Vendors turn Malé’s surf point into trash dump

Vendors have turned Malé’s surf point Raalhugandu into a waste dump after the biannual street market.

The two-week long market ended on June 13, but vendors left plastic, wood, cardboard boxes and pipes at Malé’s water front. The market organizer Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has not picked up the trash two days after the market ended.

Some 500 stalls were set up for the market.

The dumping of trash at the surf point sparked outrage on Twitter.


The MNCCI’s Vice President Ismail Asif told Raajje TV that the clean-up effort had been slowed by difficulties in transporting and offloading the garbage onto barges that would carry the trash to the dump on Thilafushi island.

The Malé City Council is cleaning up the mess now. Councilor Shamau Shareef appealed to the public to join him in the clean up with “brooms, gloves and garbage bags.”

As the sun set, only migrant workers staff were seen cleaning the area. Much of the garbage has been cleared on the outermost Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu, but adjoining Ameenee Magu is yet to be cleaned.

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Chamber of commerce vice president slams ‘old-fashioned’ officials

The “old-fashioned” or “outdated” mentality of senior officials at state institutions poses difficulties in introducing new sports for Maldivian youth, chamber of commerce vice president Mohamed Asif has said.

At a ceremony to open a biannual street market, Asif said that previous efforts to reintroduce new sports were thwarted, reported CNM

Yesterday’s ceremony featured a display of paramotor or powered paraglider flights for the first time in the Maldives.

Asif said the chamber plans to bring foreign pilots to introduce paramotoring as a sport to Maldivian youth.

The paramotor consists of a small motor driving a propeller, which is worn like a backpack.

Asif came under fire recently over a video filmed at the national art gallery depicting Austrian models with body paint. The video was filmed in March by Austrian company WB Productions as part of an installation art project on violence against women, who were invited by Asif on behalf Maldivian National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI).

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Topless women, dead octopus and body paint: an art exhibition sparks controversy

A video of an art exhibition on violence against women, which depicted scantily clothed women with body paint and some posing with a dead octopus, has sparked controversy.

The project was commissioned in March by the vice-president of the Maldivian National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) Ismail Asif as part of his fourth annual exhibition on women and children’s rights.

The first half of the video shows female models, who work for the Austrian company WB Productions, at the National Art Gallery with traditional Maldivian dress painted on to their bodies.

The second half shows some models posing with a dead octopus on the beach while others posed topless with body paint and coir rope.

Maldives Art Gallery & Experimental Bodypainting Trip

Projects in the field of bodypainting is what we do. About 2 months ago we were invited to fill the Maldivian National Art Gallery with painted bodies. ///////////////////////More about the exhibition: In the week from 7th of march 2015 "WB Production" is invited with a team to the Maldives to be part of the Installation Art Project by Ismail Asif in the Maldives National Art Gallery. It's his 4th annual exhibition about "Abuse of woman and children" in his country.It's also the first time he incorporated Bodypainting into his art. The design of the Bodypainting was taken from the Dhivehi Libaas, the traditional Maldivian dress, elaborately adorned with a gold and silver neckline called Kasabu Bovalhu.Every day protests out on the streets against the government were almost knocking the plan of an indeed nervous looking Mr. Asif off.The team of WB Production with Alex and Anna Barendregt, Aga Glińska, Anna Tuzańska and Vitaliya Abramova is very thankful to be part of this great experimental trip and very glad that the exhibition in the end did happen. WHAT A trip ;)www.wb-production.com

Posted by WB Production – event.lifestyle.media on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The video was uploaded on May 20 on Facebook and has been viewed more than 53,000 times.

CEO of WB production Alex Barendregt said: “Our team was able to be part of a very intense art exhibition in the Maldivian art gallery. Why intense? Because for the first time we did incorporate body painting in a very strict conservative Muslim country.”

Many praised Asif for the controversial exhibition, but others said the video contained “pornographic material.” Some censured Asif for what they called double standards, claiming he had criticized former president Mohamed Nasheed’s government for allegedly secular policies.

Asif was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

“Great work. Nice to see the artist who was happily branding the jailed president Mohamed Nasheed’s government as un-Islamic taking the daring step to hold a body painting exhibition in Malé’s Art Gallery. Sadly even for watching this video us mere locals would be arrested and charged with having pornographic material,” Munshid Mohamed said on Facebook.

Nasheed is currently serving a 13-year jail term on terrorism charges. His trial was widely criticized for lack of due process and triggered daily anti-government protests for three months.

Another expressed concern over the national gallery allowing Asif to hold an exhibition that “pushed public norms of decency,” despite having rejected art work by Maldivian students depicting Nasheed as a hero for an exhibition on the country’s golden jubilee of independence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.16.32 PM

One asked: “What would have happened if this had happened during president Nasheed’s time?” Many of Nasheed’s supporters feel his opponents unfairly targeted them by branding them as un-Islamic.

Others expressed concern over artists using an octopus in the photos, to which WB productions replied: “Don’t worry, it was a dead octopus from the market, and later one of our friends took him home to cook as millions other people do.”

A supporter of the exhibition, Faiyal Ahmed said: “Nice stuff, if this is what locals are calling shooting a porn video I think we should educate them more.”

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“Ideal” time to invest, says MNCCI as Maldives Investment Forum approaches

With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

“The last 3 years there has been a lot of turmoil, but now is the ideal time to invest and talk about business,” suggests Ishmael Asif, Vice President  of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI).

In light of the upcoming Maldives Investment Forum (MIF) in Singapore, Asif told Minivan News that the Maldives can offer a secure political backdrop for any potential foreign investments.

“From the chamber, we would like to give a message to foreign investors that political tension is over and there is room for investments. Maldives always welcomes foreign investments.”

The forum – set to take place on Friday (April 25) at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore – will aim to increase the interest of Asia-region investors, and will be the first forum of such a scale to be hosted by the Maldives in another country.

Investors will have the opportunity to submit proposals for five mega projects, including the following – whose details have been provided by the Ministry of Economic Development:

Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project (iHavan) – This project aims to capitalise on the US$18 trillion worth of goods that pass through the channel to the north of the Maldives’ northernmost atoll each year.

The project is set to include a transshipment port facility, airport development, a cruise hub, yacht marina, bunkering services, a dock yard, real estate, and conventional tourism developments.

Citing growing east-west trade between China and India, the project also proposes to take advantage of more than 30 large cities which lie within a 4000km radius of the atoll. Moreover, the South Asian Free Trade Arrangement (SAFTA) means that export processing zones established in iHavan will enjoy duty free access to 1.7 billion people in the South Asian region.

Expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) - Following the 2012 termination of the GMR concession agreement, the government is currently devising a new master plan for developing the country’s main international airport.

Around forty percent of the tourism industry’s bed capacity is currently situated in the same atoll as the airport, with 80 percent of tourists taking less than one hour to reach their destination from INIA. Furthermore, the government plans to increase tourist arrivals to 5 million per year during its current term.

“As such, the need to expand the airport’s capacity to cater to this additional demand and to provide value added commercial and high end retail services of highest international standards, is a key priority of the Government,” explains the forum’s website.

Hulhumale’ Phase II DevelopmentThe next stage of the development in the Maldives “first fully reclaimed, pre-planned city” will involve further reclamation to the north of the island.

Potential investors are being made aware of President Abdulla Yameen’s plans to develop the island into a ‘youth city’ with a population of 50,000, which will include a “technopolis park” to facilitate light industries.

The construction of the long-awaited bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé is planned to further open up economic opportunities in the reclaimed island city.

Relocation and expansion of the existing central portNoting that the country’s major port in Malé has reached its capacity, the MIF will hope to attract investors to assist in the relocation of the main port to the nearby industrial island of Thilafushi.

The project will include reclamation work on the island, the introduction of state-of-the-art facilities – including warehousing capacity, and marine harbour and support functions to cater to all types of vessel.

Exploration for oil and gas - With oil imports accounting for 31 percent of the Maldives’ imports in 2012, the country is seeking to reduce reliance on foreign fuel with an oil and gas exploration projects, explains the event information.

Previous attempts to locate economically viable reserves were unsuccessful, though the government wishes to find investors who can undertake more extensive surveys in the country’s territory.

The proposed projects are due to be supported by the “relatively freer regulatory environment” provided by the special economic zones promised by the Yameen administration.

Creating a future for the Economy

Asif noted that the decision to hold the conference in Singapore sends a clear message to the international community that the Maldives is keen to discuss ideas with their potential partners, and to build bridges with countries they would like to work with in the future.

“It will create a better platform for Maldives when we do work in places like Singapore – it’s an ideal place to unveil something like this so we can go forward with that area.”

The operator’s of Singapore’s Changi Airport met with President Yameen last week, sparking rumours that they would provide consulting services on the development of INIA.

“Such a forum like this is organised to give a positive vibe, that we are open for foreign investment and willing to discuss [ideas],” he added.

A host of countries have already expressed their interest and are registered for the Maldives Investment Forum, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz confirmed today.

“There is a lot of co-operation from business groups from other countries, like China, the US, Japan and from this area. There are a lot of participants registered on the forum,” said Muaz,

President Yameen will be leaving tomorrow afternoon to attend the forum, where he will give the keynote speech to the more than 300 investors from 15 countries who have reportedly registered to participate.

Following a presentation detailing the five projects, Tourism Minister and head of the cabinet’s Economic Council Ahmed Adeeb will give a speech, before a question and answer session regarding the proposed projects.

President Yameen’s vision for foreign investment was spelled out recently, during the inauguration of a housing project in Hulhumalé – part of the ‘youth city’ project.

“What we would like to confirm for the foreign investors who come to the Maldives is that foreign investors should feel that Maldives is your second home here,” said Yameen.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous.”

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Chamber of commerce awaiting permit for night market

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has expressed concern with the Malé City Council’s refusal to grant permission to host the annual night market in the capital.

MNCCI Vice Chair Ismail Asif told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that the city council had not responded to the chamber of commerce’s request for permission to host the market.

“We are concerned because the council would not even respond to this issue. At this state, another party is announcing hosting Night Market. The same thing happened last year, same thing this year. It seems as if they are trying to hand the project over to someone in particular,” he was quoted as saying.

The Anti-Corruption Commission last week informed the city council that its agreement with Go Media Pvt Ltd to organise the night market had been terminated last year.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told the local daily that the council would make a decision in the near future to resolve the issue.

“MNCCI not partaking in the Go Media bid too is a problem. We had found out that they had not participated. We can’t grant the permission to another party without getting out of the agreement made with Go Media. This is the problem that we face now. That, too is a cemented agreement,” she said.

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Fishermen to protest EU fish import policy

Vice President of the Maldives National Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) Ismail Asif has today said that Maldivian fishermen are going to stage a protest against the EU.

The protest is to express concern regarding the decision made by the EU not to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives, following the country’s failure to comply with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Asif claimed that the EU was attempting to take advantage of the country’s delicate economy and force certain policies on the Maldives.

”The MNCCI had tried to talk with the EU regarding the issue but the EU declined to go for negotiations,” he said, adding that the EU was trying to spread policies that Maldivians do not accept under the guise of human rights.

”But they never directly tell us that their issue is that the Maldives does not have religious freedom,” Asif said.

“They always say under this article of that convention or something like that.”

Asif questioned the capacity in which EU was here in the Maldives and said he will ask the government why the EU was brought here and why the government had given opportunity for such a dangerous group of people.

The EU yesterday revealed details of its first full EU Election Observation Mission to take place in the Maldives, with around 30 observers working to compile a comprehensive report on the entire Majlis elections process.

Asif said the EU delegation might go back and write another report and start taking actions against the country. He suggested that democracy – which he argued was more than observing elections and criticising – could only be strengthened after stabilising the economy of the country.

Businessmen in the Maldives are very concerned that an EU delegation had come to the Maldives after taking measures that would harm the economy of the country, Asif said.

”While they had taken these actions against us they did not consider that the Maldives is the country that does fishing the most environmentally friendly way,” he said.

The EU was doing anything they want to the Maldives because it is a small country, he argued, adding that all they do is provide funds for local NGOs to spread their propaganda.

”Maldivians can decide anything they want to decide when they want to decide it,” he said.

The Maldives exports 40 percent of its US$100 million fishing industry to the EU, its single largest export partner by value.

Until January 2014 those exports were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.

The Maldives applied for an extension under the ‘GSP+’ program, a unilateral trade concession of the EU given to a limited number of countries on the basis of good implementation of human rights are labor conventions, officials said, however did not qualify due to the country’s reservations to ICCPR on religious freedom and CEDAW concerning women’s rights.

The total fish catch has been declining each year since 2006 reaching 83.1 thousand metric tonnes in 2011, leading to fears about the impact of climate change and overfishing by better equipped fishing fleets on the borders of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In November last year, the government said that the Maldives will look to alternative fish export markets, including the middle-eastern and the Malaysian market.

Asif was unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News today.

Under the Maldivian constitution all citizens are required to be Sunni Muslim and the practice of other religions is criminalised. Customs authorities forbid the import of religious items and scan the baggage of tourists arriving at the airport, while politicians frequently use allegations of ‘consorting with missionaries’ as a political attack.

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Politicians trivialising severity of economic problems, foreign investment: Chamber of Commerce

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) has accused senior politicians of trivialising the severity of the country’s economic problems, claiming parties are addressing financial concerns with negative slogans rather than actual policies.

The concerns were raised as the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) claimed over the past week that foreign investors were now turning away from the Maldives due to concerns about political stability and safety in the country.

“Bad shape”

While accepting the present “bad shape” of the Maldives economy, the chamber of commerce criticised negative campaigning on the economy by senior figures in the last two governments – arguing they had done little to address an ongoing shortage of US dollars and a lack of investment banking opportunities and arbitration legislation in the country.

On Saturday (June 29), PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen was quoted in local media as expressing concern that foreign businesses were shunning the Maldives in favour of financing projects in other countries in the region.

“With our present woes no one wants to invest here. They are looking at Seychelles and Caracas. No foreign investor wants to come to the Maldives,” Haveeru reported him as saying.

The concerns were shared by Yameen’s running mate, former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who told a campaign rally in Raa Atoll days earlier that the PPM was the only party able to secure peace and safety in the country required to boost foreign investor confidence.

Dr Jameel was dismissed as home minister by President Dr Mohamed Waheed in May this year after announcing his decision to stand as running mate for rival candidate Abdulla Yameen in September’s election.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from Dr Jameel about the party’s economic policies at time of press.

While MNCCI Vice President Ishmael Asif accepted that political stability was a key challenge to building foreign investor confidence, he added that senior political figures such as Dr Jameel had failed to implement much needed legislative reforms to aid investment while in power.

Asif argued that Dr Jameel was not the only government figure in the last five years guilty of failing to try and boost investor confidence in the Maldives.

“We are not happy. People are using the economy as a campaign slogan. All parties are looking to come to power and they will do or say anything to be in power,” he said.

Asif expressed particular concern over various parties’ using the country’s present economic difficulties to score points during campaigning without offering their own solutions.

“The economy is not healthy right now. We do not hear any solutions from these people. We want to hear positives about will they change,” Asif said.

“What exactly did Jameel do for the economy? What did Anni [former President Mohamed Nasheed] do? What also did Dr Waheed do? What did any of them do?”

Economic record

Asif argued that ahead of the upcoming presidential election scheduled for September, it was hugely important that voters evaluated all candidates on the basis of their recent economic record.

He said that the Maldives’ first multi-party democratic election in 2008, the country had failed to implement a number of legislative reforms required to provide greater freedom to foreign investors.

According to Asif, key economic reforms lacking included the establishment of investment banks to encourage foreign parties to borrow domestically, and arbitration law to ensure that investments were protected in the country’s courts.

He said that with rival parties and President Waheed all campaigning ahead of this year’s election, there appeared to be little consensus to try and deal with “huge issues” such as the dollar shortage.

Accountability

Asif said he believed that the majority of voters had failed to properly hold their leaders to account since the democratic transition in 2008, comparing the nation’s democratic freedoms over the last five years as being comparable to “a child with a new toy”.

“We have not really understood democracy here. Many have not grown up with the right to question that comes with democracy, so we don’t know how to test the capacity of our leaders,” he said.

Raising concerns that the loudest and most controversial figures had dominated the country’s political arena since 2008, Asif said fears of a lack of accountability were a significant difficulty for the economy.

“Take the Ministry of Trade for example. There is a huge issue over the supply of US dollars, yet instead everyone is focused on their own parties. There is no mandate to address this,” he said.

Opposition concerns

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile rejected criticisms over its foreign investment record, claiming it had attempted to introduce a raft of economic reforms for the economy while in power, before the government was controversially changed on February 7, 2012.

The present government, made up entirely of former opposition parties, came to power after former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office during a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that it was hypocritical for the PPM, or any other party serving in the present government, to raise concerns about political stability, given that they had intentionally deposed the country’s first democratically-elected government.

On an economic level, Ghafoor claimed the former MDP government had sought to introduce an economic reform package aimed at encouraging investment not only in the country’s tourism industry, but in a wider number of sectors such as energy, communications and infrastructure.

He said that this investment focus had been seen in the introduction by the former administration of direct taxation, the restructuring of government finances and the reduction or elimination of import duties on a wide range of goods.

Before Nasheed came to power, Ghafoor said the country had been managed much like a “corner shop” – with no mechanisms to attract and keep investors in the country.

He argued that one legacy of this approach to foreign investment could be still be seen in the country’s courts, which he continued to remain a “mess”.

Judicial criticisms

Before his resignation, former President Nasheed controversially detained the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, in a move he claimed was needed to prevent him from continuing to rule on cases while charges of misconduct against him were investigated.

In November 2011, the Civil Court ordered the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to take no action against the chief judge over an investigation into his alleged misconduct until the country’s court reached a verdict in a case filed against him. The Civil Court case preventing action against Abdulla Mohamed was filed by the chief judge himself.

In the build up to the judge’s arrest, Nasheed continued to raise concerns over allegations of perjury and “increasingly blatant collusion” between senior judicial figures and politicians loyal to the former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Since Nasheed’s resignation, NGOs and independent experts including UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul have expressed concern over politicisation within the country’s court system.

Accusing the PPM – as part of the present coalition government –  of being directly involved in instigating a mutiny within the country’s security forces prior to the change of government last year, MDP MP Ghafoor alleged the party was also culpable for ruining interest in foreign investment.

He accused PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen in particular of using President Waheed as a “pawn” last November to abruptly terminate a US$511 million contract with India-based GMR to develop and manage Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Indian infrastructure giant GMR recently filed a claim for US$1.4 billion in compensation from the Maldives, following the government’s sudden termination of its concession agreement citing  “wrongful termination” and loss of projected profits.

Meanwhile, the PPM accused President Waheed of ignoring the advice of his coalition government by terminating the agreement.

Waheed’s allies hit back by accusing the PPM of making “contradictory statements” regarding the decision to terminate GMR’s concession agreement, claiming the party’s senior leadership tried to terminate the deal without discussion or following due process.

The MNCCI claimed in September last year that legal wrangling between the government and India-based developer GMR over the multi-million dollar airport development contract was not anticipated to harm confidence in the country’s “challenging” investment climate.

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Maldives ranked world’s 22nd “most miserable place” by Business Insider

The Maldives has been ranked 22nd among the “most miserable places in the world” by the financial publication Business Insider, on the basis of the country’s unemployment rates and Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation.

Using a “crude economic measure” called the ‘misery index’, the Maldives came 22nd out of 197 nations reviewed, placing between Iran and the Gaza Strip.

The position was calculated based on on figures provided in the 2013 CIA World Factbook, the latest figures of which were published earlier this month.

Without a chance to have seen the report or verify its conclusions, the Maldives Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) dismissed the use of unemployment figures as an indication of development or misery in the Maldives.

A representative for the chamber of commerce maintained that a need for educational reform and long-term problems in addressing concerns over the nation’s work ethic were much more pressing issues dictating overall happiness in the Maldives.

According to the misery index presented by Business Insider, the Maldives was found to have a CPI inflation of 12.8 percent and an unemployment rate of 28 percent. The country was given a misery score of 40.8 based on the combined inflation and unemployment rates.

“It’s a lovely place to vacation, and a good thing, too — tourism accounts for 30 percent of Maldives’ GDP and more than 60 percent of foreign exchange receipts,” reported Business Insider. “However, recent drops in tourism and heavy government spending have taken a toll on the local economy, causing high inflation and an unemployment rate that’s nearly doubled since 2010.”

Zimbabwe was identified as the most miserable place to live, based on a score of 103.3, the publication reported.

“Work ethic”

While unaware of the report or the legitimacy of its conclusions, MNCCI Vice President Ismail Asif  said that unemployment was a far less significant issue impacting the lives of Maldivians.  From the perspective of the country’s business community, Asif said concerns about entrepreneurship and national attitudes were seen as greater challenges to development.

“There are jobs here, but is the work ethic in the Maldives that is the problem. There are certain types of jobs that Maldivians don’t want to do,” he said.

“The construction industry is one such example. Maldivians don’t really want to work in the industry even if the pay is good. I don’t mean labourer positions either, but working as a foreman or site manager.”

Asif said a greater focus was needed in schools to address concerns held by the business community about the nation’s work ethic, which he said reflected a wider lack of practical skills and understanding. The MNCCI vice president pointed to the prevalence of computer literate young people in the Maldives, and at the same time noted that only a small proportion of this group had been taught to swim, despite living in a country comprised of 99 percent ocean.

“Something is very wrong with education here. We need to give young people a more clear idea of work ethics and what is expected of them, and the type of jobs that are out there,” he said.

Broadened horizons

Asif accused the education system of focusing on rigid employment opportunities such as the tourism industry, that had hampered entrepreneurship in the country, particularly on islands in the country’s outer atolls where he said a greater emphasis lay on starting small and medium businesses.

Asid said a failure by authorities to broaden the vision of the next generation of students could create long-term problems for national development.

Asif was also critical of the role aid agencies presently played in the country, accusing groups such as the UN – which continue to provide aid and a number of development projects to island communities – of creating a culture of dependency among the general populace.

“Agencies like the UN formerly were used to employ family members of senior [government] people like [former autocratic ruler president Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s daughters. Since democracy was introduced they have talked about human rights but failed to bridge the gap between the resort industry and the private sector,” he said.

Asif alleged that rather than working with private sector to develop more local industry, aid agencies had served to encourage a form “professional begging” within island communities by encouraging them to apply for funding for projects that were often short-term in scope.

“We have begun to lose our sense of enterprise that helped us survive as a country for so long,” he added.

Asif claimed that a nature of “spoon feeding” that was instigated some 40 to 50 years previously had also gone unchallenged, leading to what he claimed was a lack of leadership skills in the local workforce and the wider population at large.

“This is why we only have [former President’s] Gayoom and Nasheed in the country,” he added.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from State Minister for Finance Abbas Adil Riza at the time of press. Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed were not responding to calls from Minivan News.

The misery index used by Business Insider was devised by economist Arthur Orkum and revolves around the principle that the majority of a population will understand the pain on society of high unemployment and soaring prices for consumer goods.

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Cabinet opts to expand foreign investment oppurtunities

Cabinet ministers have opted to try expanding the number of investment opportunities available in the Maldives in order to generate interest from foreign enterprises.

Following discussions on a paper presented to the cabinet by the Ministry of Economic Development, a decision was taken yesterday to create a “scheme of action” outlining how to attract and handle foreign investments being made in the Maldives, according to the President’s Office website.

The cabinet was also said to have agreed on the need for a specific investor focus around the provision of basic needs, updating public services and developing the country’s economic landscape.

As a result of the investment plan, the islands of aakan’doodhoo and Firun’baidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll and Maakuredhdhoo in Noonu Atoll are expected to be leased out for long-term agricultural projects.

The cabinet’s decision comes as Indian media earlier this month raised concerns that enterprises including TATA and infrastructure group GMR – both presently operating in the Maldives – were struggling to overcome political interference they claim is derailing their substantial investments in the country.

GMR, contracted to develop and manage a new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’ in the largest foreign investment project ever seen in the country, is facing opposition from some government-aligned parties over allegations about the validity of its contract.

GMR has denied the allegations, adding that all relevant documentation was overseen at the time by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Last month, Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir criticised attempts to “politicise” the dispute between the government and India-based GMR over an agreement to develop INIA – fearing a negative impact on foreign investment.

However, the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) has stated that legal wrangling between the government and India-based developer GMR over the multi-million dollar airport development would not harm confidence in the country’s “challenging” investment climate.

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