Kerala announces schemes for Saudi Arabia returnees

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 6 : The Kerala government Wednesday announced a slew of schemes for returnees from Saudi Arabia, including a subsidy in both capital and interest on short and long term loans.

Saudi Arabia is implementing Nitaqat, a programme of Saudisation introduced by that country's ministry of labour, which requires that all firms employing more than 10 people set aside posts for local people and reduce dependence on foreign workers.

The four-month grace period for foreign workers to get proper documents in case they desired to continue working in that country ended Nov 3.

Speaking to reporters, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said his government would take up the matter with cash-rich Keralite businessmen in the Middle East, to see if they might be able to accommodate those from the state who are forced to leave Saudi Arabia on account of the new law.

"Already, we have had one round of sitting with these business houses. It looks promising, and very soon we will have a final round of sitting where concrete job offers from their side are expected," Chandy said.

Although the amnesty period ended Sunday, contrary to speculation in the media of a mass exodus, less than 14,000 people have so far returned to Kerala from Saudi Arabia.

"We wish the returnees to get in touch with Roots-Norka officials who have with them small scale projects in various sectors and will help to set up units. Those who wish to buy vehicles for operating rent-a-car services will get loans at subsidised rates. Those who wish to start a venture in groups also can explore options. All of them can look forward to up to 10 percent subsidy in the capital cost and up to five percent in interest," the chief minister said.

The state government has also offered programmes where people can avail up to Rs.20 lakh under interest-free schemes for specific projects," Chandy said.

Three regional committees of Roots-Norka, the agency coordinating the rehabilitation of returnees, are collecting information about people who wish to return from Saudi Arabia. The state government will charter flights to get them back free of cost, the chief minister said.

--IANS (Posted on 06-11-2013)

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