In an apparent swipe against the ‘mega demo’ on last Friday, the govt announced that its mulling plans to ban import of alcohol and pork. The govt’s spin doctors apparently advised the administration to put a bill through parliament to ban these products and let the MPs do the debates on the issue to point out the unworkable nature of the big-demo demands.
However the way the govt seems to approach these demands is growlingly seen as insincere and half thought-out, provoking interesting discussions across media.
The big demo’s list of demands were
- To forbid the sale of wine and pork and not to designate areas in inhibited islands as ‘UN-inhibited islands’ which is the only way now to be able to operate a bar in an inhibited island as the existing rules prohibit sale of liquor in inhabited islands
- To remove the controversial monuments in Addu after the SAARC summit.
- To apologize for Ms. Pilley’s remarks about religion
- To revoke the decision to allow Israeli airliner El Al to operate to Maldives.
- To close massage parlors in Male’ most of which are places for prostitution.
our analysis of the big-demo’s demands:
- Sale of wine is prohibited for Muslims and a Muslim administration cannot charge royalties, apply fees and issue license etc for forbidden goods. Therefore one workable solution to this problem would be to outsource licensing and regulating of these items to a competent non-Muslim entity. As for pork we understand that several resorts actually do not import this item at all and do not even have standard permits for import of this item. Resorts run by Villa, Jresorts, and Waheedudheen are all doing fine without this item. Import duty on this item can also be waived and import and regulation can also be outsourced.
- The monuments have done lots of political damage to MDP and also there is no denying the fact that issue has been politicized beyond repair. So it needs to go and the sooner its removed the better for everyone.
- Apologizing for Ms Pilley’s remarks by the administration or by the president is neither politically tenable nor beneficial since it wont change the facts. There is also some fact that most of what she has said, has been taken out of context and bloated for political reasons.
- The call to revoke decision to grant operating license to Israeli airliner El Al has merits on moral grounds as Israel continues to defy international opinion on working to establish peace in the region. This is nothing new and many countries and organizations do boycott of Israel in this line of thinking. In our situation we can afford to do this boycott because of our small size but most western countries cannot afford to confront this issue for historic reasons as well as the threat of being ostracized by the powerful pro-Zionist media .
- The big demo demand to ban massage parlors in inhabited islands was in fact a call to ban places of prostitution which goes by names such as massage parlors and beauty saloons etc. It definitely does not involve high end spas managed and run by resorts and its unfortunate that tourism ministry ordered to close spas at Paradise and Villa group’s resorts.
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.
Our sources in Villa Hotels tells us that the Villa Group of hotels, Sun Island, Paradise island, Holiday Island and Royal Island are to resume paying service charges to staff effective from this month. Initially service charge is expected to be fixed at 1000rf per staff (service charge “fixing” is illegal under the law!) per month and the resort is said to be in talks with tour operators to levy the service charge from accommodation which would significantly increase the service charge value. Villa Group resorts have sold blocks of rooms on allocations to various many tour operators under contract and renegotiating the contract according to the resort is not an option. So the group is reported to be trying to insert this issue whenever new contracts are signed with room allocation arrangements.
However as the group tries to induct new competent talent in to the resort, they are finding it increasingly difficult because of the service charge issue. Currently Villa group resorts are said to be in the budget holiday category hence life is hectic on these resorts with guests coming in sizable hordes and leaving in a similar fashion each day. The advantage for resort staff in these islands seems to be proximity to Male’ and ease of transportation which is one key demand of local staff who have families in Male’ and in neighboring islands. Staff retention rates are high in Villa Group resorts exactly for causes like this despite the hiatus in service charge, closer to a year now.
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.