Tourism was like a new born baby in our country and was let grown with love and care. Much too love and care, cos tourism was like an only child so over time the baby grew up a little bit and is rightly a little spoiled…
At the early days neither the government, nor those who were involved in tourism knew what will come about of this new found use of otherwise useless islands. The government gave every leeway asked for by the industry bosses who at the time happened to be a few brand names like, The Koli, The Champas, The Orchids to do with the islands as they wished. The islands were developed in time and good money were made and overnight the early enterprenuers became millionaires. The government looked upon the resorts to provide the population with jobs and was quite content with what is earned through bed tax, airport tax and a few thousands of dollars as island rent. Next and subsequent waves of uninhabited islands were quickly written off as favors and gifts to the then government’s ministers and favorites. Still further waves of islands (the last batch) were dispersed in trickier circumstances to another lucky batch of jackpot winners and the then President Maumoon’s immediate family were also said to be benefit from this latest giveaways.
A few years later…
The situation in the country is not like what it was ever in the near past, with conditions rife for strife, with a high percentage of people out of work, a labor market totally distorted and out of shape thanks to things like employment agencies operating right inside the then Labor Ministry, political polarization which has created ways of earning income for gangsters etc. Gang warfare has claimed many young lives and the judiciary seems a little bit unsure about what constitutes a crime or how to define a gang. The government’s long dependence on tourism industry to provide jobs for the people effectively came to a still with labor and skills market flooded with expatriate labor brought in by greedy employment agents who got away basically with human trafficking and extortion in total immunity in broad day light.
Most resort owners or operators profess a desire to employ as many locals as possible with some owners explicitly dictating a percentage of which shall be employed from the country to the Human Resources Departments which rarely comes to anything. To curb the resorts from becoming fully expatriate operated and employed, the government set a 50/50 ratio which was wrongly understood by most employers as the ideal ratio to hire labor from abroad. Jobs are scarce everywhere and everybody knew somebody who needs a job back home, hence came a veritable flood of solicitations for jobs from overseas to all resorts with a sizable proportion of which being qualified simply because of internal connections. This in effect left the resort industry running but the country halting with a big unemployment percentage.
The popular and much overused assertion that local skills are unavailable for this or that job in a resort is anything but true now. This is very much a fact as soon as a job is advertised a veritable queue of applications start pouring in sometimes reaching 1000s for a simple low skilled job in a resort. Also there are excellent Brands in resort industry who employ 100% locals and has no reason to complain because of the staff all being locals.
The new government has 5 short years to do a phenomenal job and it seems they are in a hurry and is looking at the situation from a fresh perspective which hopefully will remedy the many problems associated with tourism industry. For a start the HR Ministry is doing a count of the worker population and recently it was announced that the de facto illegal aliens will be deported once no employer came to claim them. Once all the workers are registered and seen to be doing work in recognizable fields of work, the ministry will apply a discriminatory fee from expatriate workers so that employing locals will be cheaper for the employer. The rates are said to vary between 2000rf to 6000rf per year and is said to come into effect in October this year. This is a necessary step now that the tourism industry seems to be unable to self regulate and resort owners being overly cautious are unwilling to move in line of government policy. The divisive politics of the parliament with resort owners mostly in the opposition camp and interest groups like MATI which has a bloated super power status in the industry seems to be little help the government would have to to forgo with, to kick start a stalled economy.