Kerala woos diaspora, says investments in the state safe

February 21st, 2009 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 21 (IANS) Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac Saturday said that the state was the “safest place” for the diaspora to invest their hard earned money.
“Already many in the Middle East are looking for safe places to invest their hard earned money. The (global economic) crisis appears to have come as a boon for several projects in Kerala where we are hoping they will come forward and invest,” Isaac told reporters a day after he presented the state budget in the assembly.

The projects that the state government expects the cash rich diaspora to invest in are the National Games Village, the Kannur Airport and the newly formed companies to develop infrastructure for sunrise industries, IT and tourism sectors.

“These projects are the best for investments especially during the times of economic slowdown because these are mainly infrastructure projects and are time bound. The returns from these projects, once completed, would be excellent,” Isaac said.

In the state budget presented Wednesday, Issac allocated Rs.100 million for the newly-floated Pravasi Welfare Fund, a scheme to help non-resident Malayalis, who have not completed two years of employment abroad but have to return home on account of the global meltdown.

“What did the centre do in their budget for the diaspora? They have done nothing and we expect and wish they would chip in with funds for the newly floated welfare fund,” said Isaac.

He also pointed out that hitherto welfare schemes were applicable only to those who are members of the fund, “but now we have decided that non-members would also be eligible for help”.

“In the next academic year, we will set aside more seats in educational institutions for returning diaspora’s children. We may even start a new school for them. Another area we are looking into is using the fund to extend medical and health programmes,” said Isaac.

The budget has also set aside Rs.1 billion to help people returning from abroad to start new businesses in the state. Isaac said the loans would be handled by the state-owned Kerala Financial Corporation which will also provide consultancy on possible business opportunities.

There are more than two million Malayalis settled abroad, with close to 90 percent working in the Middle East.

Last fiscal, the state received Rs.245.25 billion as remittances, which is about 20 percent of its 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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