PPM manifesto released to criticism over economic plans

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has said the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) “concerning” proposal to slash the state budget by MVR 4 billion ($259.9 million) lacks critical detail.

PPM released its three-part manifesto on Tuesday (September 3) – just four days before the presidential election.

Cautioning that such a large reduction required careful adjustments, Thasmeen said that the proposed cut would have a negative impact on development projects and subsidies, reported Haveeru.

Thasmeen added that minimizing waste and promoting operational efficiency in the government would not yield sufficient funds.

His critique echoed concerns voiced by other MPs, including PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, over last year’s budget cutbacks.

Yameen has promoted himself as being strong on economic policy, with posters across Male’ touting him as the electorate’s best choice for an economic recovery.

Budget cutbacks attracted sharp responses from political parties in December 2012, after Parliament’s Budgetary Review Committee reduced the state budget by MVR2.4 million ($1.5 million).

Government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader and MP Abdullah Mausoom tweeted at the time that the cutbacks were “a deliberate attempt by MDP and PPM to ‘choke’ government and institutions by 2013”.

Yameen – then PPM’s Parliamentary Group Leader and a member of the review committee – observed that, based on the proposed budget cuts, the government’s policies were unclear.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comments from PPM spokespersons at time of press.

PPM Manifesto

The PPM’s ambitious proposals target legislation, administration and infrastructure in multiple areas. The party’s plans include a youth, a sports, and a ‘Yageen’ manifesto – the latter derived from the party’s campaign slogan ‘Yameen Yageen’, or ‘Yameen for Sure’.

The ‘Yageen’  manifesto outlines programmes targeting health, fisheries, decentralization, women’s rights, national security, agriculture, transport and tourism.

According the sports manifesto, athletic programs would receive new facilities and equipment, complemented by legislation to develop young talent. Sports administration would be facilitated by a Sports Act and a Maldives Sports PLC in partnership with all national sports associations, which would draft agreements to pay professional players.

The manifesto also states that all islands would receive a sports arena and Hulhumale’ would be developed as a youth entertainment city, including a National Aquatic Centre of olympic scale. Taxes on sports materials would be reduced from 25 to 5 percent.

According to the ‘Yageen’ manifesto, policies on education would expand teaching of the Quran and arabic language throughout the curriculum, and offer both expanded vocational and higher education opportunities. Educational centers would benefit from teacher training, expanded space, improved counseling services, and “modern libraries” equipped with digital facilities.

On the subject of women’s rights, the manifesto proposes subsidized childcare system, allowing women to work from home through the internet, and connecting them to employers. Gender quotas in the political arena and leadership skills courses for girls are also included, intended to equalize the workplace gender balance.

Other proposals include reviewing national legislation on women, particularly in the areas of marriage and divorce, property, and crime.

To build connectivity within and between atolls, the PPM “ensures” that every island will have access to air transport through regional airports, to be complemented by a ferry network. The party states that, in addition to expanding the services of Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and Island Aviation, it will invite private companies to operate transport facilities.

The manifesto did not detail budgetary provisions for these proposals.

Download the manifestos in Dhivehi.

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Finance Secretary Ahmed Mausoom appointed President’s Chief of Staff

President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday appointed Ahmed Mausoom as Chief of Staff of the President’s Office, the country’s highest administrative authority and a post with the same rank as Minister.

As Chief of Staff, Mausoom will direct the daily functions of the President’s Office under the President and Vice President.

Mausoom was formerly Finance Secretary, a post he has held since Nasheed assumed office on November 11, 2008.

A founding member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mausoom lived in exile in Sri Lanka for many years prior to being granted political asylum in the UK in 2004. He returned to the Maldives in 2006 to promote political reform in the country alongside then-opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.

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Future of Maldives tourism: exclusive or mid-market?

The Maldives is known for its high end world class resorts. Popular among the rich and famous, it seems the right amount of money can buy you some tropical privacy in the modern hectic world.

This privacy and seclusion of many Maldivian resorts is what makes them unique. This is what differentiates the Maldives from its competitors, and over the last few years many new exclusive resorts have sprung up.

These high end resorts, and the tourism sector as a whole, are an important part of the Maldivian economy: in 2008, the sector contributed 27.2% of the Maldivian GDP.

However several recent surveys suggest a vast majority of people are finding the price of a Maldivian getaway too expensive. Discussions on well-known travel forums such as Tripadvisor.com show that many guests and potential tourists are off put by the high prices.

Feelings on the issue are mixed. Many visitors, especially families, look for a cheaper option, while honeymooners are more willing to pay the extra dollars for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

There is demand from the high end markets for exclusive resorts. Ahmed Solih, permanent secretary for the tourism ministry noted that “expensive is a term dictated by demand & supply”.

Yet according to Solih, the development of a mid-market tourism sector in the Maldives  catering to the huge global middle class has always been on the government’s agenda.

“We lease the land to the developer, but it’s the private sector that makes the decision on who they will cater for,” said Solih.

The many tour operators and resort developers opt to cater for the high end market due to the proven profitable returns.

Solih continued: “In the Maldives, each resort has its own power and water generation, each resort is self sufficient, and for every head staying, there are two staff and they also live on site. This makes resorts a very expensive operation to maintain,” he said.

However the recent regulations allowing guest houses on inhabited islands and the introduction of a national transportation system (the Maldivian Dhoni Services, or MDS) has the potential to open the country to the mid-market tourist sector.

Former Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom said ” it is vital to maintain the exclusive image that we have created for the Maldives, but with careful management, a venture into the mid-market sector is important.”

Both Solih and Mausoom said that it was not just a matter of accommodation, and that the infrastructure had to be in place for this new market.

Currently, guests are whisked off to their destinations on expensive seaplanes or fast boats to their destinations. If the mid-market sector is to gain a foothold in the country, a proper transportation system needs to be in place.

Another potential market for the Maldives is the Indian and Chinese middle class. India currently has the largest middle class in the world consisting of nearly 300 million people, contributing US$380 billion to the consumer market.

With such a large market at such a close proximity, it is surprising that only 2.4 per cent of the country’s tourists arrive from India.

Speaking on this issue, Solih noted that ” it is true that the Indian market has huge potential. According to World Trade Organisation (WTO), one in five tourists are now Indian. The reason that Indians do not come here is because our current packages are not desirable for them.

“Most Indians would come for a couple of days, at the most, and they look for duty free shopping complexes,” Solih claimed.

Indians like many Maldivians, love to go shopping when they are overseas. If we are to cater for these new emerging markets, we must plan on what it is they are looking for.

“The success of the tourism industry in the Maldives has been due to carefully planned expansion,” Mausoom.

The current system is well established, and has reaped benefits for the Maldives. It is now up to the developers and tour operators to decide whether they are willing to cater for the new markets that are out there.

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