STO signs agreement with Allied Insurance to develop 10 story shopping building

The State Trading Organization (STO) has today signed an agreement with Allied Insurance to develop a 10 story shopping building to be named ‘Umar Shopping Arcade.”

In a statement issued today the STO said that the project of building the building had been awarded to Amin Construction Pvt Ltd.

STO said that that building was designed by Arcade Pvt Ltd and the building would have to be completed in 12 months according to the project.


Authorities plan museum of finance

Financial authorities and service providers in the Maldives yesterday (May 13) reached an agreement to establish a museum of finance within the capital over the next two years, local media has reported.

The agreement, which was signed by the Tourism Ministry, Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), the Bank of Maldives (BML), the Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA) and private enterprise Allied Insurance, was reached during a Pension Office meeting held at the Kurumba Maldives resort.

Pension Office Chief Executive Officer Hussain Manik was quoted in Sun Online as claiming that obtaining funding for the project, expected to be established in a corner of the existing National Museum building in Male’, would begin soon.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media that the museum of finance would aim to provide visitors with an overview of the economic history of the Maldives.


Morning Star crew free to return to the Maldives after seven month wait

The crew of a Maldivian ship detained in the Indian port city of Kochi have been told they can finally return to the Maldives after a seven month wait.

The owner of the vessel, Managing Director of Mallinks Pvt Ltd Ibrahim Rasheed, had told crew members back in January that they must attempt to sell the ship or risk being stranded in India indefinitely.

MV Morning Star had been detained by Indian authorities in July 2012 after the vessel it had been towing from the Maldives sank in Indian waters.

Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said on Monday (March 18) that the ship had now been sold by the Indian courts and the crew will be able to return to the Maldives.

“The crew can return back any time now, but at present they are waiting to receive the money they are owed from the sale of MV Morning Star,” Nafiz said.

The Transport Authority Chairman told Minivan News earlier this year that the crew had gone without pay for over five months prior to January, and had been relying on a union in India to provide them with food.

“The same union is taking care of the crew at the moment whilst they wait for their pay,” Nafiz confirmed today.

Following the sinking of the vessel back in July, a ruling by the Indian Judiciary stated that the ship, along with the crew, would not be allowed to sail out of the port until the sunken vessel had been salvaged.

The ship’s crew had been advised by Rasheed in January to sell the vessel as he could not personally afford to pay for their return.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Rasheed confirmed that the Indian courts had reached a verdict to sell the vessel for US$165,000.

“The captain and crew of the ship can deduct their salaries from the sale of the ship. I spoke to the captain yesterday (March 17) and he told me he will pay the crew,” Rasheed said.

“The unions who helped support the crew will also be able to take their share of owed money,” he added.

Rasheed previously claimed that MV Morning Star would have been able to sail out of the port had the sunken vessel – MV Sea Angel – been salvaged.

According to Rasheed, both ships had been insured by Allied insurance and it had been the insurance company’s responsibility to salvage the sunken ship.

“We had fully insured both ships. The insurance company gave us a wage policy and in the policy they have written, ‘within 40 days we have to sail the vessels’, which we did.

“The insurance company needs to take responsibility, but they are saying no,” Rasheed said back in January.

MV Morning Star had been towing MV Sea Angel to a port in India for it to be scrapped, however just eight miles from Kochi, the 26 metre vessel began to sink.

Speaking today, Rasheed said that he had now filed a case against Allied Insurance, and is currently waiting for the next hearing to be scheduled in court.


The Maldives skill “gap” belying television reality

As a concept, it is a formula that has proved popular on television screens around the globe: take a high profile businesses or entrepreneur and allow people to compete in business challenges to earn a shot at the corporate big time as a fabled apprentice.

While reality shows like “The Apprentice” have proved hits with audiences in the UK and the US for the last decade, the Maldives this month concluded its first attempt at producing a business-focused reality TV – under the local guise of “The Interns”.

In a live final broadcast on Television Maldives (TVM) on July 15, a team of students from the Centre for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE) – coincidentally the show’s youngest participants – took the top prize of apprenticeships with some of the country’s largest private-sector employers.

But beyond the practical opportunities and job offers seemingly afforded through participation in reality TV contests, what real world opportunities does the Maldives’ private sector presently hold for the country’s next generation of graduates and school leavers?

Speaking to Minivan News this week, Deputy Minister for Education Anthu Ali said that for many school leavers in the country, regardless of their “academic merits”, a miss-match presently existed between the skills they were being given and those required by employers.

“When we consider the skills an employee needs in the country, say if they are applying for a secretarial role, the candidate may have the language knowledge of English and Dhivehi, but they are not taking short hand or these type of skills,” she said.

According to Anthu, the Education Ministry remained particularly concerned over the prospects available for pupils leaving school at 16, who did not going on to pursue further studies.

“A main challenge is for the 16 year-old pupils who are not going on past their O-levels,” she said. “For those students without the capacity to go into higher education or to do their A-levels, we need to be providing foundation studies.”

Anthu claimed that the government, over the last three years, had been working to try and develop a “platform” that served as a pathway for young people leaving school to help them into the job market.

“This is what we have tried during the last three years – even this year. What I mean by a pathway is not higher academic education, but vocational education,” she said.

According to Anthu, meetings have been taking place ass recently as this month with the tourism sector – as one of the country’s most significant employers – to increasingly tie the lucrative resort industry into this pathway.

She claimed that when looking at human resources nationally, there was a significant number of skilled jobs in the tourist sector being fulfilled by a mostly expatriate workforce.

Anthu said that local employees often “don’t have these skills”, adding that opportunities were required for training to open up these areas to local employees.

Social responsibility

Allied Insurance Company of the Maldives, one of the key sponsors behind “The Interns” show, said that beyond trying to boost its own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, the television programme was devised from the company’s own concerns about finding suitable employees.

Company Managing Director Abdul Wahid Thowfeeq said the company had opted for a reality show format that would grant students the chance to gain experience in national marketing as well as showcasing their respective skills.

“The basic idea for the show came from the fact that Allied Insurance needed marketing personnel and we generally found there to be a lack of good candidates,” he claimed. “This is a problem faced by many companies here in the Maldives.”

Thowfeeq added that the company opted to back sponsoring a reality show as it hoped to encourage “real students” to experience marketing in a real world environment.

“We conceptualised the show so that even people at home could see there were opportunities here. There are the prospective jobs here, but the youth do not always appreciate the opportunities that are available,” he said, “They are also not aware of the expectations of their employers and the differences between education and workplace challenges.”

According to Thowfeeq, the objective of “The Interns” , at least from the company’s perspective, was fulfilled.

“Once the programme began, many of the participants featured got job offers – not just from Allied, but many other large-scale private employers in the country,” he said.


Discussing the inspiration for the programme, Thowfeeq said that while there were some similarities to “The Apprentice” in terms of content and design, the show was very much geared to local tastes and marketing challenges, such as having participants promoting the popular roadside beverage vendors around the capital.

He added that these challenges focused specifically on playing up the importance of key workplace skills such as customer service.

Thowfeeq contended that such challenges were of particular importance in the Maldives to provide skills in areas not presently covered in the national education curriculum for many students.

“Generally there is a gap between education and the job sector. When students complete their education, they tend to have high expectations of the job sector, but they do not have the orientation or skills to meet these needs,” he said. “A common feature of the job market is that employees do not understand about working in organisations or as part of a team.”

Thowfeeq said that besides better orientating graduates and school leavers to ensure they are prepared for work, employment should also have a positive factor in the country’s development.

“There are lots of influences on peoples lives right now, both societally and politically, we need to give a sense of hope to young people, hope that there is a promising career out there for them,” he said.

Thowfeeq contended that some of the challenges regarding training young people were n addressing that the skills required from workers in the country had drastically shifted over the last ten years.

“The skills needed for jobs in the Maldives are very different right now, especially in marketing. People need to be more specialised in their roles, more professional,” he claimed. “More training in this regard is needed for employers, but they are not getting opportunities. However, the youth themselves have to be willing to undergo this training, as well as be patient. The basic purpose of this programme was to educate the youth about prospective jobs. Such a show helps ourselves and other companies.”


In terms of sourcing contestants for the show, the programme makers are said to have invited colleges from across the country to nominate certain students for inclusion . The eight teams chosen represented institutions including Maps College, Clique College, Cyryx College and the Maldives National University.

The eventual winners were Jayyida Badhry (19), Mariyam Hana (18), Ali Aslam (18), Mohamed Sameer (18) and Ahmed Nashiu Naeem (19), all representing the CHSE.

Speaking to Minivan News, Badhry, who before the show had been enrolled as part of a business studies course at CHSE, said ‘The Interns’ had provided a unique opportunity to develop practical skills currently not provided within the education syllabus.

“The show was a really good opportunity as we got to have many different experiences such as in understanding TV advertising,” she said.

Despite the group’s relatively young age compared to rival teams, Badhry claimed that the team’s success had been a result of team work and trusting each other to use their individual strengths.

“We are still quite young as a group and we didn’t have much experience, so we tried to make up for this through team work,” she added.

Of the five finalists, four are expected to commence a special internship with Allied Insurance after Ramazan, while one of the team will be taking a role at a prominent national marketing group.

According to Badhry, the experience on the show was proving to have an impact on her life ahead of taking up the new role – a job she was excited to begin.

“For anyone who is interested, I would recommend them looking for opportunities like this to gain practical experience of work life, It has been really great,” she claimed.

However, Badhry’s fellow team mates stressed concern that while there were opportunities out there for young people in the job market, there appeared to be some reluctance within the wider business community to entrust students with such responsibilities.

Nonetheless, back in the world of local reality television Allied MD Thowfeeq claimed that plans were already under way for a similar – though perhaps not identical – business-targeted show for next year.

“We are thinking about continuing the focus with a similar show next year, though we would like to select another professions relevant to the local community where the skills of young people need to be improved,” he claimed.


Universal health insurance ‘Aasandha’ service begins

The government’s universal health insurance scheme ‘Aasandha’, in a public-private partnership with Allied Insurance, began services at midnight on the new year for all Maldivian citizens with valid national identity cards.

Allied Insurance Managing Director Abdul Waheed Thaufeeq told state broadcaster MNBC One that those with expired ID cards have been given a six month period to renew their cards.

The scheme provides coverage of up to Rf100,000 annually for health services for all Maldivian nationals from hospitals and health centres operated by health corporations as well as private hospitals ADK in Male’ and IMDC in Addu City and the private operations Central Clinic and Central Medical Centre.

The scheme also covers stays in hospitals in neighbouring India and Sri Lanka on the condition that the treatment is not available in the Maldives. A claims administration centre has been established to evaluate requests for medical treatment overseas and issue referral letters.

Allied Insurance expects between 15,000 to 20,000 people to seek medical care under the scheme daily.


Aasandha scheme doesn’t cover private clinics

The treatment from private clinics will not be covered in the universal health insurance scheme “Aasandha” commencing on January 1, 2012.

State Minister Ibrahim Waheed said the “Aasandha” scheme will not include private clinics as the government wants to establish a mechanism that would allow patients to receive all kinds of treatment from a single place, according to Haveeru.

“We haven’t planned to include private clinics in Aasandha in 2012. The government doesn’t want everyone to set up clinics in their houses but rather wants the people to be able to receive treatment from a single place,” he was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

According to Aasandha website, the scheme will initially cover treatment from IGMH, ADK Hospital, IMDC Hospital in Addu and other hospitals and health centers currently operated by state owned health corporations.

Under the parliament-approved scheme, all Maldivian citizens will receive government-sponsored coverage up to Rf100,000 (US$6,500) per year, including further provisions to citizens who require further financial assistance.

Expatriate workers are also eligible for coverage providing their employers pay an upfront fee of Rf1,000 (US$65).

The Aasandha program was officially signed at Artificial Beach on December 22 with hundreds of Maldivian citizens in attendance.

Aasandha is a public-private partnership with Allied Insurance. Under the agreement, Allied will split the scheme’s shared 60-40 with the government. The actual insurance premium will be paid by the government, while claims, billing and public awareness will be handled by the private partner.

The service will cover emergency treatment, including overseas if the treatment is not available locally, inpatient and outpatient services, domestic emergency evacuation, medicine under prescription, and diagnostic and therapeutic services.


Universal health insurance a first for Maldives

Parliament yesterday passed a bill to bring universal health coverage to Maldivian citizens for the first time in the nation’s history. The bill was submitted by Nolhivaram MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed and unanimously approved by with 72 votes.

“Previously, the public paid for health care and the need applied for subsidies under the welfare system, or sought assistance from well-connected friends and family,” the President Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair explained. “This bill means a lot.”

According to the bill citizens receive government-sponsored coverage up to Rf100,000 (US$6,500) per year. Zuhair said the bill includes provisions for citizens who require further financial assistance.

Expatriate workers are also eligible for coverage providing their employers pay a upfront fee of Rf1,000 (US$65).

The Aasandha (well-being) program was officially signed at Artificial Beach today with hundreds of Maldivian citizens in attendance. The mood was positive.

“This will make it much easier for everybody in the Maldives,” said onlooker Mariyam Hafseena. “Before we had to pay for treatment and medication, which is expensive. Now it will be free. We never expected this would happen, it’s a surprise and we are very happy!”

A statement from the Mexican government recalled that universal health insurance was approved in Mexico eight years ago. “Mexico and the Republic of Maldives are developing countries, but with our universal health insurance programs our people’s health care can be better than that of developed countries such as the United States.”

Health Minister Aminath Jameel said the program brought “excellent and comprehensive health care for all from the public and private health sectors.”

Aasandha is a public-private partnership with Allied Insurance. Under the agreement, Allied will split the scheme’s shared 60-40 with the government. The actual insurance premium will be paid by the government, while claims, billing and public awareness will be handled by the private partner.

Provision of the service was said to have been made available through a collaboration with London-based international banking organisation Lloyd’s and the US-based Global Assurance Group.

The service will cover emergency treatment, including overseas if the treatment is not available locally, inpatient and outpatient services, domestic emergency evacuation, medicine under prescription, and diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Maldivians regularly travel to Sri Lanka, India and Singapore for medical treatment, including giving birth. Allied has also claimed that its premium package now allows for coverage everywhere in the world including the US and Canada.

Zuhair confirmed that the government has agreements with medical centers in these countries and can provide coverage for treatment at designated centers as well as travel stipends.

Coverage for treatment abroad is limited to high-income individuals, however Zuhair understood that the some government funds would be available to needy families.

The universal deal also comes with universal responsibility.

Zuhair said the public is expected “to appropriately follow a healthy lifestyle”, reiterating that the new system does not equate with a free-for-all dispensary. At the same time, the government “is challenged to raise the standards of medical service and continuously improve the care available in the Maldives.”

Plans for such improvements are in place. One recently proposed plan would shift the pharmaceutical industry to generic drugs, which the World Health Organisation considers more affordable and reliable than brand-name products.

The same plan would also streamline the prescription process, cutting back on paperwork and reducing patient stress.

The new health insurance plan will become active on January 1, 2012. Zuhair said citizens can expect minimal paperwork responsibilities.

“The new system should be very easy,” he said. “We are working to cut down paperwork and keep all the information in a central database. More will be handled by the government.”

Zuhair advised the public to attentively update their identification cards, as these will be necessary to receive treatment under the Aasandha plan.

Parliament yesterday also passed a pre-school bill, submitted by Meedhoo MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed and approved with 71 votes, and an archive bill submitted by Manadhoo MP Mohamed Thoriq, approved with 66 votes.


Three companies to compete for health insurance scheme

Allied Insurance, Sri Lanka Insurance and Amana Takaful are contending to provide universal health insurance for all Maldivians under Public Private Partnership.

The three companies submitted applications after the Finance Ministry tendered the plan to insure all Maldivians by January 2012 on October 20 this year.

The Finance Ministry’s October 20 announcement stated that the chosen company would have a 40 percent government share and a 60 percent private share. Service providers will fund customer claims and billings, while the government will cover insurance premiums.

The chosen service provider will be expected to set up an information center on each inhabited island across the Maldives.


Allied Insurance claims Maldives first with international health coverage plan

Allied Insurance has claimed to have launched the country’s first international health coverage policy that it says will allow individuals, families and businesses to access hospital services anywhere in the world.

Speaking at a launch ceremony in Male’ yesterday, the company, which has been providing insurance services since 2003, said that the new services will cover up to US$1 million in medical expenses for certain treatments, depending on the package chosen. Allied Insurance said that although it has worked to provide coverage suitable for all types of income, the international coverage have been devised for higher income earners in the country.

The company has claimed that the packages launched this week were accessible to both local people and foreigners in the country and could be added to existing local or regional coverage policies as a top up.

Provision of the services are said to have been made available through a collaboration with London-based international banking organisation Lloyd’s and the US-based Global Assurance Group.

While regional health policies for destinations like Singapore and Sri Lanka have been available for some time in the country, Allied claims that its premium packages will now allow for coverage everywhere in the world including the US and Canada.

Health insurance is becoming an increasingly important issue for state enterprises in the country, with the Maldivian government claiming it is forging ahead with efforts to offer universal coverage for Maldivians.