Monday, November 30, 2009

Kerala wants Centre to compensate Gulf returnees

New Delhi, Nov. 28

Fearing a large influx of laid-off workers from Dubai, the Kerala Government has sought Central aid for compensating them. The Kerala Finance Minister, Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac, told Business Line that the State will be seriously hit even if around 50,000 workers return.

There are over 2 million people in the Gulf from Kerala. Around 4.5 million Indians are living and working in the Gulf. Remittances from the Gulf account for a quarter of the State's domestic product.

“Our Government has already announced an Rs 100-crore loan corpus from the Kerala Financial Corporation at an affordable interest rate for potential entrepreneurs among the Gulf returnees,” Dr Isaac said. “A flat interest rate of 7 per cent will be valid through out the period of the loan for such potential entrepreneurs,” the Minister said. He said the Kerala Government has already allocated a welfare fund of Rs 10 crore, adding that there is a Budgetary provision regarding the same.

Though the Centre had proposed a ‘return and resettlement scheme' for the returnees, such a scheme would not work as it is contributory in nature, Dr Isaac said.

“People moving to the Gulf for work spend around Rs 2 lakh just to get there. Since most of them are lowly paid, especially following the financial crisis, it takes around 2-3 years to recoup their investment. Therefore, the Centre's package for Gulf returnees should allocate greater compensation for workers whose duration of stay there is short, and comparatively lesser compensation for those who have managed to stay and work there for a longer period of time,” Dr Isaac said.

The Minister said the feedback he has received from Keralites in the Gulf, including some prominent businesspersons, was that the Gulf region would be severely affected in the short-term due to the Dubai debt crisis and it could spill over to India as well. He said apart from workers returning from the Gulf due to job loss, some important projects in Kerala that were funded by Gulf money - including the Smart City project near Kochi and Vallarpadam International Container Trans-shipment Terminal near Kochi - may find it difficult to raise money.

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