Vice President of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) Ismail Asif has severely criticised Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, questioning his “sincerity” and “competence”.
Asif told the press on Thursday (August 7) that Saeed lacked “vision,” discriminated among local businesses, and had not been able to attract foreign investment.
The relationship between the ministry and the chamber of commerce has deteriorated during Saeed’s tenure, Asif reportedly claimed.
Saeed has not provided necessary information regarding a loan scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Asif added.
He went on to accuse the minister of “corruption” in appointing businessmen of his choosing to business-related committees formed by the ministry.
Declaring the chamber of commerce’s backing for the government’s flagship special economic zone (SEZ) bill, Asif, however, questioned Saeed’s ability to implement the legislation when it is signed into law.
He added that Saeed had not consulted local businessmen before the bill was drafted and submitted to parliament.
However, Asif praised the government for proposing the SEZ bill early in its five-year term and expressed support for its provisions, arguing that it would expand the domestic economy and spur growth.
If income generated from the SEZs was evenly distributed among the populace, Asif said it would benefit the public and raise standards of living.
He also dismissed criticism that SEZs could be used for money laundering and criminal enterprises, suggesting that it was not directly linked to the establishment of such zones and advised control measures.
Parliament’s economic affairs committee is currently reviewing the SEZ legislation and has set itself a deadline of October 10 to complete the assessment and possibly make revisions.
However, MP Abdulla Khaleel – chair of the committee – told newspaper Haveeru today that he expects the review process to be completed this month, after which the bill would be sent to the People’s Majlis floor for a vote.
Parliament breaks for a one-month recess at the end of August.
As the bill was a high priority for the government, the Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Faafu Nilandhoo said the committee has decided to hold two meetings for every day when there is a parliament sitting.
He stressed that stakeholders would be consulted and technical expertise would be sought.