Tourism in Maldives have come a long way from the days of spear wielding “environmental- terrorist” kind of pioneer days. That was a time when our government was not decided about the merit of tourism and every one was kind of like taking a wait and see kind of approach. About 3 decades back there were no such worries as pollution, stress on corals and marine life as is today with mass tourism in full swing.
Cutting a long story short, the change of the regime from Maumoon to Anni was a long awaited much anticipated move which brought with more expectations as is generally the case. With new faces in the government, a drastically changed political system, there arose the problem of finance which is needed to implement more services to the country. Every political party when assuming leadership will want to preserve their position come the next election. However the state of finance was in a precarious situation when the actual handover began and the present government had to find more ways to generate the required finances. To complicate the problem the Peoples Majlis was dominated by the opposition which is still out there just to make life as miserable for the government as possible. Of the first bills sent to Majlis to debate upon were the bills on taxation which if implemented would have been a third avenue of income for the government besides tourism and fisheries. However party politics killed hopes of that bill which is still lying dormant in the Malis waiting to be debated. This led the government to contemplate on more ways to benefit from tourism which is where the city hotel business ideas come from. Tourism in Maldives is very unique in the sense typically a whole hotel or resort is situated in one island complete with staff, utilities and everything. In theory there should be about 1000 islands where resorts can be developed as roughly 200 islands are inhabited. However the vast majority of these islands are still there unproductive for various far too many reasons only waiting to be utilized.
The idea of city hotels in inhabited islands recently came to public debate with the decision by the government to allow liquor licenses to these city hotels which is strongly criticized by the locals and the government has been forced to reconsider the decision. Its also worth noting that there are only a handful of these city hotels in Male’ and are primarily used for the business and diplomatic type of clients who would rather mind their ‘business’ than be pampered in an idyllic beach… which normally costs lots and lots of money in Maldives. Also for the ‘city hotel’ type of business to flourish in earnest there needs more to it than the sense of hopelessness by the government which seems to be the case at the moment. For such a model to work, there shall be an efficient transport network as our islands are rather small and can bore guests with a handful of landmarks in Male’ etc. Where there is lack of landmarks it shall be corrected with constructing landmarks and where there is lack of history, context has to be built for such issues which hopefully will help alleviate the void of city hotel tourism in the country. Currently apart from a few renown cemeteries there are no landmarks in Male to be shown and even the written and known histories of those places are little known and much less researched than shall have been.
The staff of Centara grand (Machafushi) have caught their employer ‘stealing’ from their service charge income and gone on strike and at last forced them to agree to pay 300$ per month as service charge. The strike action was quick and effective and we salute the brave resort workers.
Its amazing how multi million dollar businesses with impressive business profiles still cheat on the hard working staff, part of their legit earnings and the authorities have to get involved. Its reported in haveeru that the employer maintained that they do not charge service charge from guests till the staff shown the process in their accounts system and even then said it was a system error. They were forced to acknowledge the fraud when at last the employees managed to find out room division revenues and a service charge analysis sheet in excel.
Here is the story in Haveeru.
Under the new labour law its still impermissible for resorts to ‘fix’ service charge and still this practice is widespread. Service charge is the amount added to all guest bills and is 10% in most resorts. Resorts run by Villa Group are also reported to have been involved in a ‘fix’ like this.
Faced with growing public anger against the issue of new ‘wine rules’, the president’s office is taking cover behind people’s majlis now. According to the spokesperson of the president, there are a certain “2” points which they have come to understand with the issue of new wine rules. Both points are about draft of the bill being sent to Majlis to rule on and both times the Majlis effectively rejected the bill which means they want nothing to do with the rules as the issues surrounding the bill they know can effectively kill their careers. If the bill were ever to be debated in the Majlis, proponents of the bill (who would likely be MDP parliamentarians) will have a hard time escaping from a barrage of accusations from DRP which will range from all shades of kufr, sedition, cessation to high treason. Even if the tables were reversed with MDP charging and DRP defending, it would be the same charges, accusations and counter-accusations. Ultimately this is not about love of culture or respect of religion or listening to the grass-root voices. This is about politics and both sides are taking advantage of our feelings.
Peoples Majlis according to a recent interview by the prominent politician turned academic Ibra is perhaps the most failed organ of our country. With the recent economic downturn which had the government in a frenzy of cost-cutting measures saw everyone making sacrifices on their pay whilst the fat salaried parliamentarians did not saw fit to join saving a few rufiyaas for the sake of the country.
After a few missteps the trade ministry has at last uploaded the new rules on wine and is immediately drawing fire from all corners of the country. The new rules is about sale of wine and pork in inhabited islands of the country and is amendments to the old rules by the last government. The former rules give ‘wine permits’ to a large number of people and business which includes all the expatriates who work in the country as well as resorts and yachts. The move was purportedly prompted by a clause in the manifesto of the ruling party MDP which roughly translates ‘to close doors opened for intoxication’.. However the new rules effectively is rocking the political boat dangerously and in perilous waters.
About the new rules: The cons
A legislation Only for Holiday Inn?: The new law stipulates that the hotels in inhabited islands will be permitted only once they meet several criteria which includes the 100 rooms minimum clause which almost has the words Holiday Inn written all over the bill. This is all more worrying because family members of ruling party members do have stakes in the Holiday Inn hotel which raises the issue of self interest.
the issue is about value as well as symbolic: The issue of intoxicants is about values and morals in Maldives as such transactions are strictly forbidden in Islam and Maldives is still officially a 100% Muslim country. From a moral perspective this is simply going back on progress and is about allowing a controversial thing such as euthanasia without anybody actually calling for it just because its being allowed in some countries of the world. While the whole world from Britain to Belize is soul searching about what it is to be like a national of this country or that, we seems not to have noticed the value of a being a distinct culture and respect the wishes of the people. If we were to hold a referendum on this issue (which we must) its sure as daylight that the bill would be profoundly defeated even if the voting issue is sensibly put to vote.
unwanted media attention to the country as being repressive: At a time when the country is making swift progress in various industries, this is hardly welcome news as the outcome of this debacle will focus world media on the country and immediately draw the wrong conclusions which medias are famously prone to. With the public mood as much against the bill as it is, the likelihood that the foreign media will distort the image of the nation as an intolerant puritanical society will be hard to sell to potential tourists to the country. Although the proposed amendment to the ‘wine bill’ will not affect the sale or supply of wines or liquor to the resorts, reports of opposition to the ‘wine bill’ will be generalized by media as total opposition to the bill and portray our countrymen in the wrong light as die-hard unfriendly un-fun-loving people which we are not.
The government might fall in the next election: For all the good things the downfall of the former regime is associated with, the vanquished of the last election will use every resource in their power to distort and politicize the rift between the ruling party coalition and there is big fat chance the ruling coalition will be relegated to runner-ups next time. The ruling party politicians should have been aware about the poisonous, explosive nature of such issues and should have been more sensitive to public mood. From a pragmatic down to earth view, this bill will not benefit currently anyone except Holiday Inn or those who are connected with the business of that hotel. But this amendments will see more politics around it in the years to come as smaller sized business will challenge the legality of imposing a 100 room limit, or why for that matter gambling or prostitution cannot be legalized.
Bad news fore expatriate workers:This new wine law is bad news for almost everyone including the teachers and doctors who work in the country as they have been able to buy wine cheaply in the past while as of march 2010 they will be forced to buy from the likes of Holiday Inn who are simply extorting when it comes to prices of good and services.
About the new rules: The pros
will address the issue of temporary permits to individuals:Even as everyone is expected to loose from this wine debacle, the police are supposed to be happy which in fact they are not… Proponents to the bill claim that it will be easier for the police to monitor one or two 5star hotels rather than monitor countless numbers of wine permit holders who sell their cheaply bought wine to eager buyers in male’ for handsome profits. However the police force does not seem to agree with this view. A few months back this same issue was responded to by a police spokesperson who in effect said that this relaxed rules on wine will be more problematic to the country in the future vis a vis policing etc.
There are many freewares (free softwares) for Windows around for almost any type of application one wants. There are equally or more number of sharewares and non-freewares around that most of the time will do the same job much better. Same is happening in the academia in which universities are slowly opening up to the masses with online access to their websites to offer bits and pieces and crumbs of education for free. These free courseware are just free and can be used for the sake of education. There will be no credits and and no certificates, or access to professors or fellow students. Nevertheless with online books, videos and audio clips, there is indeed a lot of information out there to be put to good use all for free.
Where the resort provides wifi access and encourages staff to make better use of free time, this is indeed excellent opportunity for resort workers to catch up on the knowledge gap to continue studies in more opportune times. However its still saddening (no no, the correct word is MADDENING) that most resorts in the country grudge even basic services like wifi for staff. The problem lies with the old bad days mentality of most resort owners who have a lot to catch up to come up to the present day and times.
Here are some links:
* University of California at Berkeley
* Massachusetts Institute of Technology
* Tufts University
* Stanford University
* Yale University
* University of Notre Dame
* Carnegie Mellon University
* University of Washington
* Johns Hopkins University
* New York University
* Berklee College of Music
* Vanderbilt University
* Gresham College
* Open University (United Kingdom)
* Utah Valley State College
* Utah State University
* Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (kutztownsbdc.org)
* University of Southern Queensland (usq.edu.au)
* University of California, Irvine (uci.edu)
Its good news for the humble resort workers. The government is in the process of institutionalizing retirement and pension schemes for all workers and the draft of the legislation is said to have been finished. The government is trying to get the works rolling in as quickly as possible and with the ruling party as the new majority party in parliament, the works shall be easier done.
In a nutshell the scheme obliges employers to contribute to a pension scheme for workers a 7% of the monthly salary of any worker. In the case of civil servants and government employees, the government is willing to deposit that money on the employees behalf. We the resort workers will have to wait and see how the industry bosses interprets the legislation and see if we will have such better consideration as that of civil servants or for that matter weather that legislation has anything for us after all. Resort workers despite being the foremost breadwinners of the country are left to fend for themselves after the effective shelf life and up until now nobody realizes how unjust the system is. The civil servants although not productive in the sense of creating wealth for the country, receive all the benefits, perks and old age pensions etc. Nor was there any direction as to what to do with civil servants when their effective shelf life expires in the past, which creates a special class of pensioners who receive sometimes double, triple even quadruple pensions and are frequently considered nobility of the country.
The usual descent of a resort worker from his positions with respect to his age is like this:
@ his or her youth: a physically demanding job like a waiter, a roomboy, etc..
@ his or her middle age: if he/she didn’t get the long overdue promotion by whatever circumstances then its the time hit dirt.. relegate to island cleaner, shopkeeper, mosque imam etc.
@beyond that: he or she is a strict liability with no job guarantee whatsoever.
Just the other day our country hosted East Timorese President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta on some official trip and our president Anni and Dr Jose Ramos-Horta did call for the release of popular Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her house arrest. But they should not have stopped at that name. There are many worthy prisoners held in caged prisons across the world and we need not be selective echoing only the trendy names while forgetting the rest in more precarious situations. If Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi were asked, she certainly would not ask world leaders to call for her own release from house arrest while being silent about 1.5 millions Gazans in virtual house arrest in Palestine.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular opposition leader of Burma has been living under house arrest and other various forms of detentions for the better part of the last two decades. So we call upon the The military dictatorship of General Than Shwe to set her free and allow her to live in dignity and peace.
Calling for the release of detained important people throughout the world is quite common and a commendable part of modern day diplomacy and its met with varying degrees of success. The case of Aung San Suu Kyi is the most poignant example of such calls. It can safely be said that few world leaders would not have made this call for Burma to release her and yet General Than Shwe doesn’t seem to take notice.
Further north up in middle east, an equally illustrious figure is also kept in detention but this time the accused was abducted tried and sentenced for 5 live sentences in a court case which is fraught with legal loopholes the size of … well, quite big holes. The illustrious figure is Marwan Barghouti, the Mandela of Palestine. With the close connections our newly elected democratic government has with Israel, the government is advised to say a few good words of Marwan Barghouti and hopefully ask for a presidential pardon for him at least as a gesture of goodwill to kick start the stalled peace process…
In the same lines it would be also advisable for Anni to call on the abductors of Gilad Shalit to release him as his capture has already cost the population of Gaza an unimaginable amount of destruction of property and thousands of innocent Gazan civilians.
Nor would it do much harm to call for the release of Dr. Afiya Siddiqui, the Americans have abducted from Pakistan and kept in detention without any charge up until quite recently and now being charged with attempted murder of American servicemen. Trumped up charges no doubt to cover for the more than 5 years of their abduction of her in the first place.
Today is another happy national day and to mark the day there was a small celebration in our “republican square” in Male’ attended by the VIPs of the government. The president gave a little speech in his usual halting and faltering way of speech which is a little symbolic of our country. According to the president we as a country has been alive and kicking for the past 2000 years with occasional challenges to independence. However we seems to be the least colonized country in this region. Continuous and long spells of freedom from colonization is one thing and the strides we have achieved over the long long history as a country is another. Not to sully the sombre occasion, the president didn’t bother to remind the nation that we have had long spell of time to have done lots more than we have for the betterment of our country and the people. 2000 years is long enough time to evolve out of feudalism type of thinking to just rule and it seems that we have not been able to get out of the inner circle for much of the time. Sure, there were sparks of optimism here and there in recorded history (which is scarce.. ) but the winds of change that blew across various corners of the globe at different epochs in history evaded us until quite recently. Its folly to attribute whole notions of a country’s success to particular human beings so it might not be fair to say that this president or that president brought us progress or development. Of the last 3 presidents we had in the country 2 are today openly discredited as dictators and the first one died in tragic circumstances by a mob and his remains are buried in Kurumba village Maldives. Before that we had kings who were ‘kings’ and no more. The type of kingship we read about in school books back than were about virtuous unselfish kings who cared about the pauper were not certainly those who gave themselves fancy long long names like ‘siri aduhaana katthiri bakari bavana mahaaradhun…” etc of which our history is full of.
long live the country
and happy national day everyone.
Yatch tours recently announced that they have settled 2 pending cases out of court which would have dragged on in legal process for years if the parties were not able to come to agreement on the issues. The first case which was settled out of court was the failed business partnership between YTM and MTDC on the island of Herethere. Both parties have lost considerable amount of money as tour operators were hesitant to do business with them when there were pending court cases against them. Now that the issue was solved, MTDC is frantically looking up for investors to sell a management contract of the island as Herethere is politically important to be a viable business.
The second case settled out of court was between the landlady of Vatavarreha and Jabir. With the money receved from MTDC to settle the earlier case, Jabir effectively bought the island from the landlady. The island of Vatavarreha is 150 room island and Yacht Tours says the island will be opened for guests in the coming year.
The government is gradually loosing out to a frenzied opposition dominated media which is bittersweet news in itself. The opposition party now seems to be taking the full advantage of freedom of expression, which was wrestled out from them when they were in power. Unashamedly (like all sides in politics) they are using the media to garner support for their prime cause which is to give reins of power to one person and one family to let the country run as a fiefdom. The government’s inability to check the situation arises partly from being overwhelmed with the day to day running of a broken country + staffing important govt functions with activist style hot air filled type of people as a favor of gratitude to the ire of masses. Another important factor is the government’s fondness to perform to foreign media and governments which alienates those nationalistic elements within the country, which the opposition is gleefully exploiting to the hilt.