The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has called for greater efficiency in how the country’s labour and immigration officials deal with processing expatriate workers before imposing measures requiring employers to provide insurance packages for foreign staff upon arrival.
Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim told Haveeru this week that although new applicants for work visas in the Maldives would now be required to have an insurance policy provided to them, a similar requirement for existing expatriate workers expected to come into place in March had been postponed.
Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor, Treasurer of the MNCCI, has said that although the business organisation does not hold any objections to insuring employees, it was hoping for more consistent and efficient processing of paper work for expatriate workers before implementing a system of mandatory insurance.
Notable issues of concern selected by the MNCCI’s Treasurer included difficulties in acquiring insurance for expatriate workers before they had arrived within the Maldives, the time frame afforded to industry to implement the changes and the actual relationships between the government and insurance providers over the new requirements.
“The current levels of bureaucracy involved with dealing with immigration and labour authorities for expatriates is very inefficient,” he said. “Under the insurance plans, there is no defining of expatriates coming here, so we are having to follow the same procedure for every single foreign worker at the moment.
Adheeb told Minivan News that there has been “concern”, particularly in “high turnover employment areas” such as construction, about the exact requirements for each type of employee bought into the country.
“High turnover [of staff] is a big problem, particularly in the case of small construction projects – of about three months,” he said. “It may be preferable to bring workers out for six months instead of the three required and whenever one expatriate returns home, we have to go through the same insurance process for each employee.
Adheeb claimed that protecting expatriates and keeping skilled workers within the Maldives was very important for business development.
“We have to accept that the Maldives does not have enough local labour force to meet the country’s requirements,” he said. “We need to keep hold of skilled expatriates.”
When asked whether measures such as insurance may bring greater accountability for businesses requiring expatriate labour, Adheeb claimed that a number of construction groups already had their own insurance plans in place and added that he was in favour of insurance programmes over all.
“We have some concerns over this move; for starters, we would like to see the current procedures in dealing with bureaucracy made more efficient,” he said. “I would like to see faster service, some companies are fast tracked [through the application process] but this is not the same for all businesses.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Emmigration was unable to respond to calls from Minivan News at the time of going to press.
However, Immigration Controller Ibrahim told Haveeru this week that policies for determining whether suitable insurance policies and enforcing the new insurance rules were in place had not been decided upon, but he was confident employers were getting to grips with the measures.
“Because of the announcement, many people have begun insuring. It is something that must be done in the future. But right now only the new foreign workers are required to insure,” he told the paper.