Government awards fisheries loans to 32 women

The government awarded loans worth MVR1.6 million (US$103,761) yesterday to 32 women under a programme to encourage female youth entrepreneurs in the fisheries sector.

Deputy minister of fisheries and agriculture Ahmed Hafiz told Minivan News today that the loan scheme offered loans of either MVR50,000 (US$3,242) or MVR100,000 (US$6,485) to develop fish products.

“As stated in the government’s manifesto, the loans were aimed for youth to encourage youth participation in the fisheries industry,” he said.

A World Bank report released in February revealed that the unemployment rate for women aged 15 to 24 was three times higher than for men in the same age group.

At 22 percent, the Maldives also has the highest rate of youth unemployment in South Asia.

Hafiz explained that loans worth MVR5.8 million (US$376,134) will be issued under the programme with 60 percent allocated for female youth entrepreneurs.

However, 60 percent of the 176 applicants were not young women, he noted, adding that the ministry will award the rest of the loans after the evaluation process.

Hafiz said the response from the public was “good, it was better than we expected.”

The loan programme is funded from the government budget.

Hafiz noted that that the MVR50,000 loans were awarded without collateral. The loans have to be repaid to the Bank of Maldives in five years at an interest rate of six percent.

In March, the government issued MVR8.6 million (US$557,717) worth of loans to 14 boat owners and fishermen under a fisheries loan scheme.

Although 60 percent of the funds were earmarked for youth, President Abdulla Yameen noted at the time that only three of the 14 recipients were young fishermen, and urged more youth – the “target group” – to apply.

President Yameen has pledged to create 94,000 jobs for Maldivian youth. Last year, the government introduced a youth unemployment register, cleared the criminal records for many youth offenders, and launched the ‘GetSet’ entrepreneurship programme.

The anti-corruption watchdog in April ordered the youth ministry to re-evaluate applications submitted for the ‘Get Set’ loan scheme, noting two youth ministry staff were among the proposed recipients.