Government issues loans to 14 recipients under fisheries loan scheme

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

President Abdulla Yameen presented award letters at the President’s Office this morning.

In his remarks at the ceremony, President Yameen said the loan scheme was “a stimulus” to the economy, which would be beneficial to one of the most important industries in the country.

“For the population in islands, the employment that brings the biggest income is still, without a doubt, the fisheries sector,” he said.

The “impetus or stimulus” for the fisheries industry was part of the government’s efforts to “improve the fundamentals of the economy,” he added.

According to the fisheries ministry, 60 percent of the funds were earmarked for youth. The loans were issued at a six percent interest rate, the ministry said, and was intended to provide financial support for boat building as well as purchasing engines and other equipment.

Fisheries industry

The annual fish catch in the Maldives declined from approximately 185,000 tonnes of fish caught in 2006 to about 70,000 tonnes in 2011.

In its latest monthly economic review, the Maldives Monetary Authority revealed that in January 2015 “the volume of fish exports declined by 18 percent in annual terms due to the decline in export of both frozen skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna exports.”

“Similarly, earnings on fish exports also declined by 14 percent during the review month, which can be attributed to the fall in frozen tuna exports,” the review stated.

Yameen meanwhile said the government’s objective was encouraging youth to take up fishing by providing loans to cover the high initial capital investment.

He noted that the loan scheme was part of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ manifesto pledges.

The present loan scheme was “symbolic” as the figure was a fraction of the state budget, Yameen observed, but higher amounts could be allocated in the future based on the interest from the public.

As only three of the 14 recipients awarded the loans today were young fishermen, Yameen urged more youth – the “target group” – to apply.

The amount allocated for the loan scheme could be doubled if 80 percent of the 14 recipients had been youth, he said, adding that the mindset of Maldivian youth needed to change.

The willingness of youth to become gainfully employed or start up enterprises was essential for the success of the government’s youth programmes, he said.

Fishermen in the Maldives earn a high income, Yameen continued, suggesting that the low number of fishermen who have joined the government’s insurance scheme showed that fishing was lucrative.

The ‘beyas nubeyas’ insurance scheme was part of a PPM pledge to provide MVR10,000 (US$649) a month to fishermen during lean periods.

For the scheme to succeed, Yameen said fishermen needed to register for the government to manage the fund.

“But we believe there isn’t that much of an interest in this because an individual believes his income is higher than MVR10,000,” he said.

“If not, the interest would be there. If you are to join an insurance scheme, you have to pay some kind of premium from the day you join.”

The lack of interest suggested that fishermen did not want to pay the premium as they earned enough during peak periods, Yameen said.


Fisheries minister reveals details of fishermen’s allowance

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has compiled procedures under which fishermen can apply for the government’s scheme for an allowance of MVR10,000 (USD 649) for fishermen during lean months.

Provision of MVR10,000 to fishermen ‘regardless of catch’ was a campaign pledge of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) during the 2013 presidential elections.

Speaking at a press conference held on Sunday, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee stated that the scheme will commence from Tuesday, April 1.

“The objective of this scheme is to further aid the fisheries industry to become a main pillar in strengthening the country’s economy. We are trying to give support and assurance to fishermen that they can maintain their careers in fishing,” Shainee stated.

“More than a form of social protection, this scheme is more a means to further develop the fisheries industry economically. Through this scheme, we are assuring an income for the fishermen”.

The minister stated that only tuna and yellowfin tuna fishermen are eligible to participate in the scheme during its initial stages.

“However, we are at the moment unable to include other forms as we do not have the statistics on how much they generally earn. Nevertheless, other fishermen will also be able to participate in the scheme,” Shainee added.

Under the newly comprised procedures, the ministry categorised tuna and yellow fin tuna fishing vessels into three categories: vessels smaller than 45 feet in length, vessels between 45 and 65 feet in length, and vessels larger than 65 feet in length.

Under the scheme, fishermen working on vessels smaller than 45 feet in length are to get an allowance of MVR3500 (US$227) in return for a monthly premium of MVR350 (US$23) paid to the state.

Fishermen working on vessels between 45 and 65 feet in size are eligible to receive an allowance of MVR5000 (US$324), while needing to pay a monthly premium of MVR400 (US$26).

Those working on larger vessels – over 65 feet in length – will be given the full allowance of MVR10,000 (US$649), and are required to pay a premium of MVR500 (US$32).

The premium fees are to be paid up front for a year in order to participate in the scheme. The minister stated that the government is working to arrange the receipt of payments through island councils.

“As over 90 percent of Maldivian fishermen work in vessels of over 65 feet in size, we have targeted the full amount of MVR 10,000 for them,” Shainee told press today.

“However, this government has not neglected any fisherman. By this I mean that, although our pledge says MVR10,000 for fishermen on all lean months, we have made the scheme inclusive of even the remaining 10 percent of fishermen,” Shainee explained.

Minister Shainee expressed confidence that the scheme would encourage fishermen to engage in fishing even during the lean months.

It was further revealed that discussions are currently being held to hand over the management of the scheme to the National Social Protection Agency.

It was noted that 722 fishing vessels are currently in the state registry, while 11,894 fishermen are registered as working on these vessels – only 5 percent of them are listed as working on vessels less than 45 feet in length.

According to the ministry, over 80 percent of the registered fishermen work on vessels larger than 65 feet in length. In a previous interview with Minivan News, Dr Shainee had noted that encouraging fishermen to use for economically sized vessels would improve the industry’s profitability.

On Saturday, President Abdulla Yameen revealed at a political rally that application forms for the scheme will be available from April 1 onwards. He further stated that the allowance will be released to fishermen before the end of May.

Yameen further revealed that discussions are being held between the State Trading Organisation (STO) and the Indian government to arrange the supply of petroleum products at a lower price.