Negative Outlook, Hotel Asia, Taxpayer Default

Thursday, October 13

Global credit ratings agency Fitch revised the outlook for the Maldives down from stable to negative but maintained the B- default rating.

The negative outlook reflected an “assessment that tightening global financial conditions are intensifying the Maldives’ external liquidity strains, even though tourism has made a remarkable recovery to pre-pandemic levels. A sharp decline in foreign-exchange buffers, if sustained, could complicate the government’s external debt-servicing and maintenance of the currency peg to the US dollar,” Fitch explained. 

“The ratings also balance the Maldives’ strong GDP growth and some favourable structural indicators, such as per capita GDP, relative to ‘B’ peers, against a high government debt burden, and its vulnerability to shocks that could undermine prospects for tourism.”

Thursday, October 13

Briefing the press on the country’s economic situation, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer reiterated assurances that the Maldives is not facing any difficulty in managing debt or any danger of a sovereign default. Economic growth is stronger than forecast as the tourism industry recovered faster than expected, he explained.

Preparations were underway to present an MVR41.5 billion (US$2.6 billion) state budget for 2022 to parliament, he said.

Customs collected MVR351 million (US$22 million) as revenue in September, up 25% from the previous year, as imports grew by 27% compared to the same period last year. But exports declined by 4% from September 2021.

Wednesday, October 12

Dubai-based low-cost carrier flydubai announced the launch of new daily flights to Gan International Airport on 4 February 2023.

Economy class fares start from US$550.

The budget airline started operations in the Maldives in 2013 with flights to the Velana International Airport near Malé. The new daily service to the southernmost atoll will increase its frequency to 28 flights a week. flydubai would be the first carrier from the UAE to operate flights to Addu City.

“This new service will reduce the commute time whether by boat or seaplane for those staying in resorts in the southern Atolls,” said CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith. “The Maldives continues to be one of the most popular leisure destinations for our customers from the UAE, GCC and CIS. The additional frequency to the market will further support connecting traffic from Europe as well.”

Wednesday, October 12

Tuesday, October 11

Karl Stumke, a South African with “over 36 years of experience leading banks at executive and board level in the Middle East, Africa, Indian Oceans and UK,” was announced as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Maldives.

Tuesday, October 11

Monday, October 10

 The Hotel Asia Exhibition returned for its 16th edition after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubbed “South Asia’s largest hospitality trade show,” the three-day fair at the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé featured 175 booths and stalls with domestic and foreign exhibitors showcasing their products and services. The International Culinary Challenge with hundreds of chefs from resorts and restaurants across the country was held concurrently with support from the Chefs Guild of Maldives.

With “top brands and suppliers who have excelled in the hospitality industry” in attendance, the exhibition served as an “arena for buyers to explore and source from recognised brands, network directly with international manufacturers whilst discovering the latest developments and trends in the market,” according to the event organisers.

Monday, October 10

The tax authority collected MVR1.4 billion (US$90 million) in September, down 29% from the same period last year as the deadline for the submission of the first interim income tax payment for 2021 had been deferred to September 2021.

The deadline for paying tourism land rent for the fourth quarter of 2022 was deferred to October as it fell on a public holiday last month.

Dhiraagu became the main sponsor of an underwater photo competition with a one-day shoot of 50 signature dive sites due to take place on 21 October.

The ‘Maldives 50 Best Sites’ photo contest was organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Ocean Geographic in association with the Maldives Alliance of Dive Operators to mark the 50th anniversary of tourism this year. An international judging panel will select the best photos.

The tourism ministry plans to hold the competition as an annual reef health check event.

A list of 135 companies that failed to pay goods and services tax, green tax and withholding tax for the period that ended on 31 December 2021 was published on the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority’s website, along with a list of 254 businesses that failed to file tax returns.  

The non-payers and non-filers include famous names such as Rhombus, Athama Marine, and Litus Automobiles.

Companies and individuals that have yet to pay the new income tax will also be named in October, MIRA previously announced. 

The “naming-and-shaming” is the first stage of the tax authority’s enforcement policy. After 15 days, the list of non-compliant companies will be published in the government gazette. Lawsuits to recover dues is the final stage. 

MIRA’s second quarter report revealed that the state is owed MVR15 billion (US$972 million) in unpaid taxes, rent and fines. Unpaid land rent for resorts and tourism sales tax account for the bulk of the arrears. 

It emerged in May that 12 resorts owed a combined MVR665 million in unpaid land rent. But action under the enforcement policy was deferred for the resorts to seek a negotiated settlement with the tourism ministry, it was reported in August.

Saturday, October 8

Students of the ‘Discover Hospitality’ programme jointly organised by the Universal Foundation and Villa College were awarded internships after completing a level three certificate course.

“Candidates undergo extensive skills training activities and demonstrate their knowledge and skills by applying them at the placement settings,” according to the foundation. “Building workplace etiquettes and promoting proper ethical values are important aspects of this programme. The programme produces individuals who are work-ready, who are capable of undertaking key responsibilities at service level”.

Saturday, October 8