Auditor general raises concerns over monitoring of state assets

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim has hit out at the monitoring procedures of state assets, alleging that sums of leftover funding dating back as much as seventeen years had not been deposited into the government’s revenue account.

Along with Allegations that various offices may also have been using funds illegally, the auditor general said that monitoring of the transfer of assets between various government departments had been an ongoing problem for a “long time”, Haveeru has reported today.  He claimed this uncertainty had resulted in the exact assets of certain government offices not being known upon being transferred or merged with other bodies.

The comments were made to the media following a meeting of Parliament’s Finance Committee concerning issues with a Health Ministry audit report from 2010. The issues were said to relate to the transferring of the administration of hospitals and health centres to specially devised regional corporations under the previous government.

The new government announced back in April that 30 state companies, including these regional health corporations, would be abolished to try and streamline various public services.

Healthcare has been one area in particular singled out by the Waheed administration as needing major policy changes in recent months.

Alongside monitoring physical assets, Niyaz alleged that significant sums of revenue have been incorrectly left within state office accounts rather than a specially sanctioned government revenue account.


Analysis: Economy at stake as political turmoil grips Maldives

The tourism industry stands to lose as much as US$100 million in the next six months, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has warned, due to widespread media coverage of the country’s political unrest.

“Potential visitors are questioning the safety and security in the island nation as the political turmoil in Maldives makes headlines in a large number of international media,” claimed MATI in a recent statement, adding that resorts had registered 500 cancellations in the first week following the change of government.

“Various allegations such as the installation of an Islamic regime, possible enactment of full Sharia law and Anti Semitic remarks made by politicians at public gatherings have also caught the attention of the international press,” MATI stated.

With no election date in sight, the economic consequences of the ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives are likely to be far reaching. The ongoing climate of uncertainty – anathema to business, foreign investment and especially tourism – is likely to persist while the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) continues to challenge the legitimacy of the new government, which in turn has resisted setting a date for early elections despite pressure from a growing number of international bodies.

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The Maldives’ resort industry is so insulated from the rest of the country that few arriving tourists are likely to be even aware of the unfolding political crisis – let alone be impacted by it. Arriving guests are collected at the airport and whisked off by resort representatives the moment they step through the departure gate – Male’ is nothing more than an interesting piece of scenery as the seaplane lifts off.

“That message is not going out,” says newly appointed Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb. “People don’t know that the resorts are separate [from the rest of the Maldives], and international headlines have made people panic.”

The need for an economy is one of the only subjects the major parties agree on – and the US$3 billion tourism industry is by far the biggest earner, and indirectly responsible for over 70 percent of the economy.

“Tourism is so much connected to the economy. We cannot afford to involve politics in the industry,” Adheeb says.

MATI’s Secretary General, Sim Mohamed Ibrahim, agrees: “The travelling public don’t always know that it is one resort, one island, and that the resorts are cushioned from the unrest. This has mostly taken place in in Male’ and Addu. The resorts are far removed from the unrest.”

That policy of segregation is now being tested after weeks of turbulent headlines in international media, focusing not only on the political crisis and police crackdowns, but other issues such as the contrast between the Western hedonism of the resorts and rising religious fundamentalism in other parts of the country.

“The main problem is that the media is now portraying the Maldives as a hardcore Islamic country, which is putting people off,” reported Tourism Review.

MATI’s concerns appeared echoed in the new government’s aggressive response to negative media coverage on Friday, during a strident speech by the formerly demure President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“We are not afraid to die as martyrs. We are not afraid of the enemies we face,” Dr Waheed told the crowd of over five thousand, while sharing the stage with several of the country’s wealthiest resort tycoons.

“We must be sad that the enemies and traitors of the Maldives are spreading lies in various places of the world to tarnish the country’s image. They are the real conspirators. Those who defame the Maldives to destroy its industries and tourism are enemies of this country,” he said.

The true impact of recent events on tourism is hard to gauge, amid the industry’s efforts to play down negative media coverage and preserve the country’s reputation as a safe, peaceful and relaxing travel destination for well-heeled visitors.

“There have been some reported cancellations, although no data is available yet,” a senior tourism official told Minivan News. “A lot of resorts are very concerned and are asking what’s around the corner. We’ve no answer to that yet.”

Adheeb said the Tourism Ministry was presently “crunching the numbers”.

Reports at the height of the crisis in early February suggested that tourists hardly put down their cocktails: “We are having a great time. We heard about the coup, but it doesn’t matter to us,” a professor of American literature told Reuters, between sips – “And even if there is trouble, the airport is on another island, so no trouble.”

The situation was not considered so severe that people were cancelling their holidays, the tourism official told Minivan News, but a lot of resort owners were expressing concern about forward bookings, he said.

Furthermore, while the guests might be unconcerned about the Maldivian political situation, many of the Maldivian staff serving them certainly were.

“The beauty of the Maldivian tourism product is that resorts are safe even if there are local problems,” the official told Minivan News. “But 50,000 Maldivians work in the industry, and they are largely from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Morale of the staff may be affected – staff are talking and unsettled, and they will pass that onto guests. Tourism is a contact sport and many visitors will build a rapport with their waiter or butler, and it will spill out.”

One resort manager expressed concern that the combination of staff morale and isolation was a “powder keg” for strike action.

Lack of information and fears for the safety of family members appears to be another factor – visiting a resort on Baa Atoll recently, Minivan News was approached by staff members concerned for family members in Addu Atoll, following the police crackdown after the destruction of their buildings on February 8.

‘Travel Advisory’

A travel advisory issued by Salisbury-based NGO Friends of Maldives (FOM), urging visitors to avoid Bandos and all Villa properties (Sun, Paradise, Royal and Holiday Islands), has received a mixed reaction.

“These are places linked to individuals or groups who we suspect to be involved in the subversion of democracy and in human rights abuses in the Maldives,” FOM said in its accompanying statement, but emphasised that it was not a blanket boycott of the Maldives.

“We appreciate the Maldives economy relies hugely on the tourism economy, and so we aren’t asking for tourists to avoid the Maldives – rather we are asking them to make an informed and ethical decision to choose out of around a hundred resorts that aren’t associated with the the coup d’état and the human rights abuses that occurred following the event,” said FOM’s founder, David Hardingham.

MATI meanwhile condemned “in strongest possible terms” the “call for a boycott of some Maldivian tourist resorts”.

“MATI believes that any action detrimental to the tourism industry of the Maldives will have serious implications for the country’s economy. We believe that those who refer to themselves as friends of the Maldivian people must realise that such damaging measures taken against he tourism industry result in harming public welfare and those most vulnerable in society.”

The travel advisory was “very hurtful”, added Adheeb.

“Something like this can really affect the whole industry and bring a lot of sorrow,” the tourism minister said. “A lot of Maldivians work in these resorts. We say to FOM that it’s too early to judge – there are a lot of negative things happening in our country, so let things unfold first. We request that they not play with our industry.”

The senior tourism official also expressed concern about the potential impact of the advisory on resort staff – many of whom were MDP. He also warned against rhetoric suggesting that resort owners were responsible “for the coup” – a theme begun by Nasheed after his ousting, and picked up by several international publications.

“This cannot blamed on resort owners,” he said. “That a few businessmen who own resorts toppled the government does not means that all resorts are ‘pro-coup’ – many actually supported Nasheed, and he still has a lot of support there.”

The official also questioned whether an ‘appeal-to-conscience’ would really affect tourists’ decision to come to the Maldives, regardless of whether it was a democracy or dictatorship.

“Most people don’t really make travel decisions based on ethical or moral concerns. It’s a small percentage of the market,” he said.

Sim agreed – “People do not travel to the Maldives based on questions of morality” – but said the impact remained to be seen.

“People do not travel to destinations that are in any way not peaceful, or are experiencing civil unrest,” he said.

The Maldives tourism industry began in the 70s and grew in a peaceful environment under the autocratic stability of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Now, however, unhappy supporters of Nasheed have been bolstered by the growing ranks of the democratically disenfranchised, who seem in no hurry to relax their demands for early elections.

The uncertainty in such a climate of political statement can hardly be good for business – and the signs are beginning to show.

Investor confidence

On February 17, just over a week after the change of government, India’s Economic Times reported that the State Bank of India (SBI) had issued a moratorium on fresh loans in the Maldives until June.

SBI held a quarter of all deposits in the Maldives and had issued 42 percent of all loans, according to the Times.

“In 2009, SBI bailed out Maldives from a severe foreign exchange crisis when it subscribed to US$100million dollar-denominated treasury bonds issued by the Maldivian Monetary Authority (MMA),” the paper added, citing an Indian government official.

Given SBI’s contribution to the tourism industry in the Maldives, “that is something we are very concerned about,” Adheeb acknowledged.

“I would like to give confidence to investors that we will make sure we are stable and consultative, and will not bring politics into tourism,” he added.

Sim pointed out that if SBI had taken such a stance, “it is likely that other people will also view it this way. Stability in the country is most important to investors,” he said.

“SBI has also previously said they have a problem with the judiciary, and that this has contributed to a [lack of] investor confidence.”

Concerns about the impartiality of the justice system and its resistance to reform eventually led Nasheed’s government to detain Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, and call for the UN and Commonwealth to help resolve the crisis. Two weeks later, opposition supporters and rogue elements of the police and military toppled Nasheed’s government, prompting his resignation.

“This is a problem for potential investors. If you invest and something goes wrong, all roads lead to a Maldivian court – and who’d want that?” the tourism official asked Minivan News.

In the immediate aftermath of what Nasheed’s supporters contend was a coup d’état, “a lot of contracts that are half completed have been stopped, and those by the previous government politicised and halted. We’ve become a nightmare client by not following through on agreements,” the official told Minivan News.

“Anyone who has not been paid for goods delivered is in a bad situation right now – it’s not good for our reputation,” he said.

Wider economic impact

The tourism industry is not only culturally insulated from the rest of the Maldives, but also economically.

Most resorts charge in dollars – a practice that technically contravenes monetary authority regulations but is widely overlooked – and bank overseas in more financially and politically-stable economies, such as Singapore.

Beyond import duties, credit card fees and assorted taxes, very little foreign currency trickles into the country, given the size of the tourism industry. Which, with the introduction of the 3.5 percent tourism GST last year, was found to be two to three times larger than previous estimates.

At the same time, with little to no demand for the local currency at even a transactional level, the rest of country suffers from an enduring dollar shortage.

Furthermore, 50 percent of tourism industry employees are expatriate and remit their income, while local staff are typically paid in Maldivian rufiya – tips and service charge aside.

The result is a troubled economy that remains dependent on foreign aid, despite having a per-capita income high enough to in 2011 see the Maldives become one of only three countries to ever graduate from the UN’s definition of a Least Developed Country (LDC), to ‘Middle Income’.

That progression limits the country’s access to concessional credit, removes certain trade concessions, and some donor aid – as well creating a perception in the donor community that the Maldives is ‘less deserving’ than countries still on the LDC list.

Swedish Ambassador accredited to the Maldives, Lars-Olof Lindgren, said as much in May 2011. Sweden, he said, “has very strict of GDP per-capita criteria and has decided to focus its aid elsewhere on least developed countries, particularly in Africa.”

“At the same time, certainly I think we have to look at other aspects of the Maldives – the fact the country taking first steps as a democratic country, steps towards getting the party system to work – that is one reason why the international community should support this – support not only government, but the whole society,” he told Minivan News last year.

Climate aid to a great extent filled the void, with countries ranging from Denmark to the US lining up to commit to infrastructure projects – harbours, water treatment plants, waste management centres – under the banner of climate adaption and mitigation.

Much of that was prompted by Nasheed’s high profile on the world stage as an environmental campaigner, with wealthy countries happy to share the limelight and demonstrate eco-credentials to their own, increasingly climate-conscious public.

That environmental focus also “absolutely changed how the destination was marketed”, the tourism official told Minivan News.

“Nasheed was synonymous with that, and the photo of the underwater cabinet meeting is one of the most famous in the Maldives. It was a brilliant gimmick that summed up the challenges,” he said.

Now, several foreign diplomats from current donors have privately expressed concern that with the political instability, Commonwealth jitters and contentious legitimacy of the new government, such funding will be a harder sell to the public and aid agencies in their home countries: “We will fulfill our existing commitments,” one promised.

The Chinese bellwether

The weathervane on the Maldivian tourism economy is likely to be the Chinese market. With belts tightening in the Maldives’ traditional lucrative markets in Europe – particularly Italy and the UK – surging interest in the Maldives tourism product from China has cushioned the industry in the wake of the 2008 financial economic crisis.

In the first seven months of 2011, Chinese visitors accounted for 19.9 percent of the total arrivals. By the end of the year the figure had increased to 23 percent – figures backed by Beijing’s stamp of approval that the Maldives was an acceptable destination for Chinese tour operators to send customers by the thousand.

“We don’t deal with numbers like that from any other country,” the tourism official told Minivan News.

“Chinese guests tend to respect authority – and currently the Chinese government is saying that the situation is OK. As soon as the Chinese authorities say they are concerned, 23 percent of the market will disappear. We can regard the Chinese as either directly in or out,” he said.

Adheeb observed that the Chinese market was “sensitive to international headlines”.

There had been a dip in Chinese arrivals, he noted, but this could be attributed to the aftermath of Chinese New Year.

Sim said the Chinese market was “particularly vulnerable, as they make decisions based on information they are given. It has been Chinese New Year so the dropoff in numbers is hard to separate from those put off by the political unrest,” he said.

Most Chinese arrivals come through package tour operators, who are extremely sensitive to travel warnings. The Chinese government currently has no warning for the Maldives, however neighbouring Hong Kong on February 8 placed the country on an “amber alert”, alongside Pakistan, Russia and Iran.

The language barrier can complicate efforts to reassure the market, particularly on the Chinese side.

One Shanghai-based travel agent, Sun Yi, told Minivan News she was faced with many cancellations just two days after the events of February 7.

”It has seriously affected our business. Many guests cancelled the Maldivian holiday package which used to be very popular,” she explained, adding that her company had suspended plans to hold a commerical event at a Maldives resort this spring.

“Quite a lot of Chinese customers are very concerned of this situation. Some of them are hesitant to make reservations now,” said Emy Zheng, a Chinese national working at Villuxa Holidays.

Recent reports in Chinese media have been reassuring: one honeymooner, Zhou Xiaoyi, told China Daily that he had considered cancelling his trip, but had only been offered a 2.5 percent refund on his prepaid ticket.

“The travel agency said most of our prepayment had been spent on reservations on flights and hotels,” Xiaoyi told China Daily. “So we decided to come anyway and found that our honeymoon was little influenced. We also saw other Chinese people here.”

Much of the tourism industry in the Maldives maintains a wary distance from Maldivian politics, but ongoing political turbulence, protests, confrontational rhetoric, dark mutterings from the staff quarters and ultimately an economic threat such as a loan crisis or plunge in Chinese interest could haul the problem into the industry’s backyard.

With 70 percent of the economy at stake, were that to happen the matter of the government’s legitimacy and the colour of the flag in the President’s office would fast become the least of the country’s worries.


August deadline set for foreign study funding applications

Students currently pursuing or looking to study higher education at foreign institutions have been given a deadline of August 7 this year to apply for funding from an additional government-backed Rf100 million student loan programme.

Funding packages ranging between Rf100,000 and Rf300,000 are reportedly set to be made available to students participating in various types of study ranging from foundation courses to PHD.  After studying abroad, participants  are then expected to begin paying back their loans to the state six months after completion of their course and within a ten-year period, according to newspaper Haveeru.

The foreign study loans are expected to be delivered specifically to Bank of Maldives (BML) accounts assigned to each individual student participating in the foreign loan scheme during August.  The student loan system for Maldivians abroad follows on from the launch of a similar domestic study programme announced by the government early last month.

The funding switch has raised concerns among some students and opposition figures, who claim that not enough is being done by government to support and prepare young people for the challenges of a more diverse Maldives job market.  Opposition MPs in particular have been critical that the funding, like the entire education system had not been sufficiently updated from the 1980s to meet the demand for the current jobs market in terms of skills.

Haveeru reported that despite concerns by some Male’-based students regarding continued delays to receiving their individual loan payments, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between BML and the Finance Ministry was expected to come into place today to ensure loan payments could be made within a 48 hours period.

The student loan programme is a new intiative being taken up by the government to replace the previous “pocket money” grant scheme that supplied limited study funding free of charge.

The government claimed  last month that an initial Rf50 million loan programme for domestic students represented attempts to support a larger number of local people in further education.

Aminath Ali, Deputy Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports, previously told Minivan News that she accepted that a number of students had concerns about the change towards providing loans instead of the free grants previously offered.  However, the minister claimed the new system was in place to try to ensure that both the country and citizens could afford further education on a more sustainable basis in the long-term.

“Under the current budget we cannot provide free learning and funding for students at higher education institutions.  The [student loans] are similar to mechanisms in place in countries all over the world,” she said.  “Say a student has a total loan amount of Rf24,000 over their studies, they will have to pay back this amount and a five percent administration charge to cover the role of their bank over an agreed period of time.”


Government outlines student loan funding amidst wider education criticisms

The government has moved ahead with a Rf50 million student loan programme in an attempt to support a larger number of local people in further education, replacing the “pocket money” grant scheme that previously supplied limited study funding free of charge.

The funding switch has raised concerns among some students and opposition figures, who claim that not enough is being done to support and prepare young people for the challenges of a more diverse Maldives job market.

Aminath Ali, Deputy Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports, told Minivan News that 340 students currently studying in higher or further education institutions in the Maldives were now able to claim an equal share of the government supplied funding, which was expected to be paid back once courses were over.

“Out of 367 existing students who applied for the loans, 27 were rejected as they were not currently studying in the Maldives,” she said.

The switch from the previous “pocket money” system has not been without controversy, with some local students demonstrating outside the President’s Office back in March in order to try and reinstate charge-free grants for those in higher education.

Student protesters claimed at the time that some of their peers appeared to still be getting the pocket money grant, while others were struggling to afford or obtain books required for their studies in light of the student loan switch.

A spokesperson for the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) this week also criticised the government’s implementation of the student loan system, as well as its overall commitments to education in the country, claiming that both the funding and the range of courses currently on offer were “not sufficient” for their own needs – or those of the job market that will one day employ them.

Aminath Ali said she accepted that a number of students had become concerned about the change towards providing loans instead of the free grants previously offered.  However, the minister claimed the new system was in place to try to ensure that both the country and citizens could afford further education on a more sustainable basis in the long-term.

“Under the current budget we cannot provide free learning and funding for students at higher education institutions.  The [student loans] are similar to mechanisms in place in countries all over the world,” she said.  “Say a student has a total loan amount of Rf24,000 over their studies, they will have to pay back this amount and a five percent administration charge to cover the role of their bank over an agreed period of time.”

According to Ali, once a student had completed their studies, they are then given six months to find a job before having to begin paying back the funding.

The deputy human resources minister claimed that sufficient mechanisms were in place to allow student to pay back their loans to the government over a maximum of ten years depending on their revenue.  Ali added that in consultations with the Employment Ministry, she was confident that graduates would be able find jobs within this six month period that offer long-term career prospects for those willing to work.

The loan system is also said to be backed by 100 percent scholarship programmes for students studying abroad in areas such as medical sciences and technology, according to the ministry.  Ali claimed that 180 scholarships, based on educational performance, had been offered between January and May of this year.

Separate funding had also been put aside by the Ministry of Human Resources for students to apply for when entering into further education during the present academic year.

The Ministry of Education claimed that the move towards student loans reflected the need for funding at a wider number of institutions in the country that now offer higher education courses to students across different fields of expertise.

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef said that while the opposition party welcomed measures to financially support students in higher education, he believed the new loan system had failed to take into account hardships faced by the young, particularly those coming from islands to Male’ to live.

According to Shareef, while previous systems had provided a pocket money allowance and even some forms of salary to fund study from the government’s purse, he claimed the new loans were insufficient to cover the expenses of moving to Male’.

“From the complaints we have received from students, [the student loans] are not a popular initiative.  Government must reconsider this system, changes are expected to be for the better,” he said.  “If the government was replacing [student funding] with a better system, it would be welcomed.”

When addressing the government’s own need to reduce national spending and its own budget deficits amidst commitments to organisations such as the International Monetary fund (IMF), Shareef said that the government would have been better served by “gradually” phasing out the “pocket money” system as opposed to replacing it completely.

“In a country, no matter how rich it is, education is not an area where funding should be cut,” he said.

In addition to concerns over the student loan system, Shareef claimed that he also believed that the current higher education curriculum was out of synch with the demands of the modern Maldives job market.

“The whole education system does not match up with the job openings currently being offered,” he claimed. “Until the 1980’s, we had limited [job] openings available , so the purpose of education and training was to get people ready for working the civil service,” he said.

With the advent and growth of the country’s the tourist industry along with the emergence of regional and multinational businesses moving into the Maldivian economy, Shareef claimed that the education system had failed to move with the times in making people ready for this changing workplace.

“There are not enough professionals available that are trained to work in management positions within the tourism, fisheries and even construction industries.  Education is simply not meeting these requirements,” he said


Maldives democracy must prove it can guarantee liberty: European Commission report

Democracy in the Maldives is in a crucial phase and needs to prove to the people that it is able to guarantee liberty, according an independent evaluation of the European Commission’s €26.3 million (US$36.6 million) assistance package to the Maldives over the last 10 years.

“The political, administrative, and judicial system needs reforming in order to implement constitutional guarantees and requirements,” the report found.

“The passing of an important number of bills has been delayed in parliament, which is composed predominately of newcomers to politics and in which the opposition coalition has the majority – resulting in the problem of consensus having to be reached between the government and its parliamentary opposition.”

As a consequence, the country was under pressure to provide a functioning political, judicial and local governance system, the EC report noted, identifying two major areas of reform: the judicial sector (including police and prisons), “and the decentralisation reform, beginning with the local [council] elections.”

The independent evaluation was commissioned by the EC to critique its funding of programs between 1999 to 2009, which have included support for the empowerment of women, over €15 million in tsunami-related assistance, technical support for the presidential and parliamentary elections, island waste management centres and more recently, pledges off €6.5 million for climate change adaption and mitigation support, as well as €1.3 million earmarked for combating drug abuse.

The report was presented at Holiday Inn yesterday to a cross section of stakeholders including government officials, civil society, international donor organisations and the press.

Overall achievement of executives was described as “mixed”. The strategic planning of many programmes was “too ambitious given the level of available funding”, the report noted, with gaps between planning and implementation.

“The environmental support program was too ambitiously planned and had to be scaled down to solid waste management only,” the report stated. “Constructed island waste management systems are, with few exceptions, not operational, and waste management centres are unequipped.”

The failings of this project were due in part to “technical” problems, including design weaknesses and missing equipment, “and insufficient involvement of communities in general, notably the Island Women Development committees.”

“Women on the islands are quite well organised and are often the main actors in terms of environmental issues and social and economic life. Many households are managed by women, as men are often working in the tourist resorts, in the fisheries industry, or abroad,” the report observed.

“However the present local governance structures generally do not sufficiently allow women to play an effective role in the local decision-making process.”

Equipment for the island waste management systems, purchased with the project’s remaining funding, remains stored in Male’, the report noted.

Economic vulnerability

The EC had identified the Maldives’ reliance on a single export commodity as a fundamental weakness in its commodity, but plans to diversify these exports “were too ambitious an objective for EC support.”

The problem was going to exacerbate when the Maldives graduates from Less Developed Country (LDC) status in January 2011, the report noted, when it will lose preferential market access and technical and financial support from multilateral and regional sources. This will have particular impact on the country’s trade with Sri Lanka and Thailand.

“Maldives exports can be built up and diversified only if action is taken to resolve serious supply-side issues in the economy, including access to investment finance, improvement of production procedures and standards, training of the workforce, development of modern marketing principles, and improvement of transport infrastructure.”

Programmes identified as successful by the EC report included that allocated to the presidential and parliamentary elections, which produced “a positive perception of the EC as a recognised political partner in the democratisation process.”

Looking ahead, the report suggested ensuring that projects had clearer objectives and were realistically planned, and preferably managed from within the country rather than outside.

It also recommended greater strategic focus on no more than two areas of priority, “such as environment/climate change and the good governance/decentralisation sector”.

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Bernard Savage, observed that programmes run in cooperation with other donors such as the World Bank and UN Agencies had been the most successful.

“Programmes carried out under this collaboration have been reviewed as both effective and efficient in general,” he said.


Development bank to be established this year

President Mohamed Nasheed has announced the establishment of a new development bank specialising in providing investments for small and medium enterprises, to be ready at the end of the year.

President Nasheed added the main challenge for these enterprises is lack of funding, and said he hopes a new development bank will solve the problem.

The president said the ministry of Economic Development is providing financial assistance to these enterprises through a fund worth MRF 18.8 million. He said 41 per cent of those receiving assistance were women.

President Nasheed added that the government is working to bring in more foreign investment. In 2009, 18 foreign investments were approved. According to the president, the total foreign investment registered in 2009 was US$22 million.