Addu City shops hike prices of frozen goods after subsidy cut

Shops in Addu City have hiked the price of frozen goods and reduced business hours due to losses caused by the government’s decision to cease electricity subsidies to businesses in the atolls.

The majority of businesses in the southernmost atoll voted to increase the price of frozen goods by 15 percent and other items by five percent at a meeting organised by the city council last night.

“There were around 145 businesses in the meeting last night. More than 90 percent agreed to increase the prices,” said Mohamed Luthfy, assistant director at the council.

The government’s decision to discontinue electricity subsidies to businesses sparked protests across the country in April with shops, cafés and restaurants shutting down in protest. Electricity bills doubled, and in some case tripled, when the subsidy was cut for more than 5,700 businesses.

The Addu City business owners also decided to shorten business hours from 6:00am to 6:00pm and to keep shops closed at night.

However, neither decision will be implemented immediately as businesses from Hulhumeedhoo could not attend the meeting.

“So nothing will be implemented until a vote is taken amongst businesses of Hulhumeedhoo,” Luthfy said.

Earlier this month, grocery shops in Haa Alif Ihavandhoo increased prices of goods due to higher electricity prices. Owners also decided to keep shops closed from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

Electricity charges in Addu and Fuvahmulaku are 37 percent higher than the capital and up to 72 percent higher in Haa Alif, Haa Dhaalu and Shaviyani Atoll.

The state-owned electricity provider to the atolls, Fenaka Corporation, has said its hands are tied as it is only implementing the government’s policy. Presenting the 2015 budget, the finance minister announced plans to target subsidies to the poor in an attempt to reduce expenditure.

Renewable energy

At last night’s meeting, Addu City businesses also discussed the possibility of using solar panels to generate electricity.

“We’ve negotiated with Fenaka Corporation to come to a solution but with no results. We prefer solar panels, so do the businesses,” Luthfy said.

Fenaka’s expenses on the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll was halved after the implementation of a 2008 World Bank renewable energy pilot project.

Thinadhoo’s hospital, two public schools, powerhouse and mosque are powered by solar panels.

However, the Thinadhoo island council has said that the government’s utility company was benefiting more from the project than the island’s residents.

“Fenaka Corporations expenses have been reduced in half but still the price of electricity is has not gone down. In fact it has gone much higher with the subsidy cuts,” said island councillor Saudh Ali.

Businesses in the northern hub of Kulhudhufushi are meanwhile expected to take similar measures following the subsidy cuts.

“We are waiting for the electricity bills for the public to be issued. This is government tyranny and we will not wait in vain,” said Adam Shareef, a member of a steering committee formed by businesses in the island to negotiate with the government.

In early May, Fenaka cut off electricity to several businesses, including a private hospital in Addu City, when owners refused to pay bills.

Four businesses lodged a complaint with a magistrate court over power cuts. The court initially issued a stay order, but a new judge appointed to oversee the case overturned the ruling and said Fenaka was authorised to cut electricity if businesses fail to pay bills.

Last week, Fenaka blamed arsonists for a fire at its offices in Addu City, which two weeks after a group of people threw rocks and shattered windows at the home of Fenaka’s regional director Abdulla Zuhair.

A retail shop owner in Addu City told Minivan News that the attacks might have been a result of “desperation” due to the unresolved dispute over electricity prices between the power company and local businesses.


Power bill deadline extended amid protests

Fenaka Corporation, the main electricity provider in the atolls, has extended the deadline for businesses to pay their March electricity bills after widespread protests over a subsidy cut.

Businesses and shops in several islands shut down in protest this week after electricity bills for March doubled and in some cases tripled following the removal of government subsidies.

Some have said they will not pay their bills until a new agreement is reached with the state-owned utility company.

Fenaka said in an announcement today that the new deadline is April 30, and businesses who pay by then will not face fines for late payment or disconnection.

However, the announcement warned that businesses will face fines or disconnection of services after May 1.

Businesses in Haa Dhaal Kulhdhuffushi, Gaafu Dhaal Thinadhoo, and Addu City have set up committees to negotiate with the government.

Businesses in Fuvahmulah and Vaikaradhoo are planning to submit a petition to the president demanding a fair price for electricity.

Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal and Thulhaadhoo in Baa atoll meanwhile asked state electricity company Fenaka to pay the island councils for plots of land rented to the company.

Electricity prices are up to 72 percent higher in northern Haa Alif , Haa Dhaal, and Shaviyani Atolls and up to 37 percent higher in Addu City and Fuvahmulah than in Malé City, according to figures from Fenaka.


Fenaka Corporation commissioned to build sewerage system for Kudahuvadhoo housing units

Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted Fenaka Corporation to establish a sewerage system in the housing units under construction in the island of Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll.

The 53 units are dedicated to providing housing for residents of Kudahuvadhoo who were relocated from the small island of Vaanee in the same atoll.

The agreement for the project was signed by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz and Fenaka Corporation Managing Director Mohamed Nimal at a meeting on Wednesday (July 16).

Under the agreement, Fenaka has to complete setting up the sewerage system within a period of 120 days. The project is financed by the state budget and is estimated to cost MVR4.01 million (US$26,0052).

Appearing for minister’s question time at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament, Muiz informed MPs that the housing units would be awarded to the former residents of Vaanee after formalities are completed by the Kudahuvadhoo island council and Dhaalu atoll council.


Three companies contracted to supply generators for 77 islands

The state utilities company Fenaka Corporation has on Monday contracted three companies to procure generators for 77 islands under the government initiative to ensure that electricity services are available in islands around the clock.

The bid was won by Chinese company Fujiya Yanan, Sri Lankan company Kelani Cables, and local company Power Engineering.

Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim – who the government has tasked with oversight of the Fenaka Corporation – told local media that the agreement is to supply the generators by the end of July, and is estimated to be completed within a period of 80 days.

He further stated that installation of generators will proceed as the units are received.

“While this project is going on, we are also conducting other additional work. Under this, we are replacing small generators in islands with bigger ones. Additionally, electrification efforts, or work to strengthen networks, is also being conducted under the oversight of Fenaka,” Nazim is quoted as saying in local media.

While Nazim did not reveal which islands have been selected to receive the generators, he stated that the islands will be chosen after a survey is done to assess needs.

“We are acquiring generators of three different sizes. So we will discuss with suppliers, and announce islands as we receive generators,” he stated.

The generators will include 40 units of 160 to 200 kilowatt power, 24 units of 250 to 200 kilowatt power, and 13 units of 500 to 1000 kilowatt power.

The Chinese company is contracted to procure the generators for Us$5.9 million, while the Sri Lankan company will supply cables at US$2.2 million, and the Maldivian company will supply distribution boxes at US$1.1 million.


Fenaka Corporation to manage Hinnavaru waste management system

Komandoo Island Resort has officially handed over the management of the waste management system it installed in the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll to the Fenaka Corporation.

The system – worth MVR1.4 million – was handed over to the Fenaka Corporation with the signing of an agreement on Saturday. The agreement was signed by Fenaka Corporation’s Utilities Services Division Director Hussain Hameez and Komandoo Island Resort’s Roaming General Manager Ali Adam.

“This project costs about USD90,000. Even previously, when waste in this island of Hinnavaru increased to the point where it became difficult to manage and posed difficulties, this resort used to extend assistance. In this way, the resort has extended immense help over the past two or three years,” Hameez told local media.

Hameez stated that Fenaka Corporation has now begun preparations to manage the system on a long term basis and that it is currently looking to hire new employees for the work.


Fenaka Corporation takes over four island powerhouses

The government’s utilities company, Fenaka Corporation, signed agreements yesterday to take over four island powerhouses.

At a ceremony yesterday, agreements were signed with the powerhouses of Haa Alif Vashafaru, Meemu Mulaku, Meemu Naalaafushi and Meemu Dhiggaru.

Speaking to press following the ceremony, Fenaka Managing Director Mohamed Nimal said the corporation expected to receive funds in next year’s budget for electricity and water works in 136 islands.

Nimal revealed that the corporation inherited a debt of MVR 472 million (US$30 million). The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member said the corporation has decided to forward a number of corruption cases from the defunct utility companies to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Thursday.

A number of projects had been carried out with no documentation or records, Nimal said, including renting an office for the former Northern Utility Company without a bidding process.

Nimal also claimed that 75 percent of Fenaka Corporation’s 1,400 employees were members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). He added that some MDP members had been sacked due to harassment of staff from other political parties and actions detrimental to the corporation.

In June, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik established Fenaka by presidential decree to take over the seven utility companies, created during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed under the ousted MDP government’s policy of dividing the nation into seven provinces for decentralised administration.