Morning briefings..

In theory it ought to be about planning the work for the day; about passing relevant information to the workers for the day, but in practice its very different. Although most resorts do not employ the procedure of morning briefings, some better managed resorts do. The idea is of course to focus the work. However it’s also the chance for the supervisors or middle managers to do a little bit of showing off and impress upon the workers who is the boss around. It maybe a side effect of bad upbringing or a sign of inferiority complex but it’s very prevalent in resort life. Maybe we need better talent up there where it counts.

We have had reports of supervisors doing briefing for a full hour in some resorts, just making it a long long rant going over the same thing. Also the general idea to conduct briefings does not somehow seems to be known by those who do that. In some such briefings the sequence goes like this

· Find fault with somebody and start attacking him/her.

· Inform tid bits of useful info to the work for the day

· Go a long rant about how he (supervisor/manager) came to this position.

It’s a sure way of demoralizing workers by these things while some senior managements are not aware of the drudgery their workers struggle with. Of course life has ups and downs but most resort workers are keeping up just with things like this on a daily basis to survive in the workplace.

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working against our own interests

23rd december mega protest

It cannot be the greatest sign of wisdom, but we as a country seem forever locked in a battle with ourselves to undermine and work against our own interests, and its paying dividends!

Here is how.
Historically we had the same kind of opportunity as Singapore to benefit from association with the British when they operated a military base in Gan during the second world war period. However our elitist politicians at the time were too busy undermining own interests to get any real benefit from the friendship of a great nation. Even at that time, the executive office in Male’ was obsessed with creating the personal cult of the great dear leader type of drama which benefited none except the dear leader of the time himself. That was during our second president’s time and he is erroneously reported to have brought independence to our country! The fact was that our independence was not lost during that time and only that we had an agreement with the British that we would consult with them on international diplomatic relations which is only fair when Britain had committed to protect the country from any occupying power. Had we done any better instead of putting up a drama with the UK (for domestic audience) we would have been able to get more development to the country.

Our first 3 president’s terms were definitely wasted creating personality cults and into the 1st period of the 4th (current) president, we are witnessing another drama, this time with the limits of freedom, unbridled democracy and experimenting with media power. In the last eventful 4 years we have successfully started the divisive dialogue of religion (to our detriment), started to build the welfare state paid for by an introduction of taxes (to our credit), and generally started a major overhaul of the whole system the country is working on. We have even given a free-reign to media which is understandable as media played a very important role in demolishing the personality cult hyperbole created by former leaders.

This is all good but racing at top speed to reach the all important party manifesto goals in 2013 could be counter productive in the long term. We should slow down and take a more cautious approach because what took us forever to build cannot be rebuild from scratch again in 5 years time.

China could have done the same to Hong Kong when the mainland got Hong Kong from British but chose not to meddle with a good working economy the British left and they are reaping benefits from their decision, keeping everything stable and cautiously asserting their authority.

The effects of our race against time to do everything the democratic and modern-day values way is evident from the bad press and negative perception we are getting everyday thanks to our runaway media and populist politics. Even today in the high tourism season we have travel advisory caution against us by UK which no doubt will be followed by other countries.

Finally.. to cut the long story short:

  • we shall stop the circus about free media and take a more realistic view of news and readership. Media can make or break us so we shall check it if it undermines out top product which is tourism
  •   We shall be able to stop the gang warfare,  daylight robbery, mugging in the 2sq kilo meter island Male’ and stop playing democracy and indecisiveness to criminality.
  • We shall check the divisive debate on religion because we can ill afford to have the Pandora’s box and keep up with the consequences.

Doing crazy things in the name of art

When people run out of ideas, they do crazy things. When pressed for an explanation they say its art. Consider this:

A group of young people sitting on a chair with dough over their heads.

models sit with dough over their heads

The artist who came up with this idea say its art. But if its art then what is not art? To an artistically untrained eye, this looks more like a situation where the artist in question ran out of ideas to get publicity and cleverly fooled the local art gallery to host a period of madness. With so much hunger and poverty around the world, the dough that went over the heads of the brainless models could have been used to feed a few starving kids somewhere!

This is also not a local situation. Everywhere around the world people are falling in to these gimmicks of vanity and doing crazy things in the name of art. When challenged they will readily explode defending their ‘art’ with the determined zeal of the worst religious fanatic.
spencer tunic filled a street in Israel with nake ppl

The emperor without cloth comes to mind. People undress in public places in their hundreds and thousands for a photographer to take their pic in the name of art! Imagine the cost of preparation of the whole project, the transportation of people, licenses, rent and so many expenses that go along with it; money that was burnt for vanity. Think why the world is hungry

Alidhoo staff on strike, again!

Alidhoo Cinnamon Island JResorts Maldives
Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island)

We are getting reports that a strike is happening at Alidhoo Cinnamon Island over last month’s pay. Apparently the resort has still not paid August month’s pay to the staff and is not even able to tell the staff when the resort can pay them. The same situation was repeated in June when staff had to go on strike to get their pay! That time the resort fired 12 staff for their legitimate demand on pay.
SAARC secretary General Dhiyana and JResorts owner Abdulla Jabir
Chairman of Yacht Tours Jabir with his wifeDhiyana former AG

Under the labour laws of the country, every employer is required to pay the previous month’s salary no later than the 10th of the next month. Cinnamon Island resort which is owned and managed by JResorts Maldives (formerly Yacht Tours Maldives) has a history of abusing workers rights and flout labour laws without fear of reprisal. The managing director of the company happens to be a senior member of the ruling MDP and a former parliamentarian whose wife is the current SAARC secretary general. It is scandalous that such high profile persons can afford to openly flout laws of the country with impunity.

We call on the Tourism Ministry and the Human Resources ministry to look in to the recurring problem of delays on staff’s monthly pay at resorts managed by JResorts and to bring those responsible to justice.

The skilled 8.5k


Under the economics reform agenda, it was decided that 8500 people will be trained in various areas of study in work related fields to combat widespread unemployment among young people. According to the plan there will be 56 areas of study for study which will certify the participants in 1 to 6 month duration courses some of which will be accredited internationally.

According to latest statistics of HRM, there are 2000 vacancies in construction industry, >3000 vacancies in tourism industry, 700 vacancies in transport industry and 800 vacancies in fisheries industry.

Out of 205033 locals eligible for work, 38602 are out of work whilst another 73840 expatriates works in different sectors throughout the country.

In theory this is alright, jobs are there lying vacant unmatched to prospective job-seekers. Job seekers also would have to be helped to become skilled if they are not. But the real problem that 30% of people eligible to work who remain unemployed is because of unrealistically low wages. Consider the picture below.

The picture is a typical job ad by a top local business brand which clearly is seen offering an unreasonably low pay for a demanding job. As for skills required, fiber optic networking could not be attempted without skills. Yet a lousy 3k per month is offered for full time employment which actually means, the employer is not interested in hiring locals. A local simply cannot survive on that kind of pay in Male’ island if he does not live in a hole or a cave or needs to eat and drink water even if occasionally!
Job ads like these are clearly designed to exclude locals from work and is all the more reason why we shall have a basic minimum wage and other protective measures like work visa quotas. Ideally a country would be left better off not having to legislate on issues like this, but if employers do not take the social responsibility then they shall be prompted to. Its also worth noting that the worst offenders when it comes to dodging social responsibility are the local employers who still have pre-slave era beliefs about the worker class.

What is so indigeneous about it?

artificial island

Most resorts would love to develop their own style of everything to identify their uniqueness among the crowded uniformity as a selling point to the guests. To prove their point of uniqueness they go to great lengths, sometimes extending the very core values they try to preach. Basically the marketing crew will do anything to develop the unique signature of resort as their work progresses. So its a constant evolvement of ideas and practices which makes up the story of a typical resort.
However there are the atypical bunch to prove the opposite!There are some resorts which are year around booked whole time with repeater guests sometimes more than 3 months in advance. Mostly these would be club style small resorts whose guests fell in love with the resort because of its unpretentiousness. These resorts indeed do not have a long narrative about their philosophy, core values and bla bla and sell the real deal to the guests without the proverbial ado. That is the guest would know what to expect and is generally gets better value for their money.

Resorts run by big brands know that they would need to keep their clients in a  bubble so that they can charge higher rates for their stay. So basically a lot of things are invented to keep the guest in the imaginary state! For example a resort may need to create an artificial greeting in the local language just to impress the guest with their ‘groundedness’! Guests sometimes cringe uncomfortably in self-consciousness when staff pour rose petals practically at their feet as they walk the pier to reception on their arrival. Guests would duly be told and expected to understand that this is local culture while its in fact nothing of the sort. Arrival fanfare is another exercise which is duly forged to impress guests with the originality of the resort. While its true that there was a local tradition to beat drums to welcome dignitaries and elders from neighboring islands, such drums would generally be lively and not solemn at all.

Its the irony of resort life that you have to create dis-ingenuity to make  money and keep the guests in an imaginary bubble, preach to the staff about how moral our resort is and how unpretentious we aught to be etc.

Useless trainings…

frequent trainings are held in resort irrespective of purpose or use
Trainings come in various sizes and shapes! Mostly if a resort employs an in-house trainer he or she will make sure that a project is always going on even if its of use to no one. These trainings goes by various names. It could be about ‘brand orientation’ or ‘company philosophy’ or ‘green globe -whatever’ etc.. Sometimes outside parties such as marketers of a brand or a product might be invited to the resort to lecture a section or a department to introduce their products, all in the guise of a training. Basically these trainings are created and implemented so that the trainer wants to be seen to be doing some work!

The worst part of a useless training would be to be expected to learn some archaic abstract meaning of the shape of the company logo or the personal history of the humble beginnings of the company. For example, For The Taj Group it will be long long story of how the British were in India, The East India company, the Rajs of the time and inevitably the freedom struggle all somehow related to the company and how the founders toiled hard to please the always-right customer in their small hotel! (And remember, the founder was always smiling! {that’s important}) Similar stories goes for every employer. It maybe a required obsession of the employer to inflate the corporate ego but in this day and time, it might be worthwhile to check the return value of such an exercise. Namely what the resort or company gets by forcing uninterested employees the intricacies of their humble beginnings except wasted hours and soft-drinks and T-shirts etc.
If all in-house trainers in every resort acts up like this, its a little solace that similar schemes are not thought of by in-house resort doctors who might come-up with ideas to vaccinate staff routinely on various imaginary ailments!

Absurd descisions..

the island of Foamulah
Officially this is Not one, but three islands!

Geographically Maldives consists only of atolls and islands. While the majority of the islands fit in the coral reef ring that makes the atoll, some islands stand by themselves in the Indian ocean. Foa Mulah, Kaashidhoo, Thoddoo, Alifushi are lone islands like this. On the other hand we have perfect geographical atolls like the normally acknowledged atolls and Rasdhoo, Makunudhoo, Gaafaru, Fulhadhoo and Goidhoo.

However for administrative reasons successive governments have named, renamed and titled islands and atolls at will for quite some time. These naming and renaming does not follow geography and only follows what is practicable and sometimes what is convenient in politics. For example the big atoll Huvadhoo was made two atolls for administrative purposes back in the 80s because the communication equipment at the time did not have full coverage of the atoll from end to end. Ari atoll was cut in half in the 90s for purely political reasons. Similarly absurd titles were given after 2000 to Male atoll Villingili and the newly developed island at Hulhule as wards of Male’ despite the islands being separated by sea from Male’. However these naming and renaming serve the political purpose as no strong objections has been raised against such measures.

The latest absurd naming of the island happened quite recently at FoaMulah which is now officially 3 islands two of which are supposed to be uninhibited although in reality the island is still one indivisible island which couldn’t even add more territory to it by dredging because the island lacks the protective lagoons and beaches most islands have. FoaMulah has been an island by itself for centuries despite being quite close to Addu atoll. Although there were attempts to associate FoaMulah as an island belonging to Addu, it does not appear to have found any wider acceptance. The recently found two islands (imaginary ones!) is an honest attempt by current government to host two city hotels which could do for a resort possibly to provide more jobs and income to economy. Whatever the reasons, its unlikely to go unchallenged by political rivals as the plan is an obvious half thought idea! With many resort islands opening in Huvahdoo atoll and two in Addu, any hotelier who would open camp in these two islands would find it a stretch to compete for customers to their city hotel (in an imaginary island!). The idea that FoaMulah could be helped to develop by two city hotels and a domestic airport does not seem viable as Addu has had facilities for years and yet is lacking in so many ways.

Giving titles to islands and atolls maybe a tame political pastime but the implications of such changes cost the economy as each titled island is in effect a small administration with its requirements such as offices and officers who will manage the newly created narrative. If however the prevailing idea is to help an island by raising its title, what could be feasible for that island needs to be introduced. Everything does not have to be of or related to tourism. Diversifying industries which can help the economy would be better in the long run than to keep all the eggs in the same basket.

cash-strapped employers!

Eriyadhu
Its weird but true. Some resorts juts really can’t afford to pay the staff at the end of the month! Recently a fellow resort worker informed us about his experience in such a resort where he applied for a job. The HR person was all truthful and told the situation without sugar-coating the facts. The resort still has two months back-pay owed to staff and is not sure when they can pay the staff either!

But the question is how a functioning resort which has all paying clients can go so low as to hold on to staff’s wages and yet put a straight face on.. Could the situation be so bad that they would in a few months not even be able to pay for the groceries bill? How long can this farce go on?

The answers to these problems will be given when there is enough political will to confront big bussineses to respect the rule of law. As long as employers can get away with gross violations of labour laws there is little hope things will turn out better for the workers.

Alidhoo Staff fired asking for salary!

SAARC secretary General Dhiyana and JResorts owner Abdulla Jabir
Chairman of Yacht Tours Jabir with his wife Dhiyana SAARC Secretary General

Not to be unfair or one sided but if a survey is made of all the resorts in Maldives and asked which employers are the worst, Jresorts will come to the bottom of the results. There is very little doubt about that. Its a combination of bad politics and corrupt business practices which views the workers as nothing better than paid slaves. This is in very contrast to the excellent service resort workers give to their high paying clients who blissfully are unaware that the workers who pamper them in their expensive holidays sometimes go without pay for months while they still retain the smile.

Our solidarity with the wronged staff of Alidhoo Cinnamon Island who were summarily dismissed for asking for their last month’s salary. This sends a chilling message to honest workers who toil hard in resorts far away from family and friends that employers can still cheat and threat and getaway with everything and nobody seems to take notice!

Here are some background info about Alidhoo the resort, the parent company and the owner of the bussiness.

The owner:
Jresorts is owned and managed by Mr. Abdulla Jabir who is frequently referred to as a self made businessman from Huvadhooo Atoll. However like all creations of the state Mr. Jabir was also a creation of the former administration. Specifically Mr. jabir rose to prominence in tourism industry by association with Yameen the powerful minister who held many ministerial portfolios and half-brother of the Maumoon the last president. It could be safely assumed that almost all of Jabir’s resorts were built, renovated or maintained by finances and materials from deals with the State Trading Organization whose board chairman was also Yameen at the time. So unlike most resort owners who struggled with finance arrangements, Jabir had an important friend at the right place and time. Mr. Jabir’s wife the Diyana the current SAARC secretary general is not associated with his bussiness but its frequently noted in forums and local news that the position for Dhiyana was offered as part of a political deal to keep Mr. Jaabir away from ruling party politics. He is the only prominent politician/businessman in the country to have been in all major political parties, DRP, MDP, Jumuhooee Party, And People’s Alliance (Yaameen’s party) in so a short period of time. Basically he is an opportunist businessman involved in politics for the business interests like everywhere else around the world.

The resorts:
Jresorts currently owns Alidhoo, , KudaRah, Vatavarreha, Funamaudda among many other islands. The parent company of the islands is Yacht Tours Maldives. Past management deals and ownerships include Dhonveli Beach and Spa which has been sold to John Keels Holding Co of Sri lanka and Herethere which was leased from MTDC. The Herethere deal has since been abandoned after a sizable loss to everyone including the MTDC. Jresorts has also been awarded an island in lieu of a failed bid he presented to Vilivaru and Biyadhoo which was a precedent which has since not been replicated.

Tourism Ministry reprieving dodgers

Alidhoo Cinnamon Island JResorts Maldives
Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island)

The decision to reprieve resorts who are dodging payment of  rent and accrued fines is a dangerous precedent created by the tourism ministry. This is actually a very serious  issue as all of the owners of these defaulting resorts are senior members of the ruling MDP party. Tourism industry is the one sector of our economy that works well relatively compared to other sectors so its an alarming situation. The ministry and administration has to make a point of being seen as not playing favourites to the party members.

Tourism ministry may have considered the effect of revoking operation license of these resorts and the ensuing economic factors which might negatively effect the upcoming national elections in their decision. However these figures owed by the resorts in question are not of the magnitude that would have been impossible for resorts to come up with if the resorts are in business. Our resorts are well known for their over pricedness where even a bottle of water is sold for guests to the equivalent of a bottled water case! Also a quarter of million dollars is average monthly value of payroll in a mid sized resort. So its bewildering how the ministry has to bend its uprightness just to appease party benefactors.

Below is a list of resorts and the amounts owed by these resorts as rent and fines.

Alidhoo (Cinnamon Island) (JResorts) $792,042.12
Kuda Rah (JResorts) $759,363.38
Funamaudda (JResorts) $1,241,226.20
Filitheyo Island $2,563,509.01
Medhufushi $3,431,328.44
Kudafunaafaru (Zitahli Resorts) $669,604.72
Hadha (Park Hyatt) $200,833.33
Giraavaru $2,519,276.98
Kihaadhuffaru (Zitahli) $1,471,221.90
Laamu Olhuveli (Six Senses) $4,751,511.11
Nasandhura Palace $265,054.93
Total $18,664,972.12

source:Haveeru

The numbers behind the illegal immigration problem


The problem of illegal workers has soared to new heights as the country is listed on US State Department’s human trafficking watch list for a second year. To tackle the problem the military has been manning the immigration counters and human resources ministry to investigate the root causes of the problem. Prior to this takeover the two offices (immigration and human resources ministry) were not able to solve the problem of which office keeps which monies associated with the immigration and visa fees process. The problem was resolved that neither office gets to keep any monies related to expatriates visas, deposit fees, work permit, return ticket etc. Instead Maldives Inland Revenue Authority takes over the money matters from the two offices.
 
Briefly the various numbers associated with the illegal immigrants are as follows
 

  • 130milion Rf as lost visa fees per year for the country.
  • Greater than 40000 estimated illegal immigrants in the country. The two separate databases kept by the Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry has a variance of greater than 20000 which is making it difficult to estimate the size of the problem.
  • All legal expatriate worker pays 250rf per month as work visa fees.
  • 1 office serves visas. 1 entry point for immigration.
  • Expatriates are estimated to remit 10m$ per month. The dollar shortage problem is frequently associated with this problem. However the single most drainer of dollars is high government spending.
  • Its also estimated that workers remit 100-800$ per month per worker which is contrary to popular belief that illegal workers work almost for pennies!
  • Recruitments agencies are charged 1500rf per worker as deposit.
  • To counter the unwieldy problem, the government resorted to a new boarder control system which also fell foul to corruption: The monies involved in the new boarder control system are $220m for 20 years for a company called Nexbis: A comparable system that is employed in in Sri Lanka costs 2.2$m to install and to develop!

 

links
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113427
http://www.haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=113237&category=cTrOpir

 

Fighting Terror in Paradise.. Really?


Fighting with terrorists in paradise must be a complicated thing because as a general rule, terrorists and paradise shall not mix: terrorists are destined not for paradise but for hell.
Coming across a piece of bad journalism on these same lines, we felt the need to comment on the story as the essay tries to give the impression that our beautiful islands are in danger of being occupied by terrorists- which needless to say is solid fantasy.

First of all, the essay printed in the-diplomat.com doesn’t seem to have been prompted by any new development in the tourism sector in the Maldives or anywhere else in the country. The essay simply revises some old news from 2007 to match the words to the heading of the story. The heading of the story contains the desired wordings to attract the most amount of traffic from search engines which is the goal of all news outlets. But just coming out of the blue and saying Maldives is fighting terror in paradise for no other reason than making a sensational story, is the culminating point of bad journalism! Nobody can beat this!

However the circumstances of our time is such that fantasy and drama sells and truth can always take a backstage. 😦

Minimum wage debate restarted..

Minimum wage is an emotive issue which has broad consensus of acceptance. Its evident from the ongoing dialogue on the issue in various media outlets. There was an attempt to set up a minimum wage for the country to prevent labour exploitation in the past which was duly shot down by the pro-business lobby in the People’s Majls. The current attempt to set the minimum wage comes at a time the balance of power is shifting in favour of the ruling MDP party which hopes to re-energize the local economy by creating more jobs for the locals, releasing and unsustainable peg on dollar to rufiyaa and introducing long overdue tax reforms. Although there are voices of dissent only from the bussiness lobby which includes resorts owners such as Villa group chairman Gasim Ibrahim, Sun Travel Shiyam the minimum wage issues is expected to proceed through People’s Majlis.

Contrary to popular belief, minimum wage when it becomes reality will not be as high as is expected of it. The figure could be based on criteria such as type of work or age of worker etc or one all encompassing one figure such as 2000.00rf etc. It remains to be seen how the the figure is arrived but one criteria the govt. will have on mind is to device it in such away that the current labour exploitation will be halted by this one stroke of legislation. The Minimum wage figure need only to be above the edge the employers are employing expatriates over locals such as 70$ or 100$ per month levels. With these levels of pay, the workers (often expatriates) are enduring back-breaking work in exploitative conditions and suffering for years on end without any regard to rights and benefits of work. If the minimum wage figure is higher than these levels, there is a good chance that construction industry will be more favourable for local employment.

The business lobby will work hard to undermine this measure and yet they do not have convincing arguments against the measure. Vague observations like “we will go bankrupt.. if this happens” only exposes the depth of their understanding of basic issues in running a business. If they do not offer credible objections or alternatives , then they are just a voice and no more. Running a business is no more like a running a slave-trade operation. That was some time back and does not reflect current working condition in resorts or construction industry or anywhere else.

Dropping out of the new 7 wonders scam!


Its wonderful news that the Tourism Ministry wakes up to reality and is dropping out of the fake marketing scam thats called new 7 wonders of whatever it is! Maldives is beautiful as it is. The country has a booming tourism industry and can do very well without fake marketing by fine-tuning the tourism industry; bringing progressive changes, innovating good practices, caring for the industry workers etc etc. The primary purpose of these ‘precious’ marketing schemes is to generate cash for themselves and is bewildering how mature brains can fall for frauds like this. The energy that went to get the country ‘voted’ to poll position clearly shows the enthusiasm that went to believe in the hoax in the first place. Departing guests were made to vote on-line at the airport in support raising of our ranking in the scheme. School students, civil service workers, common folks all voted like mad to give the country a poll position in the new7wonders all the while not knowing the fraudulent nature of the marketing scheme! Now that the hoax is out with the realization that its not the beauty of the country that counts but rather the amount of money we can produce to get the rankings, its time to quit and focus our energies on where it matters. At the industry, the visitors, the islands and the people that makes the it tick! (the workers– like us).

Follow the story in Haveeru
The story in Minivan

The long overdue recognition of Worker’s Day

The government has added May 1 to the list of official public holidays after a cabinet meeting yesterday. Its an improvement from over the years where a day for workers rights was unheard of. Workers rights in the Maldives has largely been championed by the tourism sector workers who have put a lot of effort to raise the issues of workers and has suffered the most. The last workers rally conducted by the TEAM was attended by a few dedicated resort workers and was a novelty kind of approach to voice workers issues. The few attendees held placards displaying various issues faced by the workers. The issues included calls to implement the provisions of labour law as well as demands to review the labour laws! The situation is worse this year as recent patches to labour law crafted by MATI (resort owner’s cartel) has been added in to labour laws, which almost effectually bans workers protests in resorts.

The employers appears still firmly locked in medieval mindset when it comes to playing fair with the workers. What has to dawn on employers is the fact that a happy, loyal, motivated workforce will be more productive and more beneficial for the business they are employed in. It doesn’t make anybody a genius to know that and to apply these. It would also be universally acknowledged that employers in this day and time couldn’t be that daft not to know such a basic truth. However it should be beneficial to be reminded that we are dealing with the same employers who raised fears that resorts would have to hire double the amount of staff they were currently employing just to comply with the 8 hour work rule when the labour law was enacted. Its a sign of how low the employer class been and how much catching up there is.

A whole island for 1500 dollars!

kudafinolhu island

The island of Kudafinolhu is north of fun island is in the press with the Villa Group claiming the tourism ministry’s revision of the rent for the island is against the original agreement signed with the ministry. The island was leased to the Villa group at a paltry 1500 dollars as a picnic island. The revised rent is based on the size of the island and amounts to 51,784 dollars annually.
The case highlights the corruption and self-interest at play in the tourism ministry over the years and its an encouragement that the tourism ministry is at-last seen to be doing something about these issues.
Although a picnic island by itself does not generate income like a ‘resort’, resorts sell excursions to guests which is a lot of money on a yearly basis. For the purpose of rent for the k.kudafinolhu, 1500 dollars is only symbolic. This goes in the same line where Villa group was awarded a plot of land in Male’ for filling station for only 6rf per sq-ft. If we consider another similar island Kuda Bandos, which is a primarily local picnic island, the rent for the island is 1,130,333 dollars! so the kinds of money expected from picnic island is not paltry at all when dealt farily. There are more islands and more stories like this which needs to come out to light and accountability.

Related story: Kandholhu Island

Job stats revealed by ’employment ministry’

employment minister

Armed with partial statistics on jobs in the Maldives, the employment minister it appears have rightly waded in ‘hot water’ territory deriding fellow countrymen for not seeking work. According to the ministry’s latest job survey there appears to be 1639 vacant jobs in various businesses at the moment (in Male’ area) while only 300 applicants seemed to have applied for jobs via their obscure job matching system, hosted in the ministry’s site. The survey seems to indicate that of the total 22642 workers currently working in 24094 businesses, only 12432 workers are local. The minister appears to observe that lack of qualification might be the prime reason why workers remain unemployed despite many vacant positions.
Responding to the minister’s argument in a Haveeru thread, most readers of  observes that the youth minister Hassan Latheef is not fully aware of the scope and magnitude of the problem. While its common knowledge that the ‘best’ jobs will be acquired by the most qualified workers, there are so many other problems which checks the workers from applying for jobs. The survey conducted by the ministry does not seem to include anything else except vacant jobs in business properties. It could well include elements to determine the problems why seemingly large numbers of eligible workers refrain from entering the market. In short the many problems why people do not enthusiastically take up vacant jobs could be:

  • low paid jobs: this is a problem that have not kept up pace with the inflation of the economy and unrealistic expectations of employers.
  • wage benefits: to a large extent if local and expatriate workers are compared in similar positions in Male’, the local will be at a disadvantage by benefits such as housing and food allowances which mostly does not apply for locals. This is despite the fact that the a large number of locals who work in Male’ are from local islands and pay for their own accommodation in Male’ as well.
  • inconsistent job specs and unrealistically high qualifications: this defies explanation. Some employers simply ask for bachelors degree qualification even for such mundane jobs as store keepers! In return they are willing to pay only the lowest wages in the market.

Despite the half hearted surveys, its a good sign that the ministry is at least concerned about these issues and hopefully better mechanisms to get people to work will be implemented in the future. This measure is on the heals of another important problem the government is seemingly at work on which is the dollar shortage problem. According to official figures there is a 2m$ outflow of dollars from Male’ as remittances by expatriate workers which is one of the many factors aiding pressure on the pegged dollar exchange rate.

avoidable unneccesary tragedies

Sun island Nalaguraidhoo

Guests drowning off the resort lagoons is becoming an alarming situation throughout the country. Its becoming more common now and almost every month we hear about a fatality of a guest or a few guests. However there doesn’t seem to be a realization of this problem in the tourism industry as something which can be acted or prevented upon. Just as any resort is perpetually concerned about the comfort, privacy or personal preferences of the guest, so shall a resort be concerned about the safety of the guest. In fact safety shall come first.

In all resorts, guests are free to swim anywhere around the island and whenever they want. However the snorkelling or diving gear is sometimes exclusively sold or rented by the dive shop which may or may not be operated by the resort. The majority of the dive shops in resorts are operated by third parties so its likely that the responsibility for the guests’ care and safety falls in between and no party really wants to take responsibility for this. However what is known as a fact is that diving and snorkelling gear is always rather a little bit expensive so sometimes guests bring their own snorkelling gear. Some travel websites and forums advice guest about this fact which doesn’t seem to have registered with resorts yet. Rates for hiring a snorkelling guide are per hour and not cheap because dive-shops and resorts all make an effort to run the operations with a streamlined workforce and bloated profit margins!

To overcome this tragic situation, resorts could in theory do implement a few of these following measures:

  • Employ full time life guards in the resorts. The guards shall be trained and equipped with rescue gear vessels etc.
  • Implement stubborn safety rules such as making it mandatory to wear buoyant safety vests on journeys to and from resort, airport, Male’ etc
  • Make sure that the guests are fully competent in swimming before lending them snorkelling gear and making a point of knowing if the guest needs additional help and providing them such help free of charge.
  • Have an arrangement or an understanding with dive-shops to lower the rates of basic snorkelling gear for novice guests or to provide a discount so as to encourage more guests to use appropriate gear and help of water sports folks.

Successful businesses count on being headstrong and stubborn! No amount of theorizing, preaching or advising will work on resorts. Employers or managements seldom need or read advices or recommendations. Its just the reality of running a resort which is tough, complicated and demanding work. Nobody really has the energy to do anything else after a hard day’s of work. So the only thing that can get the resorts attention seems to be legislation by law makers or purposeful action by the tourism ministry.

Runaway processes

We have quite a number of alarming runaway process in the country . Mostly this is about politicians finding themselves in a situation like where the little boy was locked in the sweetshop. The only difference here is that our politicians are not little boys, nor are they locked in a sweet shop. We are talking about public accountability, honesty, integrity, qualities which they talk about so much but the reality does not match.

  1. The most alarming of such a processes is the People’s Majlis setting the salaries of everyone. It’s quite accepted that most of our People’s Majlis are not capable of rational discourse on technical matters such as fiddling with pay structures, but they are doing it anyhow either for greed or to make life tough for the ruling party.
  2. There is a trend in the government to sell off (not exactly but long term lease) islands across the country for developing tourism etc. as a means of fund-raising for their pet projects. Some of these projects are for like raising money for building flats for fellow countrymen or as an escape route to appease the islanders from the previous government’s promises. Such situations include airports at Thaa and Foa Mulaku atoll which perhaps were not the brightest ideas of the former administration, but anyhow they were promised to the people and the new politician’s are doing all they can to appear that they actually worked to fulfil the dreams of the people. Dream or no dream, the intention has to be honest; that if something or some project is unworthy or unrealistic it shall be explained to the people.
  3. Another and equally damaging process is the Majlis members passing and enacting laws which will not benefit the majority of the people of this country. One prime example of this fact was in the passing of the copy rights bill which stipulates unrealistically high punishments for software piracy etc. The point here is not the legitimacy but the realization of the situation of the country. This is a country like many in the world, where almost every computer runs Microsoft and the OS is likely to be a pirated copy of Windows. The funniest part is that bill was pushed through Majlis because of perceived threats to ‘Mollywood’ the equivalent of Holywood in US or Bollywood in India, which creates a bunch of ‘films’ every year which somehow all seems to have been created, directed, watched and played by the same people…

There are indeed are many such runaway processes in the country that needs to be checked. If we really cared about our country, we have to be more honest and upfront about our good intentions.