New Airport, Euro Bond, Ramadan Prep

Thursday, March 16

The Bank of Maldives increased the limit of its Islamic personal financing up to MVR1.2 million (US$77,821). The shariah-compliant facility offers cash or financing for goods purchased from authorised dealers. Unsecured financing is available at a rate of 15% per year for up to five years.

Thursday, March 16

The State Trading Organisation reduced the wholesale price of onions, potatoes and eggs after assuring controlled prices for Ramadan. 

The price of onions was brought down from MVR170 (US$11) per bag to MVR160 per bag. Potatoes are available for MVR240 per kg (down from MVR250). Eggs are also MVR10 cheaper at MVR290 per case.

Every year, STO imports extra supplies to cater to soaring demand during the fasting month, which is expected to begin on 23 March.

The state-owned behemoth is the country’s primary wholesaler, responsible for importing the vast majority of staples such as rice, flour, and sugar.

In anticipation of higher volumes of perishables goods and shorter working hours, the Maldives Ports Limited meanwhile met with stakeholders on Tuesday to address concerns and discuss “changes brought to operational hours for the busy Ramazan period.”

Four new reach stacker vehicles were added to its terminal fleet in January “to accommodate the high demand and traffic” during Ramadan. Temporary sheds have also been set up at the Malé commercial harbour to speed up cargo clearance operations.

On Friday, STO opened a new outlet to serve the growing population in Hulhumalé phase two.

Wednesday, March 15

A new airport on Faresmaathoda island in the southern corner of Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll was officially inaugurated at an opening ceremony featuring fireworks.

Awarded in November 2020, the MVR136.68 million (US$8.8 million) domestic airport project was carried out by the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company, which built a 1,200-metre runway, taxiway, apron and a terminal with the capacity to serve 150 passengers per hour. A test flight landed on Monday.

“The design of the passenger terminal was inspired by the ‘Odiharuge,’ the traditional hut-like structure made from palm leaves and spines used for boat building, and features environmentally friendly aspects,” according to the president’s office.

The government’s air connectivity policy aims to have an airport within 20 to 30 minutes of all island communities. Three new airports are due to open in 2023 and construction will begin on four other domestic airports, the president announced.

Wednesday, March 15

The president ratified extensive changes approved by parliament to the public finance law.

The amendments outline new guidelines on the management of the Sovereign Development Fund (SDF) and includes provisions for waiving or permitting leniency on payments owed to local councils.

The SDF is intended “to ensure the long-term investment of state finances, debt repayment, and increase state revenue,” according to the president’s office.

A new post called Accountant General, tasked with managing public funds, would be formed along with an Internal Audit System, a Chief Internal Auditor and a seven-member Internal Audit Committee.

A separate chapter was added on the procurement system with processes for penalising violations.

Dredging for land reclamation to develop an industrial hub in Thilafushi is underway, according to the Housing Development Corporation, the state-owned developer of artificial islands near the capital.

“The aim is to create a sustainable and adaptable hub, and to streamline all industrial activities in the Greater Malé region to Thilafushi,” the HDC said. “This is essential for the country’s industrial growth and will also have the added benefit of reducing negative socio-economic and environmental impacts on the city.”

More than 150 hectares are to be reclaimed to expand the island and lease land for industrial use, including cement packing, gas bottling, boat manufacturing and large-scale warehousing

The artificial island was used since 1997 as a landfill for burning waste. Open burning ceased in 2021 as part of a multi-donor project that includes a waste-to-energy treatment plant.

The Maldives Marine Expo kicked off at the Central Park in Hulhumalé with more than 150 exhibitors. The annual four-day exhibition is the flagship event of the National Boating Association of Maldives.

A dive conference dubbed Adex Maldives took place in conjunction with the marine expo. On Friday, the ADK hospital launched a dive emergency hotline for the first time in the country. The private hospital in Malé recently opened a hyperbaric chamber for the treatment of decompression sickness.

The Bank of Maldives invited NGOs to seek financing from its Community Fund, which offers up to MVR50,000 (US$3,242) “to implement local projects in the areas of environment, education, sports and community development.”

The application deadline to submit proposals for 10 new projects is 15 April.

The bank funded 80 projects across the country over the past four years. On Sunday, the bank announced the completion of a fish filleting platform in Dhaalu Hulhudheli, a waiting area at the harbour in Laamu Mundoo and four classrooms in Laamu Fonadhoo.

The Housing Development Corporation opened a container data centre in Hulhumalé, the first of its kind in the Maldives. The project is part of HDC’s plans to develop Hulhumalé as a ‘smart city.’

The motor vehicle registration rules were changed to no longer require authorisation to import four-wheeled vehicles, streamlining registration to one process after arrival in the country.

Tuesday, March 14

The Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) completed the acquisition of its new refrigerated cargo ship. The Jazeera 103 has a freezing capacity of 120 metric tonnes per day with storage capacity of 420 metric tonnes, according to the government company, which suggested that the vessel was “sure to be a game changer in the industry.”

The ship was purchased to boost buying and storage capacity. Jazeera 103 is expected to arrive from South Korea in early April. Three new collector vessels with 60-tonne capacity have also been purchased and registered.

During bountiful fishing seasons in the southern atolls last year, fish catch exceeded MIFCO’s capacity, prompting protests from fishers.

Tuesday, March 14

The tax authority collected MVR1.72 billion (US$111.5 million) in February, up 18.6% from the same month last year but 20.8% below forecast.

Whilst receipts from the tourism sales tax, corporate income tax and non-resident withholding tax as well as airport taxes were higher than February 2022, the collection of goods and services tax in the domestic sector was lower than projected.

Many taxpayers chose to raise invoices before a tax hike from 6% to 8% took effect on 1 January, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority explained.

The economic development ministry announced longer business hours ahead of Ramadan. With effect on 15 March until seven days after Eid, shops can stay open from 5:30 a.m to 1:00 a.m.

During Ramadan, cafés and restaurants can stay open from 5:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. For the first week after Eid, food outlets can open at 4:30 a.m and close at 3:00 a.m. Licensed establishments can serve expatriates and tourists during the daytime in Ramadan.

On Monday, the transport ministry announced that carrying, loading and unloading goods in Malé would be banned between 4:30 p.m and 8:00 p.m during Ramadan.

As in previous years, government working hours will be from 9:00 a.m to 1 p.m.

The tourism ministry gazetted new rules for demarcating the boundary of a resort island’s lagoon.

If the lagoon extends 500 metres beyond the mean tide line at the beach, the area could be expanded to 1,000 metres with a fee of US$100,000. But dive points or surf breaks designated as a tourist attraction within the area cannot be considered part of the resort and the lagoon boundary must be marked up to such spots.

More than six years after the project was launched, the handover process began for the Aira luxury apartments built in Hulhumalé by Ensis Realty.

The complex has 94 apartments – including 45 three-bedroom units, 26 two-bedroom units, 13 studio units and 10 penthouse units – as well as a swimming pool, jacuzzi, children’s pool, gym and an events hall.

The company blamed delays on the Covid-19 pandemic, the change of a contractor and financial constraints.

Monday, March 13

A bond issue by Euro Marketing was listed on the Maldives Stock Exchange for secondary market trading. The 25-year-old company is a key supplier of beverages, chocolates, confectioneries and snacks to resorts, restaurants and retailers.

Euro Marketing’s MVR25 million (US$1.6 million) bond – the first by a private company in the Maldives – was fully subscribed within two months.

The bond was issued at a 7.5% interest rate and four-year repayment period. In an interview with Mihaaru on Sunday, the company’s co-founders attributed its success to a history of openness, innovation and risk-taking.

Monday, March 13

Sunday, March 12

Dhiraagu partnered with H One Sri Lanka to introduce Microsoft solutions in the Maldives. The Sri Lankan company is a Tier 1 Microsoft Licensing Solutions Partner and Cloud Solutions Partner with over a decade of experience in the Maldives. 

Microsoft products and services to be offered include Modern Work Cloud, Modern Work Security, Apps & Infra (Azure), Modern App development, and Data & Analytics. 

“With our combined strengths and expertise, we aim to provide a convenient one-stop solution to meet the evolving needs of our customers,” said Dhiraagu CEO Ismail Rasheed. 

Sunday, March 12

Thoddoo is ready to grow 200 tonnes of watermelon for Ramadan, the island council assured, predicting a daily supply of 5,000 to 8,000 kg to Malé. Most of the island’s 112 fields are dedicated to growing watermelons and farmers are expected to collectively earn MVR10 million (US$648,500) during the month.

Watermelon juice is a popular choice for the fast-breaking meal and demand peaks in Malé during Ramadan. The price at the local market was reported to have risen from MVR15 per kilo to MVR25 per kilo over the past week.

The finance ministry authorised government offices to make credit cards and gazetted guidelines for its use.

Saturday, March 11

The Housing Development Corporation signed agreements with six parties to develop outdoor cafés and restaurants in the Urban Boulevard or Channel Park in the intersection of phase one and two in Hulhumalé.

Saturday, March 11