STO cautions against panic buying as hundreds queue for petrol

The state wholesaler State Trading Organization (STO) has cautioned against panic-buying of fuel as hundreds  continue queuing up at petrol stations for a third day.

“There is absolutely no shortage. We are operating out petrol stations at normal hours, but only rationing petrol because some people are buying petrol in bulk,” an STO media official told Minivan News.

Malé’s waterfront is congested with cars, trucks and motor cycles on Boduthakurufaanu Magu where the two main fuel stations are located.

Many people in the queues said they had heard STO is running out of petrol. Today’s queues are shorter than Wednesday’s.

STO’s petrol stations – managed by subsidiary company Fuel Services Maldives – on Wednesday started rationing fuel, only providing each vehicle with five liters of petrol.

“Why else would they ration the petrol? Look at the big queue here. People would not panic so much unless there is a problem. Of course there is shortage,” said Shathir Ahmed, 21 years.

Some people said they had waited in queues for between an hour to two hours on Wednesday. The waiting time was approximately 20-30 minutes today.

STO said panic buying had been triggered by media reports of shortages.

“We appeal to the public to confirm with us if there is a shortage before stocking up,” the media official said.

Online newspaper CNM reported today that STO is suffering from a shortage because the petrol delivery ship was delayed due to bad weather, and is due to arrive on July 27.

However, several people at the queues continue to carry large bottles and tanks to stock up.

“I am collecting as much petrol as I can. I have already gone to the other two station and gotten 10 liters of petrol. If we run out, it would make life very difficult,” said a middle-aged man, back at the queues to get his 15th liter.

Additional reporting and writing by Zaheena Rasheed


STO reduces price of onions and potatoes

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has reduced the price of onions and potatoes ahead of the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The price of onions was lowered from MVR12 to MVR10 per kilo and from MVR250 to MVR220 per bag.

The price of potatoes was lowered from MVR12 per kilo to MVR9 per kilo and from MVR250 to MVR180 per bag.

The price changes took effect today. The state-owned enterprise said it was able to reduce prices as the cost of the next shipment of onions and potatoes had changed favourably.

The price of eggs meanwhile remain unchanged at MVR1.50 per egg and MVR270 per case.

Long queues were reported outside STO shops this week following hikes in the prices of eggs, onions, and potatoes in the market.


Four paramedic ambulances arrive

The government has brought in four paramedic ambulances to the Maldives yesterday.

State minister for health Hussain Rasheed told Haveeru that the government plans to introduce paramedic ambulance services in Malé, Laamu atoll, and Addu City.

The health ministry signed an agreement with the State Trading Organisation (STO) in November 2014 to bring in 54 ambulances for use in the atolls.

The health ministry said at the time that the ambulances would cost US$2.5 million.

Then-acting health minister Mohamed Nazim had said at the time that the government will provide an ambulance to all inhabited islands by June this year.


STO to sponsor speech therapist for children with Down syndrome

The state wholesaler State Trading Organisation (STO) has pledged to sponsor a speech therapist for an organisation working for the rights of children with down syndrome.

Founder of Beautiful Eyes, Aishath Shifa, welcomed the offer, saying children with down syndrome suffer speech delays which impair the development of other skills.

STO managing director Ahmed Shaheer said the company will allocate a special budget for children with disabilities under its corporate social responsibility programme.

STO donated ten bicycles yesterday to the Maldives Police Services to patrol Malé’s suburb Vilimalé.


STO raises fuel price by MVR1

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has raised the price of fuel by MVR1 effective March 11.

STO said the price hike reflects rising oil prices in the global market.

The price of both diesel and petrol is now MVR11 per litre.

On January 19, STO reduced the price of diesel and petrol from MVR12.37 and MVR12.33, respectively, to MVR10 in light of a decline in global oil prices.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority’s economic review for January, “the price of crude oil fell by 22 percent in monthly terms and by 54 percent in annual terms and stood at US$47.5 per barrel at the end of January 2015. This is the lowest recorded since March 2009.”


STO head Azim dismissed from post

The government has sacked State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim, brother of former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz tweeted yesterday that the government has appointed Ahmed Shaheer, formerly head of the procurement department, to the post of managing director.

Speaking at the organisation’s 50th anniversary celebration in January – just days after Nazim’s dismissal, but prior to his arrest – President Abdulla Yameen had said that managing directors of state owned companies should not expect their jobs to be permanent if they do not perform well.

Former defence minister Nazim is accused of plotting to harm senior government officials. He is also facing illegal weapons charges after police allegedly discovered a hand gun, ammunition, an improvised explosive device, and a pen drive containing incriminating documents at his home.

Nazim has repeatedly denied the claims, accusing tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb of framing him. Nazim’s defense team has raised questions over the transparency of the trial and accused Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin of politicising the case.

Nazim’s wife Afaaf Abdul Majeed was also charged along with Nazim before the state withdrew charges on the first hearing. saying that they had found new evidence on the pen drive that proved Afaaf was not involved.


Fuvahmulah Airport handed to government after costing STO MVR170 million

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has been losing MVR12 million (US$ 780,000) per year since Fuvahmulah Airport opened in 2011, Managing Director Ahmed Azim told Haveeru.

“I requested the government to take over the airport because it has been causing that much damage to the company,” said Azim, noting that the state-owned company had lost in excess of MVR170 million (US$11 million) since the airport opened.

Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the STO last week, President Abdulla Yameen said that he does not believe the STO will ever earn profit from the airport.

“Even though STO had to suffer numerous losses and had to bleed because of it, it has constructed an airport at Fuvahmulah,” said President Yameen – who had previously served as Chairman of STO. “We have decided to take over the airport and re-compensate the company for its losses.”

Upon assuming the presidency in November 2013, Yameen declared the STO bankrupt before Azim announced a campaign to cut operational costs by MVR50 million (US$3,242,542) in 2014.

Last week Yameen warned that “managing directors of state owned companies will change if the companies cannot perform” to the required standard, shortly after the dismissal of Maldives Airports Company Ltd chairman Ibrahim ‘Bandhu’ Saleem.

Despite being constructed as part of the STO’s social responsibility, the airport was not economically viable, said Yameen, warning that the boardrooms of state owned companies should consider such investments more carefully in the future.

Yameen did, however, call upon the STO to widen its scope into international global markets. He spoke of diversifying the company into numerous fields such as shipping and oil tanker operation, while promising government support for such ventures.

Fuvahmulah Airport – which has a runway of 1200 km runway – was constructed and opened in 2011 by the STO during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration. It operates flights to Malé and Gan International Airport, to the south.

Nasheed tweeted today that the airport would yield profits if the originally envisioned tourism activity were to be developed. The single island atoll has no resorts, and only a single guest house registered with the tourism ministry.

During his presidential election campaign in 2013, Nasheed had pledged to transform the island via 70 separate development projects, as well as awarding it city status.

With 8,579 people, according to the 2014 census, Fuvahmulah has the fourth largest population of any island in the Maldives.

Related to this story

President Yameen urges STO to enter international markets

Nazim dismissed as defence minister, replaced by Moosa Ali Jaleel

State Trading Organisation bankrupt: President Yameen


President Yameen urges STO to enter international markets

President Abdulla Yameen has called on the State Trading Organisation (STO) to widen the company’s scope into the international global markets.

At a ceremony held at Dharubaaruge last night to mark the company’s 50th anniversary, Yameen spoke of diversifying the company into numerous fields including the establishment of a national shipping line and operation of oil tankers, assuring the government’s support in these ventures.

“We must find ways to reduce the price of oil and to find low priced oil,” Yameen said.

Oil exploration – via the STO’s subsidiary Maldives National Oil Company – was an election pledge of President Yameen, with a German research vessel conducting oil and gas exploration research in August 2014.

Expressing his confidence that diversification into shipping would reduce costs, especially oil prices, Yameen said that the STO cannot always remain a small scale retailer.

The STO is the country’s primary wholesaler, responsible for bringing in the vast majority of basic foodstuffs such as rice and flour, as well as other imported commodities such as electrical goods

The president also warned that “managing directors of state owned companies will change if the companies cannot perform” to the required standard.

Yesterday (January 22), Ibrahim ‘Bandhu’ Saleem was dismissed from the post of Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL). No specific reason was given regarding the decision.

Yameen said yesterday evening that his office was working with the treasury to audit state-owned companies in order to determine whether they are reaching set targets as well as to categorise the firms and to align their pay structures to ensure employees are paid fairly.

According to Article 212 of the Constitution the auditor general has the authority and power to audit all institutions primarily funded by the state and “any business entity, in which shares are owned by the State”.

The STO launched an austerity campaign twelve months ago, pledging to cut operations costs by MVR50 million by the end of 2014 after President Yameen had declared the company bankrupt upon assuming office in November 2013.

“Not only does STO not have dollars, it does not have Maldivian Rufiyaa either. Funding the oil import through STO is now a burden for the state,” said Yameen at the time of the announcement.

Managing Director at the STO Adam Azim said last month that the company’s debts will be paid off within three years, telling Haveeru that its US$144 million (MVR1.7 billion) debt was unprecedented, and that US$51 million had been paid off during his tenure as a result of reductions in expenditure.

Meanwhile, Haveeru yesterday published corruption allegations against Azim – the brother of recently dismissed Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim.

The paper reported that it has obtained a copy of an Anti-Corruption Commission report which says Azim attempted to use the state-owned company’s money to influence the Football Association of Maldives’ congress.

Haveeru suggested the report revealed attempts to have a relative appointed to the post of FAM president through sponsorship money given to football clubs with voting rights in the congress.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Muaz said that no decision regarding the removal of Azim had been made and that relevant authorities and institutions will investigate and proceed with the issue of any corruption allegations.

Azim appeared alongside the president at yesterday’s anniversary celebrations.

Related to this story

State Trading Organisation bankrupt: President Yameen

Yameen bring changes to state institutions following Nazim dismissal

STO to pay off debts in three years


STO hands over biomedical equipment worth US$900,000 to the health ministry

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has handed over biomedical equipment worth US$900,000 to the health ministry.

Yesterday (December 20) STO Managing Director Adam Azim handed over 1500 pieces of equipment including patient monitors, ECG machines, defibrillators, and vital sign monitors to acting health minister Mohamed Nazim at a ceremony at Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

The shipment is the first in a US$4million venture to provide all necessary equipment to all the hospitals and health centers in the Maldives.

As the STO marks its 50th anniversary this year, the company has expanded its services in the islands, launching an ambitious programme along with the health ministry to provide ambulances and establish pharmacies on every island.

The government intends to establish ambulance services in all 196 inhabited islands by June 2015, Nazim has said. The STO has been commissioned to buy 54 ambulances worth US$2.5 million.

Basic Services

Speaking to the press on the STO’s anniversary yesterday, Azim said the company’s most significant success is that it has consistently provided Maldivian citizens with fuel, staples, and pharmaceuticals.

The state-owned STO is the country’s primary wholesaler, responsible for bringing in the vast majority of basic foodstuffs such as rice and flour, as well as other imported commodities such as electrical goods.

Azim told Haveeru last week that the STO’s US$114 million (MVR1.7 billion) debt was unprecedented, but that US$51 million had been paid off during his tenure as a result of reductions in expenditure. He pledged to pay off the remaining debt within three years.

According to quarterly reports, the STO earned MVR325.6 million in profits in this year’s third quarter from MVR2.1 billion worth of sales after earning MVR64.2 million in the second quarter.

Documents were confiscated from the organisation’s head office late last month, however, with the Anti Corruption Commission alleging illegal payments for advertising.

In September, Azim also launched a programme to increase national spirit among his staff. The STO workday now starts with the national anthem. The national flag is to be hoisted at all STO buildings and now adorns STO uniforms and staff cards.

The company has announced a sale in all of its 13 stores on the occasion of it’s 50th anniversary. A lucky draw with MVR200,000 worth of prizes will also be held.

Pharmaceuticals, construction materials, oil

Under the programme to establish pharmacies on every island, the STO opened up its 48th pharmacy in Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo last month. Customers will get Aasandha healthcare coverage at all the pharmacies.

Over 1000 pharmacists – or five individuals from each island – will be trained for the newly opened facilities under an agreement with the education ministry, Azim has previously announced.

President Abdulla Yameen, speaking in Haa Alif Horafushi in November, said the new pharmacies would provide medicine at controlled and reduced prices, acknowledging that the move would affect private businesses selling medicine.

Yameen’s comments came in response to a complaint filed by Shaviyani Atoll Council at the People’s Majlis in which councillors said the STO’s pharmacies would shutdown pharmacies run by the island councils in various islands in the atoll.

The councils’ pharmacies had been established through an atoll trust fund and were among the most profitable businesses in the atoll, said the council, arguing that their closure would impact the atoll council’s MVR1.3 million social sector programme.

The Majlis threw out the petition, however, asking councilors to resolve the matter with STO.

The STO decreased oil prices for the second time in response to falling global prices last week. A litre of petrol was reduced by MVR1 and 75 laari was reduced from a litre of diesel.

The Housing Development Corporation has awarded the company with an 800 square foot plot of land near the ferry terminal in Hulhumalé for the establishment of a fuel shed, making Malé rates available to residents from next year.

The STO closed the popular Al-Fresco café at the STO Trade Center in early November to expand its supermarket, while the company also held a career guidance fair for youth in mid-November to increase awareness of opportunities available at the STO and its subsidiary companies.

In September, an agreement was signed with Maldives Association of Construction Industries to provide cut-price construction material for government projects in an attempt to restart stalled work.

Related to this story

STO to import oil, staples and pharmaceuticals only

STO launches campaign to cut operational costs by MVR 50 million

STO’s Hulhumalé hotel to be completed in one year

State Trading Organisation bankrupt: President Yameen