Businesses welcome ban on foreigners in photography, souvenir trades

The government has banned foreigners from providing photography-related services as well as operating souvenir shops and customs bonded warehouses in a bid to boost youth employment.

Registrar of companies Mariyam Visam told the press yesterday that the ministry will not register foreign investments in the selected fields.

Foreign investments in passenger transfer services and water sports will also be restricted to partnerships with companies with at least a 51 percent stake owned by Maldivians.

“If Maldivians can’t enter these ancillary services in the tourism industry, the economy and standard of living will be adversely affected,” she said.

“Even if we provide many opportunities for foreigners to invest in the Maldives, our main objective is economic development and increasing economic means for Maldivians.”

Most local photographers and souvenir businesses have welcomed the ban. But some have said foreign investments are crucial for small and medium enterprises to thrive.

Some 26.5 per cent of Maldivians aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, according to World Bank statistics from 2013, the most recent figures available.

“Good move”

The secretary general of the Maldives Photography Association, Ahmed Ishan, said the ban would create more opportunities for local photographers.

“There are about 1,500 Maldivian professional photographers in the industry. But Maldivians aren’t allowed on some resorts due to the influence of some [foreign] companies,” he said.

The foreign companies were established in 2012 and primarily employed photographers from Philippines and China, he said. They were often “stationed” at resorts as resident photographers.

“So all the work goes to them,” he added.

He also claimed that some of the photographers had fraudulent work permits.

In January, the economic development ministry ceased issuing work permits for foreign photographers while a ban on foreigners working as cashiers took effect in April.

Last week, the immigration department instructed local businesses to send back migrant workers hired as photographers and cashiers before June 7 and apply for cancellation of employment approvals. The department warned that employers who do not comply will be penalised.

The economic ministry has meanwhile penalised 88 businesses found to employ foreign cashiers.

The ministry will conduct inspections on the new rules and offer a period for foreigners involved in restricted business to leave, Visam said yesterday. Agreements with foreign parties will not be renewed and the ministry will take action against businesses registered under Maldivians but operated by foreigners, she warned.

The souvenir trade

Hassan Zahir, the manager of the Misraab souvenir shop, welcomed the move as a positive step as many Maldivians were involved in the souvenir trade.

“This is an ordinary or medium-sized business, so it’s not good when foreigners come in. Not everyone can be resort owners,” he said.

The restrictions will create job opportunities for young Maldivians in the absence of competition from foreign businesses who have more resources and more capital, Zahir suggested.

However, officials from another souvenir business, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned the effectiveness of the move, noting that foreigners operate the souvenir shops in resorts run by foreign companies.

Maldivians should be allowed the opportunity to run souvenir shops in all resorts, they said.

Meanwhile, Saudhulla Ahmed, secretary general of the Maldives Trade Union, an NGO set up last year for advocacy on behalf of small and medium-sized businesses, told Minivan News that foreign investment was crucial for small businesses to thrive.

Foreign investors had set up enterprises almost exclusively in partnership with Maldivians in the restricted fields, he said

Saudhullah also said the government has impeded small businesses by cutting electricity subsidies and reducing business hours with a 10:00pm closing time.

Local businesses are”living in fear” and lacked security for their investments due to arbitrary measures from the government, he continued.

“We have had complaints from businesses about the customs saying they mistakenly charged too little as duties for goods imported two years ago, and so customs is now asking for MVR230,000 in fines,” he said.

The ministry was imposing restrictions on foreign investments “because they know for sure that investors won’t come to such a frightening place,” he said.


Ministry of Environment calls for submissions for photography competition

On the occasion of International Day for Biodiversity (May 22) and World Environment Day (June 5) the Ministry of Environment and Energy has made an appeal for Maldivians to participate in an online photography competition.

The themes of the photographs are: species of Maldives; ecosystems; and impacts on water security, food security, infrastructure, livelihood, ecosystems and islands

Participants should submit photographs online via the Facebook Page by June 4, 2014, 12pm local time.

The photograph with the total of most likes and shares will be considered the winner. The winner will be awarded with a prize yet to be specified.


Alliance Francais De Malé launches French film festival

The Alliance Francais De Malé (AFM) will begin a week of French film tomorrow, with a screening of the 2010 film ‘The Tree’ at the CHSE on Lily Magu in Malé.

Monday’s screening begins a week of modern French cinema, with screenings of ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ – at the National Art Gallery, ‘The Minister’ – CHSE,  and ‘The Painting’ – the National Library.

Entrance is free for AFM member, and MVR50 for non-members.

The AFM is also seeking further applicants in its international photography contest. Participants are required to submit two photographs on the theme “On joue sur la Terre!” (“Playing onEarth!”).

Participants will get the opportunity to win a trip to Paris and potentially see their work exhibited in a Parisian art gallery. Entrance is free to Maldivians aged over 18 years.

Photography pioneer dismisses claims development has spoiled Maldives “paradise” potential

Photographer Michael Friedel, one of the most prominent names associated with capturing images of the Maldives over the last forty years, has dismissed criticism that rapid national development has ultimately spoiled the destination’s “paradise” mystique.

German national Friedel has spent forty years photographing the changing societal and architectural landscape of the Maldives since the inception of its tourism industry back in the 1970s.

Speaking to Minivan News at the opening of a special exhibition in Male’ this week dedicated to his photography, Friedel conceded that the impact of his work had attracted criticism due to some “bad developments” intense global publicity brought to the country.

“There are people who have said I spoiled paradise, but the country has always been involved in the global market. The country has to sell something to get something and rice doesn’t grow here,” he said yesterday (January 6).

Friedel, who first arrived in the Maldives in the 1970s, is described by exhibition organisers as a major pioneer in capturing images of the country for intentional media.

His photography has been published in international magazines and newspapers, as well as being found locally on postcards and five different stamps that have been sold in the country.

“Most of the bad developments in the beginning did come from the outside, but the country has got it under control now,” Friedel claimed. “In the early days, Italians would just shoot fish with spear guns just to show how many they had caught, not to eat and people were also hunting turtles just to sell the shells. But after two years, these things were banned.”

When Friedel first arrived in the Maldives in the early 1970s, he said the country was relatively unknown to rest of the world.  However, after pictures he had taken of the country were published in Germany’s Stern magazine, he said major press organisations around the world wanted copies.

“Most countries in the world were well known in the 70s, but Maldives was not. So when I first took these pictures, I was lucky to have so much interest from international publications,” he said.

Friedel argued that while the whole world had changed over the last 40 years, the scope of these developments was far more noticeable in the Maldives.

“This used to be a country where nobody came to and it was extremely isolated. The British had an agreement here, and they had one officer stationed on a little island. Most other countries were influenced by colonialism, but the Maldives were not,” he said.

“The whole world has changed in 40 years, but here it was more because the country was untouched.”

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb, who officially opened the exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Male’, praised Friedel as a “pioneer”. He added that his work helped introduce the Maldives to glossy international magazines and travel media, defining the image by which the destination is still sold to this day.

“Michael has been one of the key players to promote the Maldives and through his pictures he brought the country into the lime light,” Adheeb claimed. “This all started back in 70s and 80s when our tourism budget was zero. We appreciate everything he has done, through his pictures we see where we were then to where we are now.”

The exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Male’ showcases 58 of Friedel’s photographs taken in the Maldives from between 1973 to 1977 as part of celebrations marking 40 years of tourism in the country.

The exhibition will run from January 6 to January 13.


Local photographer wins local competition, goes international

Abdulla Ameer has won the Alliance Francaise des Maldives photography competition, and been awarded the local price of a camera. The competition was open to photographers of all ages, except for professionals.

The exhibition “Planète Femmes/Women’s World” features 28 photographs from 14 participants, although four have been disqualified from the competition, reports Haveeru. The photographs portray female representation in Maldivian culture.

Ameer’s pictures will be sent to the Alliance Francaise’ international competition, from which the winning photo will be displayed in a Parisian art gallery and the winner awarded a one-week stay in Paris.

Some selected photos are also to be published in the magazine ‘Courrier International’, reports Haveeru.


Alliance Française opens “Women’s World” photography exhibition

The Alliance Française is launching a “Planète Femmes” (“Women’s World”) photography exhibition on Thursday evening at 8:00pm at the National Art Gallery.

The photos are the product of a free-to-enter amateur photography contest organised by Alliance Française with the participation of the magazine Courrier International.

Participants were asked to show a representation of women in their corresponding cultures.

This exhibition is scheduled to remain open everyday (except Friday and Saturday) from 10:00pm to 4:00pm until September 22.