Imports up by 22 percent in 2014, exports down by 12 percent

Imports rose by 22 percent in 2014, while exports dropped by 12 percent, the Maldives Customs Service has revealed.

According to a statement from customs today, imported goods in 2014 amounted to MVR30.7 billion (US$1.99 billion), resulting in duties of MVR1.96 billion – a 15 percent rise compared to 2013.

The decline in exports saw the total value of goods leaving the Maldives in 2014 valued at MVR2.24 billion, compared with MVR2.56 billion in 2013.

The latest balance of payments figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority show the current account deficit was US$290 million in 2014 – equivalent to 10 percent of GDP, though the central bank estimates that this will drop to 6 percent of GDP in 2015.

Recent amendments to the Import Export Act – part of a raft of revenue raising measures – are expected to raise MVR533 million (US$34.5 million) in additional income in 2015.

Customs revealed today that petroleum products had contributed the most to last year’s imports, totaling MVR8.3 billion – or 27 percent of the total. Food items comprised 19 percent of the year’s imports while 16 percent was machinery and electronic items, totalling to MVR6 billion and MVR4.8 billion respectively.

The customs third quarterly review for 2014 suggested that the rise in machinery and electronics was largely responsible for the period being the most costly in terms of imports in the past five years.

It was also noted that 65 percent of the goods imported during quarter were sourced the UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka. These countries made up 62 percent of total imports in 2013.

The export of tuna products to Thailand dominates the Maldives’ exports – constituting 44 percent in the quarter, having received 37 percent of exports in 2013.

An IMF delegation to the Maldives late last year noted that, though the economy is “relatively buoyant”, the widening fiscal deficit as a result of high public expenditure and debt needed to be addressed.

Revisions to estimates of the current account deficit had indicated greater stability in the economy than previously thought, explained the IMF. Previous MMA estimates of the 2014 trade gap suggested it could equal 22 percent of GDP.

During the IMF’s last visit to the country in February this year, the delegation expressed surprise at the resilience of the economy, admitting that it was still studying how the domestic economy has remained afloat in the face of soaring public debt and persistent budget deficits.

Related to this story

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Maldives economy “relatively buoyant” but fiscal imbalances continue to grow: IMF

Majority of dollar receipts spent on imports: MMA assistant governor


Fishermen invited to register for MVR10,000 allowance on April 1

Application forms will be available on April 1 for fishermen to register in the government’s scheme to provide MVR10,000 (US$648) during lean months, President Abdulla Yameen said last night.

Addressing supporters in Gaaf Dhaalu Thinadhoo at a rally held to celebrate the Progressive Coalition’s victory in the parliamentary polls, President Yameen said the allowance will be released to fishermen before the end of May “when all the calculations and documentation are done.”

Marinas for fishermen would meanwhile be complete by the end of the year, Yameen said.

A MVR10,000 allowance to fishermen “regardless of catch” during lean months was a campaign pledge of candidate Yameen and the now-ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

In an interview with Minivan News in January, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainy explained that the allowance will be provided through an insurance scheme.

If you look at the skipjack fishing statistics for last year, you will see three or four months which are very difficult for the fishermen. The real goal of this is sustainability,” he said.

“So the aim of the government is to ensure that even during these difficult months fishermen stay in the industry. For that reason, during those few months we want to give a payment so that they can do their basic necessities, so they can fulfil their daily obligations towards their family. The MVR10,000 scheme is a top-up system.”

He stressed that the MVR10,000 was not a subsidy as the productivity of the fisheries industry has been increasing since the downturn in 2004.

So now we need to make the industry stand alone and be more vibrant and shock-proof to absorb these shocks. We need to devise a way to get people’s minds set on the idea that they can work in the industry. The real reason is the sustainability of the fishermen in the industry to keep them in the field during this low season,” he said.

Cheaper diesel

According to the President’s Office, President Yameen also said that discussions were ongoing between the State Trading Organisation (STO) and the Indian government to arrange the supply of petroleum products.

When the talks are concluded, Yameen said the price of oil would fall during the next two months.

Duing Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to the Maldives last month, an agreement was reached to supply diesel, petrol, and aviation fuels “on favourable terms” from the Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd, a subsidiary of India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

Following President Yameen’s state visit to India in January – his first official overseas trip since assuming office in November – senior government figures described Indo-Maldives ties as being “as strong as they were during [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s time in power”.

Meanwhile, in his speech last night, President Yameen reportedly said that the government has undertaken efforts to attract foreign investors to the country, which would create jobs for unemployed youth.

Among the projects in the pipeline for Thinadhoo that President Yameen announced last night included road construction, land reclamation, construction of a sports arena, and broadening tourism.

With the prevailing political stability and the mandate given to the current administration by the public in the presidential and parliamentary polls, Yameen said he believed that the government could commence mega-projects and transform the Maldives to “this region’s Singapore.”