State wholesaler State Trading Organization (STO) will focus solely on importing fuel, food staples and pharmaceuticals, the Economic Council has announced at a press conference today.
The move is part of the government’s decision to move STO out of the retail business in order to encourage private businesses, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed said.
However, the STO has recently launched a new brand of groceries called Noofahi as well as announcing plans to expand the supermarket at the STO Trading Center in Malé.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb added that STO will be restructured and will build new fuel storage facilities, establish a shipping fleet to import oil and will take measures to increase fuel security.
Meanwhile, STO MD Adam Azim today announced a MVR1.25 reduction on a liter of petrol and diesel following a request by President Abdulla Yameen.
Adeeb at today’s press conference pledged to further decrease fuel prices and said the government is looking into ways to reduce prices on jet fuel for domestic transport
Minister of Youth Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the “historic” reduction would address rising inflation.
The Economic Council also said a German research vessel has found hydrocarbon source rocks in the Maldives and said the government is working with a Japan’s Mitsui and Taisei, and China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) to upgrade the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
The Maldives intends to ask for a preferential trade mechanism with China following partnership in China’s maritime Silk Road.
Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said the Economic Council will hold monthly meetings with state owned enterprises to address challenges, facilitate financing, and strengthen management.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said a preliminary assessment of hydrocarbons by Germany’s Hamburg University had brought “happy signals.”
The research team will handover detailed assessment in the first quarter of 2015, he said.
Although the presence of hydrocarbon source rocks have been confirmed, further research and analysis is required to determine if there are hydrocarbon reservoirs in the Maldives and their exact locations, Shainee explained.
The inner atoll ocean basins and atoll slopes have been examined, and new 3D seismic data will provide a more complete picture of presence of hydrocarbons, he said.
The government is setting up renewable energy alternatives in Malé and Addu, but such sources can only cater to 30 percent of Maldivian energy requirements, Shainee said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan, Indian, Norwegian, and British companies have expressed interest in assisting Maldives in oil exploration.
Approximately 30 percent of Maldives GDP is spent on fuel imports.
Adeeb revealed today that the Maldives is working with Japan’s Mitsui and Taisei, and China’s BUCG on a master plan for airport development.
The government intends to secure a US$600 million loan from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and China Exim Bank for the venture.
Once loans are sanctioned, the work will be contracted out, he added. In the meantime, the government will rehabilitate the existing runway.
Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed noted an increase in Chinese imports to Maldives, especially in heavy machinery, and said the Economic Council is working on establishing a preferential trade mechanism.
A technical team from China is due to visit the Maldives to undertake a survey for the Malé – Hulhulé bridge in the near future, the council said.
The council also revealed that the Maldives has signed a maritime labor convention, and intends to establish an open ship registry in order to expand maritime businesses such as offshore shipping and to increase luxury cruise ship arrivals in the country.