Time Kerala Came Out With A Growth Path Sans Remittance

Thiruvananthapuram: | Updated: Mar 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
The writing on the wall seems to evade planners in Kerala. Even as the Gulf labour market for the states immigrants is shrinking, the importance still given to manpower exports in the states educational priorities reflects that the Antony government is yet to visualise a Kerala without its prop of remittances.

For the Norka, the states arm for the welfare of its golden goose population abroad, the exodus from both the general amnesty to the UAE blue-collared workers and that of Kuwait tension calls for just logistics planning. The brief for this outfit is no more than crisis management.

The Planning Boards economic review 2002, released amidst the Gulf tension, does speak of bringing jobs to the Keralites, instead of Keralites going out for jobs, but the policy is still geared to the framework of more training institutes for creating more plumbers, electricians and nurses for export to the Gulf region.

A long-term planning should have been undertaken sufficiently early to create a Kerala global brand in a sustainable sector, says Micheal Tharakan, fellow, Centre For Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. This would have toughweathered Kerala economys Gulf dependency after perhaps mopping up the its whopping 45-lakh unemployment problem. In tourism, Kerala is almost a global brand, but then, this is a sector with cyclic vagaries. The state could perhaps have positioned itself as a global health brand like Cubas growth as health destination despite the US sanctions against it, says Mr Tharakan.

True, an investment climate is in the making. Taking a cue from Mr Jeffrey Sachs Harward study that Kerala is one of the poorest regions in Asia in terms of private investment (as low as 1.77 per cent of the state GDP), the states recent initiative at the Global Investor Meet (GIM) had clinched MoUs with private entrepreneurs to the tune of Rs 26 crore. Planners can hatch an opportunity out of this Gulf returnee problem if only they can gear the returning Gulf Keralites resources to the private capital-triggered industrial growth within the state.

According to bankers, many Kerala businessmen in the Gulf have been hedging their risks by liquidating their semi-liquid assets, meaning that the recent remittances are not just yields from capital, but part of capital. If fear has been triggering the remittances inflow, that must be because the recent spate of attractive currency investment options before the Gulf Keralites are now scary in the short-run, says A Sethumathavan, chairman, South Indian Bank.

This means, fear is the only key to unlock expat funds to investment in productive sectors within the state. Keralas leaning on work migrants has reached an alarming proportion now. Remittances are often higher than the states budget and makes its per capita income 45 per cent higher than the national average. This picnic can end any time. Thus there cannot be a better moment for the state planners than now, to come out with a vision document that charts a development roadmap for a Kerala minus the remittances.