Maldives a carbon technology lab for the world: Sunday Times

The Maldives, aiming to be a zero-carbon nation by 2020 ahead of any other country, is like a ‘lab’ of technology for the world where future ways of reducing carbon into the atmosphere is developed here before being implementing across the world, writes Feizal Samath for Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times.

A two-day technology road-show in Male, the capital on May 9-10 which brought industry, technocrats and government officials from 22 countries including the five largest economies in the world – US, China, Japan, India and Germany, showcasing technological advances and knowledge.

President Mohamed Nasheed and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam attended the event with Miss Universe 2005, Natalie Glebova.

According to Tourism Minister, Mariyam Zulfa, the Ministry recently signed a MoU with Swiss-based myclimate to prepare a strategy for voluntary carbon offsetting measures. “We will be looking at things like developing a model eco island as a resort of the future. We are working on the carbon footprint. While the airlines will look after themselves, the resorts are also looking at renewable energy for most of their needs,” she said adding however that the biggest challenge is the diesel that goes into generators which are used by all resorts.

If in 2010 it was worry about islands sinking, then this year the climate change-savvy country says there are much more serious issues.

“Sea level is rising but that’s not our main challenge,” noted Aslam, adding that shifting of islands when the sea level rises is a more complex issue.

“The islands are a dynamic feature and when sea level rises there would be changes. If you look at the morphology (structure of organism) these islands sit within a reef system. As the water level rises the hydrodynamics within the reef system will also change.

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Handling of economy affects popularity of Maldivian President: Sunday Times

Maldivian authorities have placed a restriction on the repatriation of foreign currency by expatriate workers including Sri Lankans to tackle an acute shortage of US dollars in the market, writes Feizal Samath for Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, a move that recently triggered protests in the island nation.

“The restrictions, according to rules enforced in a gazette notification by the Maldivian Monetary Authority (Central Bank) on Friday, permits workers to remit their contracted salary and nothing more.

“The foreign exchange crisis in the Maldives has been precipitated by ballooning budget deficits spilling over from the regime of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“Huge capital expenditure on new development which is not matched by revenue has widened the trade balance and precipitated the foreign exchange crisis. Banks have limited the issue of dollars. Most banks are limiting the issue of dollars against the rufiya (local currency) for repatriation, a move which has also affected tourism, the country’s main foreign exchange earner, and even for local business.

“’There is absolute confusion in the industry about how much can be retained by us in dollars (for our work). There are no clear guidelines,’” said a resort owner, accusing the government of mismanaging the economy.

“New taxes to be enforced in July on income and business profits, for the first time in the Maldives, have affected President Mohamed Nasheed’s popularity and led to a week of protests against cost of living and alleged corruption. Another new tax, Tourism GST was enforced from January.

“Prices of essential commodities have escalated and inflation has sharply risen mainly due to the shortage of dollars in the market. The Maldives imports all its needs except fish. Its main foreign earnings comes from the bed tax from tourism and fish exports while local taxes in the past have been limited to import duties and levies.

“The President’s chief spokesman Mohamed Zuhair, while acknowledging that the new measures have affected government’s popularity, has accused opposition parties and disgruntled businessmen unhappy over the taxes, of instigating the violent protests by youths, and also blamed unscrupulous traders for jacking up prices.

“He said while taxes were inevitable and had been announced a long time ago, the latest round of protests came after Mr Gayoom broke away from the main opposition DRP and formed his own faction.
Opposition spokesman Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Shareef rejected the claim and said the protests were a natural reaction of the people against rising food prices and what he called ‘a corrupt regime’.”

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Sri Lanka can learn from the Maldives: Sunday Times

Fancy sharply pruning down the cost of the president’s office or any government ministry or department for that matter? Maybe we can learn some lessons from the Maldives, a tiny island state which is having a major voice in the global climate change debate, writes the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka.

Young, vibrant, frank and honest, the young Nasheed has enforced some cuts which to most governments would be impossible. Consider this: The President’s Palace (residence) and its 300-strong staff previously cost the government 400 million rufiya (about $30.7 million) to run. The new President has cut it, virtually to the bone, and now the cost of running the residence is 27 million rufiya! How? He has moved to a smaller house and cut staff at the residence to 23.

The island nation of more than 1000 atolls has undertaken a stringent cost cutting exercise to rid the country of extravagant spending and channelling all this valuable money to social spending including a new social insurance scheme. This is happening under the new regime of Mohamed Nasheed who was elected President of the Maldives in November 2008, ending the 30-year reign of Mamoon Abdul Gayoom.

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