Svetlana Nikolaevna had never seen so much cash in her life. It was her family’s life savings, a huge stack of $100 bills, totaling $250,000. The girl behind the glass was counting it, verifying the authenticity of each bill with a scanner that beeped its approval if everything looked OK. Then, just to be sure, the girl examined each note under an ultraviolet light.
We just released our China Quarterly Update. For us (the economics unit in the World Bank’s Beijing office), this is a good disciplinary device to go through the data, look at what has happened, think about what the economic prospects and policy implications are, look in some more detail into some issues, and write it all down.
In addition to the usual topics, this time we focused a bit on two macro risks that have caught the attention of analysts: a property bubble and strained local government finances. In this blog I summarize our current understanding of the general economic outlook and what it means for policymaking. In a separate blog post, I will soon discuss the issues on local government finances.
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In the last few years, many Indian migrants (non-resident Indians or NRIs) have experienced strangers and even relatives taking over their land, tenants refusing to vacate their apartments, and sometimes being cheated by real estate developers. Complex and long judicial procedures have not helped matters. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which has been flooded with complaints, organized a session on this issue at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an annual meeting of NRIs in New Delhi this January (see session description and story). India’s buoyant real estate market prior to the current financial crisis appears to have contributed to this phenomenon (see story).
The extent of these problems in the Indian state of Punjab and effective advocacy by NRI Punjabi migrant associations led Punjab’s government to designate certain police stations for NRIs in six districts, set up special revenue counts, and more recently, to create a State Commission, to speed up the resolution of their land and property disputes. Punjab’s Rent Act has been amended to make it easier for NRIs to evict tenants. India’s central government has asked states to appoint nodal officers for civil, judicial and police matters to respond to similar complaints. Although the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen, these steps are a welcome recognition of the contribution that India’s emigrants make to its economy.