The Ministry of Economic Development has decided to stop giving out work permits to foreign photographers starting from yesterday (January 26).
“We want to provide the opportunity to Maldivian youth and to ensure that photography stands up on its own as an established industry,” Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed has told Haveeru.
“This will encourage small and medium sized businesses to develop,” he explained, adding that only Maldivians will be allowed to provide photography services in resorts.
The current government has pledged to create more jobs for local youth by replacing expatriate workers with Maldivians.
Maldives Photographer’s Association (MPA) President Mohamed Shafy told Minivan News that the government’s decision is a “huge accomplishment” for the organisation, which has been working relentlessly to provide more opportunity for local photographers.
Shafy said that foreign nationals were taking up opportunities which would otherwise be given to local photographers – especially at resorts – by demanding a smaller price than their local counterparts.
He explained that the association had discovered, via the recently passed Right to Information Act, that 14 foreign nationals were working in the photography industry in the Malé area, despite just 3 having been licensed throughout the country.
“We do not mind the photographers who come for a certain project or with famous celebrities,” said Shafy. “However, some of these resorts have foreign resident photographers for weddings and occasions while it could be Maldivians doing the job.”
Shafy said that the association has held talks with various government officials regarding the matter.
“We have had talks with tourism minister Adeeb, [former] defense minister Nazim and we were told they will try to change things around. So we did not think that the minister Saeed would take such a drastic measure.”
Another local photographer described the move as a “very good decision” which would provide a lot of opportunities to work at resorts.
While there are 1500 professional photographers registered with MPA, Shafy estimates that there are over 3000 photographers working professionally in the country.
“It used to be that tourists would come to the Maldives just for the underwater scenery and pictures. But now we see more honeymooners who want their pictures taken,” said Shafy, describing the potential of the industry.
He expressed his belief that the decision would prompt a lot of photographers who had given up on the profession to return to the industry.
The theme of ‘Maldivian work for Maldivians’ forms a major part of the government’s current policy for strengthening the economy and reducing youth unemployment.
Youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has told Minivan News recently that there are over 13,000 individuals in the youth unemployment registrar. Shortly after the current government took office in late 2013, the youth ministry said it would attempt to resolve unemployment by replacing expatriate workers with locals.
After pledging to create 94,000 jobs during its five year term, the government recently announced that it would be illegal to hire expatriate workers as cashiers starting from April this year.
Speaking at the time, Saeed said: “A large percentage of the Maldivian youth is unemployed and looking for unemployment. All they need is support and guidance.”
In December last year, former Managing Director at Maldives Airports Company Ltd Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem told a Majlis committee that difficulties with local staff had resulted in a dependence on foreign employees, and even military assistance, to keep the international airport running.
Saleem – who had been called before the Majlis to explain the high number of foreign workers at Malé international airport – was removed from his post for unspecified reasons last week.
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