Bank of Maldives introduces new loan scheme for teachers

The Bank of Maldives launched a new loan scheme today dedicated for Maldivian teachers and lecturers, offering loans up to MVR100,000 for a period of five years.

The new scheme offers teachers loans ranging from MVR 50,000 to MVR 100,000 at a 15 percent interest rate per year, the national bank said today.

“The purpose of the loan is to encourage the development of teachers, whether it is a training program or further studies or to purchase additional equipment such as laptops,” reads a statement by the bank.

Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham praised the bank for its contribution to the development of teachers.

“Teachers play a pivotal role in our community by nurturing, moulding and shaping the future generations of the nation. As the national bank, we’re proud to launch this customised loan product for this special group of people in our society,” said the bank’s CEO and managing director, Andrew Healy.


Fisheries ministry extends application period for loans

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has extended the application period for seeking loans from an MVR8.8 million (US$570,687) fisheries development programme to modernise fishing vessels.

According to local media outlet CNM, the ministry decided to extend the deadline after it expired on July 9 following a number of requests from fishermen.

The new deadline is September 14, the ministry announced, while 60 percent of the loans are earmarked for young fishermen. Details of the loans would be available at the ministry and Bank of Maldives branches across the country.


Civil Court freezes accounts, holds passport of DRP Leader Thasmeen

The Civil Court has issued a court order today freezing the bank accounts and holding the passport of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali over a case filed by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim to recover an unpaid debt of MVR 1.92 million (US$124,513).

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Nazim filed the case requesting enforcement of a Civil Court verdict in April 2011 – upheld by the High Court in April 2013 – ordering the recently appointed running mate of President Dr Mohamed Waheed to settle the debt.

A Civil Court media official explained to Minivan News that freezing accounts and holding passports were the normal procedure to follow in cases of decreed debt.

The media official confirmed that the Civil Court has issued the court order to both freeze Thasmeen’s bank accounts and hold his passport following today’s hearing.

Thasmeen’s lawyer reportedly said that his client was preparing to appeal the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court. The judge however replied that the civil case would proceed until such a time when the Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal.

MP Nazim sued Thasmeen in March 2011 to recover MVR 1.92 million (US$124,513) unpaid from a loan worth MVR 2.55 million (US$200,000). After the Civil Court ruled in favour of Nazim, Thasmeen appealed the judgment at the High Court in June 2011.

At the time the case was filed at the Civil Court, Thasmeen’s DRP was in a formal coalition with the minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) led by Nazim and current PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

The DRP-PA coalition agreement was severed in July 2011 amidst internal strife within the then-main opposition party, which saw a breakaway faction loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom leaving the party to form PPM in October 2011.

Following an acrimonious war of words between then-DRP ‘Honorary Leader’ Gayoom and his successor Thasmeen, the former president withdrew his endorsement of the DRP presidential candidate in March 2011.

Meanwhile, at the final hearing of the Civil Court case in April 2011, Thasmeen’s lawyer reportedly claimed that Nazim agreed to sell Shaviyani Kabalifaru, which was leased for development as a resort in 2005, to raise funds to cover the MVR 2.55 million loan.

Thasmeen’s lawyer denied that an agreement was made between the pair to pay back the loan in a month, claiming that Nazim failed to find a buyer for Kabalifaru as agreed upon in November 2008.

The lawyer also denied Nazim’s claim that the loan was taken to pay back Thasmeen’s debts at the Bank of Maldives.

However, Nazim’s lawyer, Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem – currently President Waheed’s member on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – disputed both claims, demanding documentation to prove that Thasmeen gave power of attorney to Nazim to sell the resort.

At a previous hearing, Nazim’s lawyer had produced a document with Thasmeen’s signature, prompting Judge Hathif Hilmy to observe that the purported loan agreement had a reference number and that it was therefore reasonable to expect Thasmeen to be aware of the details of the amount in question.

Article 73(c) of the constitution states, “A person shall be disqualified from election as, a member of the People’s Majlis, or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified, if he has a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgment.”


Maldives repays US$50m loan to India

The Maldives government has this week repaid a US$50m loan  originally supplied by India to the previous administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, local media has reported.

Citing senior government officials, local newspaper Haveeru reported that the repayment has been made Tuesday (December 4) after the Indian government said it would not be extending the repayment period for the funds.

India late last month requested that the Maldives government make US$50 million in treasury bond (T-bond) payments to India by December, with a second equal payment scheduled to be made in February 2013.

Diplomatic dispute

The Maldives government was in recent weeks been drawn into a diplomatic row with its Indian counterparts over a decision to dismiss an injunction granted to India-based infrastructure group GMR by the High Court of Singapore over the managing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’.

Authorities in the country have opted to void the contract signed by GMR and the previous government, whilst vowing that the airport will be run by the state-owned Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) by Friday (December 7) even with the injunction issued by the Singaporean courts.

Indian media has meanwhile claimed that the Indian government is considering freezing aid to the economically-crippled archipelago, notably a US$25 million loan necessary for the payment of civil servant salaries and the construction of a police academy.

“We are not happy with the way Maldives cancelled the GMR airport deal. This has surely left an impact on our bilateral ties,” a foreign ministry official told AFP. “A decision whether the money should be given or not will be taken soon.”

However the Indian High Commission n Male’ has previously stressed to local media that the suggestion of cutting aid was “unofficial”, adding that such a decision would not be “unilateral”.


Chinese aid not limited to US$500 million loan: Waheed

Speaking upon his return from China yesterday, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan told reporters that Chinese aid to the Maldives will not be limited to the US$500million (MVR7.7billion) loan finalised last week.

Waheed revealed that the Chinese government had pledged to make all necessary aid available to the Maldives, including assistance with road and shipping development, reported Haveeru.

The President expressed his hope that his meeting with Chinese businessmen would result in harbor development projects in the Maldives.

Regarding China’s view on Maldivian politics, Waheed noted that the Chinese were amongst the first nations to recognise his unity government.

“The Chinese Prime Minister personally told me that he had full confidence and support for the Maldivian government,” Waheed was reported as saying.

When speaking with Xinhua before his trip, Waheed praised China’s policy of non-interference in foreign affairs.


Waheed says China to grant Maldives $500 million loan

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has told Reuters that China will grant the Maldives US$500 million (MVR7.7billion) in loans during his state visit to the country.

The loans, equal to nearly one quarter of the Maldives’ GDP, would include $150 million (MVR2.3billion) for housing and infrastructure, with another $350million (MVR5.4billion) from the Export-Import Bank of China, reported Reuters.

This state owned bank is mandated with facilitating the export and import of Chinese products and promoting Sino-foreign relationships and trade, according to its official website.

China’s aid may provide an immediate salve to the government’s financial ailments which are on track to leave a MVR 9.1 billion ($590million) deficit in this year’s budget.

Former Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur to Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, explained that it was unlikely China would give any money to the Maldives as cash, suggesting that it would more likely come as assistance in kind, which was often difficult for the economy to “absorb”.

Shaheed said that the loan should not be interpreted as a change in foreign policy after former President’s Nasheed and Gayoom both recognised the importance of cultivating ties with China.

“This is very much in keeping with past policy. There has been a growing Chinese interest in the Maldives – a relationship based on trade, tourism and political contact,” said Shaheed.

“The lines so far drawn have demonstrated that the Maldives remains primarily SAARC focused, followed by trading partners in the EU and Singapore. China has moved into this second category,” he added.

“Nothing will change the fact that we are only 200 miles from Trivandrum,” he said.

A Chinese embassy opened in Male’ in time for the opening of the SAARC summit last November, reciprocating the opening of a Maldivian mission in Beijing in 2007.

Indian officials were reported at the time as having concern that the move was part of China’s “string of pearls” policy which supposedly involves Chinese attempts at naval expansion into the Indian Ocean.

On this matter, Shaheed acknowledged that India would be worried about Waheed’s arrival in Beijing after its apparent diplomatic failings during the Maldives’ recent troubles.

However, Shaheed said that a genuine policy shift would have to involve enhanced military cooperation, something avoided by former President Nasheed after his predecessor had shown some interest.

“Nasheed understood that the Maldives should not become a playground for the big powers,” he said.

Similarly, when asked upon his recent return from Sri Lanka what the Maldives’ policy was regarding Sino-Indian competition in the region, President Waheed is said to have responded that the policy of a small nation like the Maldives ought to be to avoid too great an involvement in geopolitics.

Waheed’s first official state visit after becoming president saw him travel to India in May. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) conducted joint naval operations with India in the same month.

More recently, Waheed has visited the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.

The vast rise in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives was a point Waheed was keen to make to both Reuters and the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua.

“The purpose of this visit is we have a growing relationship with China,” Waheed told Reuters. “The most tourists from one nation are coming from China. So it is really important to have a good relationship and to also encourage Chinese tourists to continue to come to the Maldives.”

China leapfrogged the United Kingdom in 2010 to become the number one source of arrivals for the country’s travel industry.

Official figures from the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism reveal that China has provided 22.2 percent of all arrivals to the Indian Ocean nation this year – up 14.5 percent from last year.

When speaking with Xinhua, Waheed thanked the Chinese for choosing to visit the Maldives before going on to give praise to China’s policy of non-interference in foreign affairs.

Waheed has been critical of the Commonwealth’s role in the country’s recent political turmoil, suggesting that the organisation’s calls for early elections were “premature”.

In a comment piece for local newspaper Haveeru this week, Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed said that the Maldives should not tolerate interference from people “who fail to practice what they preach in their own country.”

“We need to have the confidence to challenge those diplomats and politicians in the international community who sometimes seem to let their personal political sympathies determine their approach to our problems,” said Saeed.

Xinhua reported that Waheed had lauded China for understanding the international affairs of smaller countries.

“China is emerging as one of the superpowers now. In that sense, it will inevitably play a significant role in world affairs,” said Waheed.

On this point, Shaheed argued that the mention of ‘non-interference’ alongside ‘world power’ was a non-sequitur.

“The world has moved on from this approach. It is now state business to interfere when partners appear to have violated agreements,” he said.

Shaheed added that praise for a host country’s policies was standard in these instances, “a nicety”, and suggested that people should “not read too much into it.”


EXIM Bank of China offers US$57 million loan for IT infrastructure overhaul

The state-owned EXIM Bank of China has offered the Maldives a US$57 million (RF878 million) loan to assist the development of IT infrastructure in the country, Minister of Communication Dr Ahmed Shamheed had told local media.

Dr Shamheed yesterday confirmed that the funding, which can be paid back over a 20 year period, would still require approval by the People’s Majlis under next year’s budget. If approved, he told local newspaper Haveeru that the “majority” of the loan would be spent on building a new 15-storey government office designed partly to house new national IT projects.

Shamheed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Speaking yesterday, the communication minister claimed that projects including the introduction of so called “smart cards” – proposed as an all-in-one driver’s license, identity and an ATM card – and a high definition (HD) video conference network would be set-up with the loan.

Shamheed told Haveeru that the projects would be undertaken by the Centre for Information Technology (NCIT), as part of wider plans to connect government authorities through a single IT network.


India issues first installment of US$100 million loan to Maldives

The Indian government today handed a US$30 million (Rf462.6 million) loan to the Maldives Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz to settle Treasury Bills (T-Bill) sold to various parties.

The loan was presented by Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives DM Muley, in the form of a State Bank of India (SBI) cheque.

At the ceremony, Inaz noted that the loan was part of a US$100 million (Rf1.5 billion) loan that is being provided by the Indian government. The remaining US$70 million (Rf1 billion) will be provided in the near future, he said.

Altogether, the loan is expected to settle the T-Bills. Earlier this year, Parliament authorized the state to seek a maximum of Rf1.3 billion (US$8 million) from T-Bill sales.

To date, the government has allegedly acquired over Rf700 million from T-Bill sales this year. The government sold Rf750 million (US$45 million) in T-Bills today alone.


Finance Ministry requests revision of housing bids

The Finance Ministry has requested companies that submitted bids for housing projects in Male’ and Gaaf Dhaal atoll Thinadhoo to re-submit the bids before Tuesday, October 25 with certain details.

Six Indian companies had submitted bids for the project on September 26. The project, supervised by the Housing Ministry, will erect 500 housing units at the Maafannu Boduge land plot, the former VTC land plot on Alikilegefaanu Magu, and the land plot where debris is dumped, reports Haveeru..

The Indian government granted the Maldives a US$40 million loan for the project.

State Housing Minister Akran Kamaluddin told Haveeru News that no bids were cancelled.