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


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

New tourism minister appointed

According to local media, a new tourism minister has indeed been appointed although the president’s office has yet to break the story.
The new minister of tourism is going to be Dr. Mariyam Zulfa who holds a Phd from Curtin University of Technology on Business/Tourism , 2005 — 2009 according to site. The tourism ministry’s site is as usual non-committal about issues like this and its very unlikely that the site will even bother to put a page for the minister. Despite the allegations of nepotism (ie being alleged that the new minister is niece of the president’s press secretary ) We congratulate the minister and wish her and the industry success.

Gitmo resettlement will NOT damage Maldives’ reputation

Although Tomato ( sorry Matato) claims otherwise, there will be absolutely be NO damage to the reputation of Maldives by agreeing to resettle Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Here are the reasons.

  • Most resorts in Maldives are geared for high spenders rather than budget spenders who have their own businesses, professions and generally their heads with them. So they could not possibly be unaware of world politics or ramifications of it.
  • Guantanamo Bay is not a terrorist camp or a training ground for terrorists. Rather its a place that came to be associated with the wrongful policies of the last US president whose successor is making good on his election promises to close down the place to show the ethical and humane side of American values. World media knows this and any measure to close down the camp will be cheered in any part of the globe.
  • Our Obama (sorry, our president Mr. Anni) may not have always aligned his political steering to the correct compass direction but this time the president is correct. Absolutely correct to ZERO decimals without error. Assisting fellow human beings who happened to be caught in a global battle without an end in sight, is the responsibility of all respectable people of the world.
  • Its the opposition politics which is taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses to gather support for their parties which is creating all this fuss about the move to resettle the POWs which has no basis whatsoever. Our president Anni showed considerable courage (far more than is generally necessary) in cutting short the reporters who are questioning this move because the media can make or break a country. In this case, the opposition is using media to the hilt to discredit a rather commendable move by the president.
  • Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) which is different from tomato (of course!) are not experts of world politics, terrorism, tourism or anything. These are just individuals (locals) who make a life selling package holidays to unwary tourists who might not have come across big names of world famous tour operators who operate in Maldives. Top brands in tour operations in the world knows the value of their statements to media so they generally refrain from commenting on issues without prior knowledge. Moreover these Tomatoes (sorry MATATOs) are the most worker unfriendly people who works in the tourism industry. Generally they make a living by their fancy websites (to unwary guests of course ) while we the workers resort workers tarry with the guests.
  • The Tomatos (sorry MATATO) said that certain countries issued travel warnings to Maldives citing “internal conflicts and linking terrorism to Maldives.” these are just claims which has absolutely no basis. Even the specific wording they used has nothing to link this to the recent decision by the government to resettle Guantanamo Bay prisoners. What it has if anything was the fact that the former government of Maumoon committed the big mistake of smearing the name of the country by claiming to the world media about the presence of terrorism and terrorist camps in the country. These were of course lies to win in the presidential election by playing the “fear” card which thankfully backfired.

Below is the link to country specific information about Maldives which is certainly not issuing cautions against visiting the country.
US Department of State

Here is the world alert page by State Department which also does not contain advice to boycott our country’s tourism.
Worldwide caution

Below is the link of MATATO board members
The couch potatoes.. sorry MATATO

Outlook for workers in Tourism

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.