Monday, December 20, 2004

The Gulf Connection

I was a witness to one of the strongest connections that Kerala seems to have developed in the past decade. Didn't realize the strength of the connection until I saw what a difference it can make to people and their lives rather than just giving Kerala a boost in its annual accounts figures.

It is often boasted by Keralites that every Mallu family has at least one representative earning dirhams in gelf land and comes home every year with a big suitcase full of goodies for all relatives, their relatives, their neighbours, old friends and new friends……and some extra stuff for new friends he may make during his vacation :)

Until some years back, the only connection my family had with gulf was my uncle X who decided to make it his base after his short US stint and a good job in the banking sector in India. He is a big influential banker in Doha now. Then there’s uncle Y, who too went to Arab land, but lost his job there and had to come back in a few years. He found it very difficult to find a job back at home. The house they had purchased a year back when they had the inflow of gelf money became a burden now. They were struggling to meet the m onthly EMIs. Situation became so bad that his wife and his daughter had to start working – that too very low paying jobs. The daughter, who wanted to study more had no choice but to swallow her sorrows and contribute her share for the family’s welfare.

My mom was the angel who connected these two so contrasting stories and asked my influential uncle to help uncle Y. And voila! Before we knew it the visa was ready. Now all Uncle Y had to do was to get in a plane and find himself a job, which he says is gonna be less painful than getting the visa. The joy that lit up his face when he held the VISA in his land like a ticket to a kingdom of treasures was something to be seen to be belived. A simple VISA had saved a family from depression or maybe something even worse.

Have been reading some reports that say that the number of mallus in gelf land has come down drastically after the war and the lay-off. But my personal experience suggests otherwise. Now my family knows at least a dozen people who have happily settled down in gelf land. Another interesting factor is that most of these people had thrown away their very comfortable jobs at home and gone in search of greener pastures. But then there are people like my neighbour who has been trying since I was in LKG to get a CA, and finally had to give it up when they assigned him permanent roll no and a special seat for the CA exams considering his seniority :))
He is happily doing ‘something’ at gelf land and is being paid well; now his house has transformed itself from a one storey old fashioned home to a two storey stylish villa!
But are all mallus in gulf land doing white collar jobs? Of course not. The reluctance to talk more than a couple of sentences by most of the Gulf NRIs is an indication that they are doing something there which they would naver have done in their homeland. I can only assume that Mallus leave their abominably huge egos behind when they leave mallu land. Have also heard that people become the biggest misers there, just to save enough to fill in their suitcase during the annual vacation and to live like kings once they are back home.

The small stories of what gelf means to some of the Mallu families is surprising. For me the Gulf influence only meant some neat chocolates when any friends/relatives came for their vacations and those houses that scream of gulf money that are coming up in Mallu land at an alarming rate. The bigger picture is even more astonishing. Some facts and figures I could google out about the NRI remittances that flows into Kerala’s economy

- In 1998 there were 13.62 lakhs Kerala emigrants living abroad. Must have become close to 15-17lakhs by now.

- Towards the end of the nineties, Keralites working abroad constituted 10 percent of the workforce in Kerala. The size of those working abroad now exceeds those working in the organised sector (both public and private) in Kerala.

- 57 percent of the remittances to India from the UAE were to Kerala

- Average annual remittances ranged from Rs. 536 crores during 1980-85 to Rs.15,192 crores during 1995-2000

- As a percentage of the State Domestic Product (SDP) remittances constituted around 22 percent in the second half of nineties. Must be around 1/4th and rising now.

- The growth in remittances to Kerala has exceeded the growth in SDP by a wide margin throughout the nineties.

- Thanks to these huge remittances per capita consumer expenditure in Kerala is one of the highest among Indian states since the mid-eighties.

- Around 20 per cent of the workers from Kerala in the UAE were found to be daily wageworkers although most of them enjoyed regular employment.

- From the trend in bank deposits, it is seen that the savings rate that was around 21 percent during seventies to nineties (around the national average) more than doubled to cross 50 percent during late nineties. This is similar to the savings rates of the high growth economies of East and South East Asia.

- By the end of the nineties, remittance income has increased to 113 percent of government expenditure and 208 percent above the value added in manufacturing and 110 above value added in industry. (OMG)

- One of the formidable challenges facing Kerala today is its inability to convert the savings in the economy into productive investment. That it has not been able to meet the challenge effectively is demonstrated by a low credit-deposit ratio of around 40 percent for the past decade. This is partly, if not wholly, constrained by an unfavourable image of Kerala as an ‘investor unfriendly’ state in sharp contrast to its positive image as a state with high achievements in social development and recently in the sphere of tourism.

- Another challenge that traslates directly from the last point is the inability of Kerala to employ its eligible-to-be-employed population. The IT Park at TVM and the recent plans by Wipro and Infosys to set up dev centers in Kerala should bring a welcome change.

- Another very significant trend is the high growth rate of BPO industry and what is the role of Kerala in it. Wipro Spectramind was in Calicut a couple of weeks back to pick up mallus to work in Wipro Spectramind. (Still cant believe Reddy was the one who conducted the interviewed. I would have had a tough time controlling my laughter if someone like Reddy was on the other side of the table) This shows how desperate they are to expand and to get people who won’t contribute to their increasing attrition rate. Well, I hope they wont change their minds once they listen to temble and simble :)

As the facts seem to suggest, rather than sitting on a huge NRI remittances deposits, Kerala would be better off if it could translate the deposits into some good investments. Using up NRI money to dole out fat dowries and drowning the brides with gold heavier than the grooms doesn’t help matters.

Maybe I should look up something about the Gold industry in Kerala. Am sure it would be interesting. Especially for a person like me, who had to commute through long stretches of roads lined with ONLY gold shops on the way to her school and who hails from the land of ALUKKAS and ALAPPAT and now GOLD PARK, it sure would be interesting.


Anonymous said...

Dear Readers,

Here's a chance to win a Once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Gelf. Without reading the post again, please tell me how many times did the word "remittance(s)" occur ? Remember ALLAH is watching so no tracking back !

With best regards,
The Emir Of Al Jabah

Dear GWBE,

So you got an A+ in Economics and Accounting ? Got any other interesting stories to tell ?

- Yet another bored bloghopper

Girl With Big Eyes said...

another wannabe wiseguy.


Anonymous said...

Just "wannabe" ?
Too disappointed to speak :(

Anonymous said...

hey cud u give bit more info and facts about the xtent whch nri mallus invest in real estate ryt nw