Monday, July 28, 2008

IFC consortium to invest in Maldives' housing sector

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, and HDFC Investments, a subsidiary of HDFC, are investing in Maldives to help reduce the country's severe housing shortage.

The equity and loan investment package will enable privatisation of state-run Maldives' Housing Development Finance Corporation and transform it into a commercially viable private sector-led company, a press release issued here today said.

The equity component of the package is around $12.75 million. IFC and ADB will each invest around $4.5 million, while HDFC Investments will invest $3.75 million, the release said, adding that IFC and ADB will also provide a $7.5 million loan each to support the project.

There is an urgent need for housing in Maldives, which faces a growing population and pressure on limited land resources.

HDFC-Maldives was established by the Maldives government in 2004 to provide long-term mortgage financing, the release added.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet Dreams at Sun Spa at Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort - Announcing The First Sleep Spa Concept In The Maldives

Sun Spa at IruFushi Beach & Spa Resort, due to open in summer 2008, will launch the first Sleep Spa concept in the Maldives. In collaboration with the resort team, the programme, entitled Sweet Dreams, has one main goal – to help adults and children relax and to catch up on that much needed sleep that many of them can only dream of doing whilst on holiday.

A holiday is something to look forward to, however, the stresses of modern day life can often take their toll and the sheer effort of getting away from work, let alone packing a suitcase and coping with any airport dilemmas can often be quite traumatic. So much so, that even whilst away in the most tranquil of surroundings, it can take some the entire holiday to begin to relax and catch up on their sleep.

For Adults, the Sweet Dreams programme includes:
- Special afternoon and evening spa treatments to encourage a siesta or good night’s sleep
- A yoga specialist who will offer private classes teaching special breathing techniques and stretching exercises designed to encourage relaxation
- Special teas designed to aid sleep
- Massages and baths with essential sleep-inducing oils
- A special extended pillow menu including buckwheat pillows, memory foam pillows, sidesleeper pillows, etc...
- A sleep concierge who is on-call so if guests can’t sleep they can ring for encouragement
- CD’s of poetry, music or a talking book which can be delivered to the room so Sweet Dreams guests can listen to their very own bedtime story
- A Sleep-All-Night-Cap, a special cocktail created by the resort-team using ingredients to aid sleep

Parents can rest assured that the younger member’s won’t lose sleep on holiday either as the Sweet Dreams resort plan extends to children, too. It includes:
- A selection of children’s books that can be borrowed from the library for a bedtime story
- Early evening dinner buffet, bedtime story groups and slumber parties, hosted in conjunction with the kid’s club
- Audio-book or music-related CD’s for children to listen to as they fall asleep
- Sleep inducing drinks such as warm milk or hot chocolate

Commenting on the new Sweet Dreams concept, Tina Dotzauer, PR & Marketing Manager for IruFushi’s Sun Spa says, “We have customised some of the Sun Spa pavilions to include low and mood lighting and special relaxing aromatherapy. It’s customary spa practice to leave a guest to relax for a few minutes after a treatment, but so many times we hear how they would prefer just to stay where they are and take a nap after their massages. Guests on the Sweet Dreams programme will be able to do just that, leaving the spa not just thoroughly relaxed but also refreshed and energised after enjoying a wholesome siesta.”

“In addition, the Sun Spa yoga specialist will show guests who book the 1-week “Sweet Dreams” program how to fill in a sleep diary, which will be discussed each day and aims to give a useful insight into each individual’s sleep patterns and will ultimately help with techniques for sleeping more soundly.”

The Sweet Dreams packages can be pre-booked via Sun Spa’s website or on arrival at IruFushi Beach & Spa Resort. Prices start from US$160 per adult.

Source: MTPB

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Official Opening of the Deluxe Wing of Hulhule Island Hotel

The new Deluxe wing of Hulhule Island Hotel was officially inaugurated by His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of Republic of Maldives on June 02, 2008. Speaking at the ceremony, the President said that following the inauguration of the Hotel in 2001, over the past seven years, the Hotel has become a key member of the travel and trade business in the Maldives. He also said that the Hotel has become well-known for its excellent services and the hospitality offered to tourists.

Further, the President noted that the rapid rise in prominence of the Hotel and the inauguration of its new deluxe wing today is the result of the good management of the Hotel and the high standards of service offered by its staff. In his speech, the President noted that the Hotel is vital both to the Male’ International Airport and to the tourism industry as it increases the conveniences offered to travellers, being the only transit style hotel on the airport. The President also said that the future of tourism in the Maldives is bright and that the growth of tourism sector offers a vast number of job opportunities for Maldivians.

In the ceremony, the President was presented with a commemorative gift. The presentation was made by the Chief Executive Officer and President of Singapore Airport Terminal Services, Mr. Clement Woon.

The Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Airport Terminal Services, Mr. Clement Woon, Chairman of Maldives In-flight Catering, Mr. Ali Hussain Didi and the General Manager of Hulhule Island Hotel, Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar also spoke at the ceremony. The Directors of MIC Mr. Yacoob Piperdi, Mr. Peter Tay, Mr. Ahmed Shakeeb and Mr. Ibrahim Amir also shared the stage on this occasion.
After the inauguration ceremony, the President toured the new deluxe wing of Hulhule Island Hotel along with the distinguished guests. He was shown around the newly developed landscaping, Deluxe and Super Deluxe rooms by the General Manager of Hulhule Island Hotel, Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar followed by the refreshments at the Uduvilaa restaurant. The President was appreciative about the developments in the hotel.

The new wing comprises of 51 Deluxe and Super Deluxe rooms that have a superior style, design, theme and finishes. All the guest rooms have a better sea view as there is a balcony with each of the rooms. In this new wing, Hulhule Island Hotel also has extended other facilities such as a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of both Male and the Indian Ocean. The revised inventory for Hulhule Island Hotel is now 136 rooms inclusive of various categories of rooms on offer.

It is worth noting that Hulhule Island Hotel was also adjudged as the ‘Best Culinary Establishment’ at Maldives in the Hotel Asia Exhibition & Culinary Challenge 2008. This was the second time in succession that Hulhule Island Hotel has bagged the honours.

Source: MTPB

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dr. Abdulla Mausoom appointed as the new Minister of Tourism

Dr. Abdulla Mausoom has been appointed as the new Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation on 15th July 2008.

Dr. Mausoom also headed Maldives Tourism Promotion Board from 2004 until his appointment as the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation 0n 21st February 2008.

Dr. Mausoom was sworn in following the resignation of Dr. Mahamood Shaugee who has accepted the President’s request for his service as the Vice-Chancellor of the first University to be established in the Maldives.

Source: MTPB

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maldives minister quits over tourism resorts plan

Maldives Tourism Minister Mahmoud Shaugee said on Sunday he had resigned from the government over plans to lease more than 30 new resorts to make up for a $180 million budget shortfall.

"The submission of my resignation is now official. I submitted it on 3 July," Shaugee told Reuters.

"My intention today is not to challenge the government, but we have differences of opinion -- on policy issues."

It was not immediately clear if President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had accepted the resignation, which follows that of Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim on Thursday.

Shaugee's resignation follows the government's decision earlier this month to lease 31 new resorts to bridge a $180 million shortfall in revenues.

The funds had been expected to be generated by a privately funded investment in a new trans-shipment port on the popular tourism destination, but the project has been postponed with no start date fixed.

The new round of resort leases had not figured in the Tourism Ministry's 2007-2011 masterplan and would have been carried out "without any planning," Shaugee said.

Shaugee is the sixth minister to leave the cabinet in the past 18 months.

On Thursday, finance minister Ibrahim quit, a day after an auditor's report revealed the 2008 state budget faced a deficit of 4.4 billion rufiyaa ($344 million).

The International Monetary Fund early this month warned the Maldives government to cut its "extraordinarily high level" of expenditure on state wages and subsidies and increase revenue collection or face possible high inflation.

($1 = 12.8 Maldivian Rufiyaa)


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Maldives President's policies create threat in Indian Ocean

The government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in Maldives is disturbing the balance of power in the Indian Ocean by wooing China, an Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader and presidential candidate Mohd Nasheed said.

"Flirting with China for very short-term gains is cheap politics, [it is] not in the best interests of Maldives or the Indian Ocean," he said in an interaction with serving and retired diplomats, and opinion makers, at Observer Research Foundation here, Asian Age reported.

The 41-year-old leader of a fledgling political party said with unusual candour that the "dictatorship" of President Gayoom, his China policy and Islamisation of the Maldivian society were creating security threats in the India Ocean area.

"Maldives' security and stability are linked to India," he added for good measure, to dispel a perception that his party is Eurocentric.

China has established a base in Marao.

It also helped to build the Maldivian foreign ministry in Male.

Nasheed is expected to meet foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon on Friday.

He will hold informal consultations with certain political parties here.

He has sought an appointment with National Security Adviser M.K.


He sought India's help for ensuring free and fair election in Maldives.

This tiny island nation with a population of three lakh would become the first "Muslim democratic country" in the world, if multi-party elections are held on time.

Gayoom's term ends on November 11 and elections are scheduled in or before October.

The Maldivian Parliament has approved a new Constitution but Gayoom is still to ratify it.

There is a 90-day waiting period for the President to ratify the new Constitution, after which it becomes law.

But Nasheed's party fears Gayoom could refer the Constitution back to Parliament with amendments.


Maldives finance minister quits over budget criticism

Maldives Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim resigned on Thursday after an independent auditor general criticised the country's budget.

Gasim confirmed his resignation to Reuters.

"I don't think I should be [in the minister post]," Gasim said, declining to comment further.

His resignation comes a day after a report by the Auditor General and the Financial Committee of parliament revealed the 2008 state budget faces a deficit of 4.4 billion rufiyaa ($344 million).

In his first report since being appointed the country's first independent Auditor General, Ibrahim Naeem also said the budget failed to meet some basic accounting principles.

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had rejected the report at a news conference on Thursday before Gasim's resignation.

"The auditor general's report does not have to be accepted by everyone," Gayoom said.

The International Monetary Fund last week warned the Maldives government to cut its "extraordinarily" high expenditure on state wages and subsidies and increase revenue collection or face possible high inflation.

The IMF said the 2008 budget posed risks to the Indian Ocean island nation's macroeconomic stability due to inadequate revenue and high government spending.

"The budget envisages overall expenditures of near 70 percent of GDP, an extraordinarily high level historically and internationally," the IMF said.

However, after the last week's IMF warning, Gasim told journalists there was no deficit.

Gasim is the fifth minister to leave the cabinet in the past eighteen months. ($1 = 12.8 Maldivian Rufiyaa) (Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by David Fox)


Maldives Aid urges citizens to 'Go vote'

Maldives Aid, as part of the Civil Society Network of the Maldives, today launched a new campaign in the capital Malé to urge citizens to vote in the country's first multi-party elections, expected in the coming months.

The 'Go Vote' campaign kicked off in Malé with a press conference introduced by Mariyam Seena, Co-ordinator of Maldives Aid. The conference included a keynote speech from Dr Peter Hayes, British High Commissioner to the Maldives, who gave his full support for the campaign and reform process in general. Questions from the press were answered by representatives of participating NGOs.[pictured above]

The campaign, which will last until the week before the presidential election, promotes voter awareness through a series of forums and music concerts, posters, TV and radio programs, and the dissemination of voter education booklets. It targets traditionally low turn-out groups such as women and young people in order to ensure the population of the Maldives participates as fully as possible on polling day.

The campaign will also travel to remote islands to verify the voter registry and educate islanders about democracy and the importance of engaging with their country's political future.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Maldives teachers strike over pay

About 1,500 teachers in the Maldives have began an indefinite strike after salary rises promised by the government failed to materialise.

The capital, Male, has been worst affected, with nearly half of all teachers on strike and many schools sending students home early.

The strike has hit all areas of a country made up of hundreds of islands.

Education Minister Zahiya Zareer said nearly a quarter of teachers did not turn up to work on Monday.


A teachers' association is now demanding that a pay structure agreed in late 2006 be put into place immediately after it backed down on earlier calls to double salaries.

"Since last year [the government] has been saying they will try, try, try. But teachers are no longer accepting their efforts," said Abdulla Mohamed, spokesperson for the Association of Teacher's Link.

An official at the education ministry sympathised with the teachers' demands but urged them to negotiate rather than strike.

The basic salary of a teacher is $329 a month, with an additional $157 for overtime and other benefits.

Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim said on Sunday that he could not accommodate their demands in this year's budget, which is already $180m short.

The teachers have now downgraded their demands, calling for immediate implementation of the original pay structure pledged around 18 months ago, which accords pay to qualifications and positions held.

The move comes after a series of pay rises to civil servants in the run-up to the country's first multi-party presidential elections, due to be held before 10 October.

It is the first time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has been in power for 30 years and is seeking a seventh term, will face opponents at the polls.

The strike is the second major industrial dispute the country has seen after a strike by taxi drivers in June 2007.

The government, which has faced criticism in the past for a crackdown on pro-democracy riots, did not recognise last year's strike.

But a new constitution, which is expected to be ratified by the president within weeks, will grant a host of democratic rights to citizens for the first time - including the right to take industrial action.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sri Lanka's Aitken Spence conglomerate has won an award for the best water villas in the Maldivian atolls

Aitken Spence's Adaaran ‘Prestige’ Water Villas in the Maldives won the ‘Maldives Leading Water Villas’ award at the World Travel Awards Asia and Indian Ocean Ceremony held in Shanghai.

The water villas had competed with several leading international brands operating in the Maldives, and were selected as the "Leading Water Villas” in the Indian Ocean’s prime destination, the group said in a statement.

The villas won as a result of innovative concepts, said Chethiya Perera, chief executive of Adaaran Resorts, Maldives, who also serves as director of Aitken Spence Hotels Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka.

Adaaran offers a high level of luxury such as a round-the-clock butler service and guests have the freedom to dine in any part of the resort at any time of the day with all the services that are provided in the dining hall, Aitken Spence says.

"At Adaaran, we differ ourselves by providing our valued guests unique concepts, offering luxury and the highest standards, in fulfilling their personal preferences and at Adaaran Prestige, guests tailor-make their own holiday and we deliver it," Perera said.

The 20 villas situated on Meedhupparu Island in Raa Atoll are equipped with private jacuzzis on their open sun decks, large screen LCD television and home theatre systems, a collection of DVDs and other facilities and amenities of a luxury boutique resort.


India To Increase Military Presence In Sri Lanka For SAARC Summit

Sri Lanka has approved India to send thousands of military personnel in Colombo ahead of next month's South Asian summit, the sources said on Sunday.

The heavy Indian security presence in Sri Lanka is a part of measure to protect Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attending SAARC Summit from July 27 to August 3 amid rising tension in the country.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has given approval to have Indian troops, helicopter gun ships, bullet-proof vehicles and other related security arrangements.

The local reports suggested that under the agreement, the Indian Navy will patrol and carry out surveillance in Sri Lankan territorial waters during the summit to ensure there are no terrorist attacks from the sea.

The presence of Indian navy along Sri Lanka's coast will ensure to avert any issues if the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacks the island's only international airport as it has done in the past.

The rebels have clashed with the authorities since 1983, killing at least 70,000 people, as the insurgents have been demanding for an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

The LTTE, which is considered as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, has been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland.

An Indian three-member delegation including top National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan had made the formal request during their meeting with President Rajapakse on June 21.

The annual gathering, SAARC Summit, will have top leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The local media said Sri Lankan authorities have reduced the access to some of the regions in the country, fearing LTTE attack.