The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Front government in Kerala is tapping the cash-rich expats from the state to mop up Rs 10,000 crore to finance major infrastructure projects by launching an NRK bond called ‘Pravasi Chitti’ (chits for the expats). The chits will be launched by the Kerala State Financial Services Enterprises (KSFE), a wholly-owned non-banking company of the government and interested non-resident Keralites (NRKs) spread across the globe can invest in it, which will have a government guarantee. The government targets to get the chits subscribed by at least one lakh NRKs in the first year who can join the chit by giving a monthly remittance.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will formally launch chit by the end of the month. “We are adopting a two-pronged strategy to empower the returnees through financial support for their ventures in the state and also to raise funds from NRKs to develop key infrastructure in the state. “The main target is to fund two highways–the 1,267 km-long Hill Highway and the 630-km-long Coastal Highway. We are planning to raise Rs 10,000 crore through the NRK chits,” Vijayan told PTI over phone from Thiruvananthapuram today.
He said there is a larger purpose behind this bond issuance–to support NRKs in the long-term. “The NRKs have played a key role in the development of the state. Their remittances remain the mainstay of the state economy. We are very concerned about their problems and are committed to address them,” the chief minister said. He also noted that his recent intervention with the Sharjah ruler Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi to get as many as 149 Indian prisoners released from the UAE jails was one of such endeavours towards this.
According to data from state level bankers’ committee, the state tops in NRI deposits with around Rs 1 trillion. But due to uncertain job scenarios and the increasing move by West Asian nations to replace foreign workers with local residents have resulted in an rise in the number of return migration. While 7.3 lakh people returned in 1998, this almost doubled to 12.5 lakh in 2014, impacting the local economy, he said, adding that as per a study conducted by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), only 35 per cent migrants to the Gulf have diplomas or degrees.
To address the problems of the diaspora, the government is also hosting the first of a kind Loka Kerala Sabha, a high-level summit of all MPs, MLAs from the state and representatives of over 200 registered Malayalee associations across the globe and also to rope in their support for key initiatives like the NRK bonds. The meet will be organised on January 12-13, 2018 in Thiruvananthapuram, by Norka-Roots, the nodal government agency under its Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (Norka) department. “The meet assumes significance in the wake of large scale reverse migration of NRKs following a general slowdown in the global economy and tightening labour laws and rules in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries,” said K Varadarajan, the executive vice-chairman of the Norka-Roots.
“It is part of a multi-pronged strategy of the present government to put the issues faced by NRKs on the front- burner. The government is working out ways and means not only to address the issues of NRKs but also to rehabilitate those who return,” he said. The two-day summit will be attended by delegates of associations representing expatriate Keralites working across the world, including from Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia, besides from GCC nations, which is home to the highest number of NRKs.
He said all the MLAs and MPs from the state as well as the representatives of 170 NRK associations, prominent personalities from different walks of lives, and observers from various global monitoring agencies will attend the function which will be held at the Legislative Complex. As part of the meet, the Norka-Roots is also organising a brain storming session on mission inclusiveness to involve NRKs in development of the state, Varadarajan said.
NRKs can make their monthly remittances and the entire money will be invested automatically in NRI bonds being issued by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board on behalf of KSFE, which will have a state guarantee too.