Government to issue fishing subsidy upon Majilis approval

Fishermen will start receiving the 100 million Rufiyaa (US$6.4 million) fuel subsidy allocated to them in the 2012 state budget as soon as Parliament approves revisions proposed by the Fisheries Ministry, the government has said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ahmed Shafeeu said subsidising fuel for fishing vessels would “incentivise” many fishermen who are currently unable to fish due to high fuel prices.

“A lot of fishermen now use larger fishing boats which require more fuel. So they opt not to make trips if they can’t get a good catch after burning so much fuel. The fuel subsidy will encourage more people to go fishing,” said the minister.

Shafeeu said fishing in the Maldives has declined by more than half from approximately 185,000 tonnes of fish caught in 2006 to about 70,000 in 2011.

“It is very important to assist the fishermen as it affects the livelihood of many people. Also, this needs to be done in order to sustain the industry and increase fish exports as there is a risk of losing some markets,” he explained.

This year’s subsidies, unlike previously, will be given based on the horsepower (hp) of the fishing vessel instead of the size of the vessel. Registrations are open until June 7 for fishing boats to apply for subsidies, according to the ministry.

The former administration withheld releasing the subsidy citing insufficient funds in the state budget for the fishing subsidy. Former Minister of Finance Ahmed Inaz told the Parliament in October 2011 that the state would have to reduce other subsidies to issue Rf100 million as oil subsidies for fishermen.

Governor of the country’s central bank Fazeel Najeeb last month said the Maldives was facing its worst economic crisis in recent history. Parliament’s Finance Committee revealed in May that expected revenue for 2012 had plunged 23 percent – a shortfall of US$168.6 million, leaving the country with a budget deficit of 27 percent.

Fisheries Minister Shafeeu said although the state is in debt, the 100 million must be released to fishermen since  Parliament had allocated the money for fishing subsidies in the state budget.

Former CEO of the Maldives Industry of Fisheries Corporation (MIFCO) Adil Saleem, who also held the position of Transport Minister in the former government, said encouraging a subsidised industry “completely reverses” of the former government’s policies, although he said it was important for fishermen “in the current situation.”

“Subsidising is wrong,” Saleem said, arguing that it did not address the core problems in the industry and is “not the solution for a sustainable industry.”

“Coup financiers are shaping the industry so that the fishermen act as their staff, going fishing everyday on subsidised fuel,” said Saleem.

However, he noted the fishermen are currently in “desperate need” of assistance due to the low prices they get for the fish, and said the subsidies should be released to them as a short-term measure.

“An election is what we really need,” Saleem said.


Transport Minister to chair ICT board

The Executive Committee for Information Communication Technology has been reconstituted.

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed Minister of Transport and Communication Mohamed Adil Saleem as board chairman.

The Board is charged with monitoring and evaluating the consolidation and centralisation of ICT resources of the government.


Maldives to host Red Bull air show

A Red Bull Air Show will be held near Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on 16 December, featuring air racing champion Péter Besenyei and famous Russian Base Jumper Valerie Rozov.

The show will be followed by an air race over Hulhumale’ near Club Faru on 17 December, according to the local organiser, Euro Marketing Pvt Ltd, the country’s sole distributor of popular energy drink Red Bull.

The air show aims to bring new entertainment to the Maldives community, said Euro Marketing Head of Operations Lawrence Miranba. “We want to bring an international event into the Maldives,” he said. “Péter is an eight-time world champion, and he will flying here.”

In addition to the main events, base jumper Rozov will be performing a jump into Male’, Miranba said.

“We are looking to create smaller events as well,” said Miranba. “For instance, there’s a remote controlled plane group in Hulhumale’. We haven’t finalised anything yet, but we’d like to do something with them.”

Miranba said Euro Marketing has informed the Maldives government and airport management company GMR, and is currently sorting out permissions. Event partners include Island Aviation and MNBC media.

Besenyei, a renowned Hungarian aerobatics pilot and world champion air racer, was asked to develop the concept of an air racing competition by Red Bull in 2001. He is accredited with formulating the rules and regulations of the sport.

Valerie Rozov is a Red Bull Freestyle Base Jumping world champion, and Europe Free Style champion. He holds a world record and a gold medal from X Games.

The Red Bull Air Race was first held in Zeltweg, Austria in 2003. International pilots compete against the clock on obstacle courses of pylons, or “air gates.”

Races are typically held over water near cities, air fields or near natural wonders. They are broadcast live and taped around the world. The culminating production of the World Championship claims 300 million viewers in over 130 countries.

In 2009 and 2010 the show received back-to-back Sports Emmy Awards, as well as the International Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) award for ‘Most Innovative Use of Technology in Content Creation’.

IBC called the race program one of the most technically challenging in the world.

“The race programme travels the world, and at each venue the engineering team is faced with the challenge of bringing pictures and sound from across a huge area, and from the planes themselves.”

The air race in the Maldives is not connected to the Red Bull World Championship.

State Transport Minister Adil Saleem confirmed that the air show had received clearance for the event, but said he had made a request that all necessary precautions be observed.

“The area of Hulhumale’ where the race will be held has many safari boats. It’s as good as land. I’m sure this will be a very successful event, but we need to take precautions.”

Saleem said there is potential for more vehicle-based events in the Maldives. “I think it would be good to have a car race in Addu, to involve locals and make use of the longer roads, for instance,” he said.


Marble girls and bottle rumours ‘lies’, says state minister

State Minister for Economic Development Mohamed Adil Saleem has claimed that stories circulating about him trying to drunkenly rape two girls in a Marble apartment were both untrue and damaging to the girls concerned.

Newspaper Haveeru published a story claiming a leaked police report contained details about someone taking drugs inside Marble, and that on arrival police discovered Adil drunk with two girls, aged 21 and 20.

Police inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed the police were called to Marble after they received a report that a girl was crying for help somewhere around Marble on Wednesday night, and discovered three empty bottles of alcohol in a dustbin on the sixth floor. Haveeru claimed that the leaked document said the bottles were found on the third floor, the same floor as Adil’s apartment.

Adil said he assisted police on the request of his brother, after they were called to Marble to investigate an incident.

”The police came and said they wanted to check Marble, and I opened all the apartments on each floor,” he said.

Adil said that the police asked to check his own apartment as well.

”I knew according to the law the police could not check my apartment without a court warrant, but since I have nothing to hide, I showed them my apartment,” he said.

He said both of the girls in his apartment were students, one of whom had been living with him for 11 years and the other the daughter of his father’s close friend.

”They both are like my family members,” Adil said.

“The police wanted to check their rooms. Rumours that they were wearing bikinis is a lie; one of them was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, the other was wearing her pyjamas,” he said.

Police checked the apartment thoroughly and left, he said, but returned four times.

“The third time police said they received information that somebody was using drugs in my apartment,” Adil said.

”I allowed them to check again, it was around 4:00am this time. They checked inside the washing machine, under the mattress, bedsheets, inside the sofa and inside shoes,” he said.

Adil claimed the police arrived again around 6:00am, but this time he denied them entry and asked them to wait outside while he called the police station.

“The police said that instead of a big crowd of police, they would be sending someone senior,” he said. That person came and looked around his apartment and left, Adil said.

He claims he did not know anything about the three empty bottles of alcohol until he was told about them by the building’s manager.

The stories about him drunk with two girls were untrue, he stressed.

”It is really sad that people spread these types of untrue rumors – what would the parents of the two girls think? How would they feel about this?” he asked.

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said he supported Adil and did not believe the rumours were true, and were a “political attack linked to Thursday night’s protest [outside Muleeage].”

DRP spokesman Ibrahim Shareef said as the matter was a police case the party would not comment.