Kerala Financial Corp (KFC), Isaac said, adding: “It has come to a stage where no business can be successful by taking loans at interest rates of 15-16 percent. KFC will work out suitable packages.”

He said the government would also consider on how the loans that the returning diaspora has already availed of will be treated. “It has been and will be looked into with due consideration.”

But former finance minister and senior opposition legislator K.M. Mani said the budget did not contain anything significant for the diaspora.

“He (Isaac) was talking about the likely sops he will provide in the budget for the past few days, and finally when it came, it was a damp squib. The banks and KFC already have schemes, so what is the big deal? It is a dismal budget as far as the diaspora is concerned,” said Mani.

There are more than two million Malayalis settled abroad, with close to 90 percent working in the Middle East. Remittances made by them have buoyed Kerala’s economy.

Last fiscal, the state received Rs.24,525 crore (Rs.245.25 billion/$5.049 billion) as remittances, which is about 20 percent of the state’s net state domestic product and 30 percent more than the state’s annual receipts.

A recent study by the Centre for Development Studies here indicates that by June, more than 200,000 of them will return from the Gulf.

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