Ramadan hours set for restaurants and shops

Restaurants and cafés are to be open from dusk to 2am during the Islamic month of Ramadan, the economic development ministry has said.

Shops can be open throughout the day, but must close by 11:00pm at night.

The first day of Ramadan begins on June 18.

In March the economic ministry changed the closing time of shops and restaurants to 10:00pm and 12:00am, respectively, following a spike in gang violence in Malé.


Power bill deadline extended amid protests

Fenaka Corporation, the main electricity provider in the atolls, has extended the deadline for businesses to pay their March electricity bills after widespread protests over a subsidy cut.

Businesses and shops in several islands shut down in protest this week after electricity bills for March doubled and in some cases tripled following the removal of government subsidies.

Some have said they will not pay their bills until a new agreement is reached with the state-owned utility company.

Fenaka said in an announcement today that the new deadline is April 30, and businesses who pay by then will not face fines for late payment or disconnection.

However, the announcement warned that businesses will face fines or disconnection of services after May 1.

Businesses in Haa Dhaal Kulhdhuffushi, Gaafu Dhaal Thinadhoo, and Addu City have set up committees to negotiate with the government.

Businesses in Fuvahmulah and Vaikaradhoo are planning to submit a petition to the president demanding a fair price for electricity.

Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal and Thulhaadhoo in Baa atoll meanwhile asked state electricity company Fenaka to pay the island councils for plots of land rented to the company.

Electricity prices are up to 72 percent higher in northern Haa Alif , Haa Dhaal, and Shaviyani Atolls and up to 37 percent higher in Addu City and Fuvahmulah than in Malé City, according to figures from Fenaka.


Malé City Council to bring back 24 hour shops and cafes

Malé City Council has decided to bring back the 24 hour service at cafes and shops, seventeen months after it was banned by Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government.

The proposition was passed unanimously by nine members present at yesterday’s council meeting (March 18), though the government has suggested that it does not have the authority to make such decisions.

Councilman Shamau Shareef said that the council decision came in response to a number of request from Malé City residents.

“This is what the people want. The former government discontinued the permissions to operate such places citing criminal activity and instability in the city. But now we have an elected government, and we think it should be reconsidered now,” said Shamau.

He noted that council have now been tasked with issuing trade permits for the city and it is in the council’s mandate under the Decentralisation Act to address this issue.

But the Ministry of Economic Development has today said that the issuing of trade permits was delegated to the council under a memorandum of understand with the ministry, which does not allow issuing 24 hour license.

“The government decided to end the running of 24 hour businesses. From that point the procedure for issuing trade permits were changed. City council have been tasked with issuing permits under those procedures,” the ministry’s Director General Usman Shakir was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

Shakir said that the government has not yet changed it’s position on allowing 24 hour businesses, and warned that the ministry will take action if any such permission is issued.

Responding to the ministry’s statement Councilman Shamau said that there are “some barriers” in implementing the decision, but the council is willing to overcome these issues by discussing it with the ministry.

“We will do whatever it takes. This is the capital city, and there are 24 hours ferries operating, people coming from other islands, people are working round the clock. There should be some way for them to eat or buy things they need. We are talking about basic necessities of the people,” he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s government decided to issue permits for 24 hour businesses in December 2010. After the change in government, Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in October 2012 decided to put an end to these opening hours.

The ministry’s official reason for decision was national security concerns. There was a high level of concern about increasing rates at the time, particularly with political instability and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali within the same month.

While it is not known whether the decision had any positive impact in reducing crime rates, the parliamentary national security committee at the time suggested impact it had was negative.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time described the decision as an attack against small and medium businesses which ‘left thousands of people unemployed’. Resuming the permits was an election pledge of the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed in 2013.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was at the time a coalition member of the government, and President Abdulla Yameen was elected as president, the party has maintained support for the ban on 24 hours businesses.

When the permits were revoked in 2012 there were forty four businesses with permit in Malé city, now all shops have to be closed at 11pm and all cafes at 1am.


Police arrest two thieves accused of ‘hole-in-roof’ robberies

Police have arrested two people accused of a series of robberies in which holes were cut in the roofs of the target premises, mostly shops in Male’.

In a statement, Police Inspector Mohamed Dhaud said that from April 7-15 police have received reports that shops were being robbed at night, with the burglars entering through holes cut in the ceilings.

Inspector Dhaud said each night two or three shops were robbed using the same method, noticeably shops located near the local market area and shops on Chandanee Magu, a main road in Male’.

According to Dhaud, investigations showed that it was the same persons involved in all the robberies, leading police to launch a special operation to catch the thieves.

Police met with people around the area and one of them told patrolling officers that he had received a text message from a security alarm device installed inside a shop in Chandanee Magu called ‘Hanamaruko’.

Police immediately set off to Hanamaruko shop and found the two persons inside, catching them red-handed.

Two of them tried to escape when they saw police officers, but one of them was arrested inside the shop while the other person ran up to the Islamic Centre to escape, Inspector Dhaud said.

Police identified the two persons as Adam Shareef, of Irama on the island of Mathiveri in Alifu Alifu Atoll, and Mohamed Abubakuru, of Gulalamaa on the island of Miladhoo in Noonu Atoll.

Adam Shareef had a record number of robberies on his criminal record, police said, and had been released under the Second Chance Program given to inmates by the former government. Mohamed Abubakuru had no history of being involved in any criminal activity.

Dhaud said the pair’s fingerprints matched those obtained from other shops that were robbed in a similar manner.

Police furthermore said they had recovered Rf498,000 (US$33,200) worth of stolen items and money, and Rf 37,000 (US$2466) and Rf50,000 (US$3333) worth of stolen jewelry.


Government plan to waive import duties, reduce costs

President Mohamed Nasheed has said the prices of goods will drop after the government implements a plan to waive import duties on certain products, starting January 2012.

Yesterday, Nasheed paid visits to several Male’ shops to observe the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which went into effect on Sunday, October 2.

Several shop owners said they had noticed several difficulties from the start of the GST, but that Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) was taking necessary actions to resolve these issues.

Others noted that the majority of businesses had been well prepared for the new tax system.

The tax system was applied to the Maldives as a means of increasing state income, which in turn is expected to support the growth and development of national public services such as social security, public welfare, and health coverage.

Nasheed said a more efficient tax administration system would be established once legal formalities are completed.


Expatriate workers blamed for Male’s waste, claims councillor ‘Fly’

Villi-Maafannu councillor Ahmed ‘Fly’ Hameed has claimed that litter in Male is primarily caused by expatriate workers employed in shops.

Male’ City Council has discussed whether to take measures against the alleged culprits, Haveeru reports.

Hammed proposed designating supervisors to monitor the shops where expatriate workers are suspected of contributing to the litter. The council has also considered imposing a fine on those who leave their trash in the streets, reports Haveeru.

Recently, the overflow of waste at Thilafushi was found to be drifting into the open ocean after a change in tides. The EPA asked that everyone take responsibility for the issue.