Law unlikely to impact skilled labour, the major investor in State’s real estate

: The apprehension about the return of a large number of expatriates from Saudi Arabia and the consequent impact on the State economy have not apparently shaken the foundations of the real estate sector in Kerala. The implementation of ‘Nitaqat, the Saudi Arabian decree that insists on employment quota for Saudi Arabia nationals, which has given rise to fears of return of many Keralite workers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will not bring a significant change in the real estate scenario in Kerala, according to experts in the field.

The speculation on the number of returnees does not give a clear picture at the moment, said M.V. Antony, president of the Kochi chapter of CREDAI. Efforts are on to minimise the number of expatriates who would have to leave the kingdom. Even if there is a temporary departure on a mass-scale from the kingdom, it could be assumed that Indians in general and Keralites, in particular, would have to be employed in infrastructure and other projects in Saudi Arabia in future. It would mean that the employment market would once again be opened there.

M.D. Jayaraj, a builder, expressed similar views. The present labour situation in Saudi Arabia may not affect the skilled workforce or the cream of the expatriate employees. It would mean that the prospective investment base for the Kerala real estate projects might remain intact because the ordinary workers do not invest in apartment projects worth Rs.40-50 lakh.

K. Lava, another builder, too felt that the present scenario would not impact the real estate sector in Kerala, mostly concentrated in urban centres. The workers who are likely to lose employment are those who have houses in their native places. The home buyers are generally the higher income groups of NRIs and the real estate sector would face problems if they lose jobs, he said.

Mr. Jayaraj pointed out that similar laws had been implemented in the UAE and several other Gulf countries in the past, but had not seriously hit the Kerala economy. Nevertheless, the loss of income of unskilled expatriate workforce in the kingdom would affect the building sector in semi-urban and rural areas where the workers used to build own homes, he said.

Mr. Antony said even if there was an exodus, the majority of the returnees would be those in the lower income categories who do not belong to the group of potential buyers of real estate projects in Kerala.

Saudi Arabia had always been an underexplored market for most of the real estate players in Kerala. While many of the real estate groups based in Kerala had opened offices in the UAE and several other Gulf countries in the past, they were hesitant to replicate it in Saudi Arabia as it was not a friendly market, he said.