Thiruvananthapu ram: Kerala’s economy, propped up by diaspora remittances from about two million Malayalees abroad, can expect windfall remittances to touch `750bn ($12.5bn) this financial year which could form an all-time high of nearly 35 percent of its net state domestic product, migration expert S Irudayarajan says.
Irudayarajan, head of the Migration Unit of the Centre for Development Studies in the state capital, said if the rupee continues to hover at its present rates against the dollar for another two months, the magic figure of `750bn in remittances would be achieved, when preliminary findings of the forthcoming edition of the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) are out, in April 2014.
The Kerala economy, in the past three decades, has received generous remittances from people from the state who work overseas.
“We did the first KMS in 1998, and it was planned to be done every five years. But we undertook two additional surveys in 2007 on account of the global crisis and another one in 2011. The present survey is all set to start, latest by next month, and the preliminary findings are expected by April 2014,” Irudayarajan said in an interview.
In the 2011 survey, the total number of migrants from Kerala was in the range of over two million, and the total remittance was pegged at `500bn in the following year. The remittances in fact touched `600bn, Irudayarajan said.
“In 2008, one dollar fetched `49. Today it stands at `63.35. From our estimates, if the rupee hovers between `55 and `60 for another two months, then when our preliminary report comes out in April 2014, it (remittances) would touch `750bn,” said Irudayarajan.
He added that Kerala is set for two festival seasons — Onam (the harvest festival) in September and Christmas.
“We have observed that it is during these two festival periods that the remittances peak in the state. Hence `750bn is going to be easily achieved,” Irudayarajan said.
Asked to comment on the impact the remittances will have, Irudayarajan said that on account of the massive inflow, Kerala can easily breathe easy. Remittances today account for 1.6 times the revenue receipt of the Kerala government, 6.2 times what the state gets from the centre as revenue transfer, and is more than twice the government’s annual expenditure. In other words, it can meet 60 percent of the state’s public debt.
“As of now, diaspora remittances are 31.23 percent of Kerala’s net state domestic product, and if the remittances touch `750bn, then it would reach 35 percent, which would be an all-time high,” Irudayarajan said.
The survey would be conducted in 15,000 households. For the first time, they would rely on the 2011 census. Irudayarajan’s previous study found out that nearly 40 percent of Kerala’s emigrants live in the UAE and 25 percent in Saudi Arabia.
“Once the preliminary findings are ready, we will be able to find out what the real situation is in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as new labour laws have come in. We will know if that has affected migration from here to these two countries,” Irudayarajan said.