Airport Upgrade, ITB Berlin, Coconut Scarcity

Wednesday, March 8

A dividend of MVR3.04 per share for 2022 was approved at Ooredoo’s annual general meeting. The AGM took place at the Crossroads resort with 125 attendees.

Last year, the company distributed a dividend of MVR2.70 per share for 2021, down from the pre-pandemic record of MVR3.30 per share in 2019.

The Qatari telco’s Maldives subsidiary earned a profit after tax of MVR560 million (US$36 million) in 2022, according to audited financial statements. The mobile and internet service provider – whose shares are listed on the Maldives Stock Exchange – generated revenues of MVR1.9 billion in 2022.

Wednesday, March 8

The Velaa Private Island resort paid the highest service charge in February with US$2,431 per staff, followed by Ritz-Carlton (US$2,407), Cheval Blanc Randheli (US$2,243), Waldorf Astoria (US$2,005) and One&Only Reethi Rah (US$1,556).

Tourist establishments are legally mandated to collect a service charge of at least 10% from tourists, which must be distributed equally among employees after deducting no more than 1% as an administrative cost.

The Maldives welcomed 177,914 tourists in February, up 19.4% from the same month last year and the highest figure for the past five years.

A total of 350, 413 tourists visited by the end of February, a robust growth of 24.8% compared to the first two months of 2022. 

As of 28 February, Russia was the top market with 44,748 tourists, representing a market share of 12.8%, followed by India (38,109), United Kingdom (32,566), Italy (32,395), and Germany (22,995). The average duration of stay was eight days.

Arrivals in January were up 13.8% from the same month in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 – a whopping 31% increase compared to January 2022 as Chinese holidaymakers returned after a hiatus of nearly three years. A total of 10,071 Chinese tourists were recorded by the end of February. 

Businesses that buy U.S. dollars above the official exchange rate can include the expense in their tax returns, the finance ministry informed parliament. But documentation would be required to verify the expense within cost of sales.

The Maldives has a floating exchange rate within a 20% band with an upper limit of MVR15.42 per US$1. But a persisting dollar shortage forces most businesses to buy dollars from the black market at rates that often exceed MVR17.

The central bank is formulating a “de-dollarisation policy” to address the longstanding problem, the finance ministry said.

Appearing in parliament on Monday, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer defended the accumulation of debt during the Covid-19 crisis. The economy recovered from the pandemic because of the loans taken to plug the massive shortfall in revenue, he contended.

Echoing advice by the International Monetary Fund, a Public Expenditure Review by the World Bank released in August suggested that the Maldives has a “small window of opportunity” to avoid a looming debt crisis. Payments of US$600 million will come due in 2026.

The price of mature coconuts soared to MVR1,600 (US$104) per bulk bag (burlap sack). The price previously ranged between MVR250 and MVR300 at the local market in Malé, where individual coconuts could now cost up to MVR15.

The fivefold increase was blamed on a shortage of supplies from other islands, raising concern ahead of an expected spike in demand during Ramadan.

Vendors at the local market told state media that the number of Maldivians who pick coconut has been steadily declining over the years. Foreign workers who have taken up the job demand higher pay, they complained. Periodic outbreaks of diseases that affect coconut palms was cited as another factor.

Coconuts have also been imported from neighbouring countries due to the shortage. The agriculture ministry is in the process of setting up a nursery to grow coconut palms in Hanimadhoo.

Ensis Fisheries congratulated a fishing boat for breaking the record for the most yellowfin tuna weighed for purchase in a single day.

The ‘Bandharee’ vessel from Faafu Feeali caught more than 14 tonnes in a single trip. Ensis chairman Mohamed Waseem visited the boat and presented gifts to the crew. The previous record was 865kg last year.

The bulk of Maldivian fish exports was traditionally fresh skipjack tuna. A multi-day hand-line fishery targeting surface dwelling large yellowfin tuna developed after the government offered licenses to private businesses in 2009. A high-value catch of 45,000 metric tonnes was recorded in 2012, a more than fivefold increase compared to 2008. Ensis is the largest fresh yellow fin tuna exporter. 

Tuesday, March 7

Saudi Arabian budget airline Flynas announced plans to introduce direct flights to the Maldives during the summer.

The Maldives is among four new routes to be served from the low-cost carrier’s base at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

Tuesday, March 7

The Maldives returned to the ITB Berlin fair in the German capital after a three-year hiatus. It was the first in-person event of the world’s largest travel exhibition since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some 233 representatives from 91 companies joined officials from the tourism ministry and the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to make up the country’s largest delegation at the annual event.

The Maldives was showcased with “a double-decker stand” in a 504 square metre space, which included  91 counters and 73 dedicated tables, according to the MMPRC. The stand featured traditional Maldivian dance performances and guests were offered samples of Dhivehi delicacies.

The president and first lady toured the Maldives stand on Wednesday.

Monday, March 6

The Bank of Maldives enabled One Time Passwords (OTPs) for all QR payments through its mobile app.

“Once updated, the BML Mobile Banking app will allow customers to make Scan to Pay transactions of any amount using an OTP that can be generated via Authenticator, SMS or email,” the bank explained.

On Friday, the bank enabled email alerts for failed attempts to login to internet or mobile banking.

The new security features are among steps taken in response to a surge in scams where customers have lost money through fraudulent transactions.

“We will continue our efforts to protect our customers and will announce further enhancement to our security features at the end of March. Scams evolve over time, and we urge everyone to be aware of scam tactics and never share personal information with anyone,” the national bank said.

Monday, March 6

Sunday, March 5

Renaatus Projects was awarded a US$17 million project to upgrade and expand the Gan International Airport in Addu City. A contract was signed between the Indian company and the government-owned Addu International Airport.

Financed by a line of credit from the Indian EXIM Bank, the expansion of the southernmost atoll’s airport “entails the development of duty free shops, lounges, restaurants, ATC, cargo facilities, roads and parking areas as well as the expansion of the passenger terminal with the capacity to handle 1.5 million passengers per annum,” according to the economic development ministry. The project is due to be completed in early 2025.

Sunday, March 5

Saturday, March 4

The Maldives Association of Human Resource Professionals (MAHRP) hosted the National HR Convention and Expo 2023.

First Lady Fazna Ahmed spoke as chief guest at the opening ceremony, suggesting that “good leaders would help employees ensure work-life balance and embrace flexibilities such as flexitime and telecommuting.”

Saturday, March 4