The fisheries ministry signed an agreement with the UAE-based Aqua Bridge to build and operate a multi-species hatchery on the Maanaagalaa island in Gaaf Alif Atoll. The US$16 million aquaculture project is part of a World Bank-assisted sustainable fisheries development programme. The hatchery will mainly raise small sea cucumbers, brown-marbled groupers and bait fish. Multiple filtration systems for reusing water and ensuring good biosecurity will “allow for higher stocking densities, higher productivity, and higher survival,” according to the company.
A mariculture training centre is also under development on Kaafu Maniyafushi.
Associations representing guesthouses, resorts and travel agents opposed plans to hike the tourism goods and service tax (T-GST) from 12% to 16% in January 2023.
As parliament took up the government-sponsored legislation this week, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) appealed for a minimum 12-month notice for the tax increase. A quarter of bookings could be cancelled, the Guesthouse Association of Maldives warned the full house committee reviewing the bill, noting the mid-market sector’s 40% occupancy rate and low profit margin as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine. The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) estimated a 10% drop in tourist arrivals with a disproportionate effect on smaller tourism businesses. A survey of more than 300 tour operator partners, who collectively represent more than half of tourist arrivals, indicated “an unfavourable impact on demand” compared to reopened competitors such as Phuket and Bali.
“It’s difficult to pass on this cost to tour operators with whom we have signed one- or two-year agreements in advance,” Mohamed Khaleel, CEO of Pulse Resorts and Manta Air, told TTG Asia.
The Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, however, backed higher taxes on businesses.
The tax hikes are necessary to restore public finances to a sustainable footing after a “very big hit” from the pandemic, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer told the committee, estimating nearly MVR3 billion in additional revenue. The tourism industry continued to grow after the last tax increase and the associations were consulted about the government’s plans in June, he added.
Telecom service provider Dhiraagu secured a US$55 million loan facility from the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank to support investments in 5G services, high-speed fibre broadband to more islands and a Domestic Submarine Cable expansion project as well as Dhiraagu’s SEA-ME-WE 6 Submarine Cable System project, which aims to “connect the Maldives to the global superhighway.”
In a bid to encourage more use of its business portal, the economic development ministry introduced an online service for businesses to self-generate profile sheets, which can be submitted to banks and other service providers with a unique code for verification.
State-owned enterprises earned MVR10.2 billion (US$661 million) as revenue in Q1-2022, up 54% from the same period of last year, according to a quarterly review of 30 SOEs operating in the Maldivian market. A combined net profit of MVR1.94 billion was 36% higher than last year.
The highest earners were the State Trading Organisation, Housing Development Corporation and Maldives Airports Company Ltd. MACL recorded the highest net profit increment of MVR281 million with the growth of fuel sales.