Govt won't allow dockworkers to drive up prices, insists minister

Government would not allow dockworkers to drive up commodity prices following the change in regulation in cargo transportation within the capital Male, economic minister Mohamed Saeed insisted Tuesday.

In a bid to ease traffic congestion in the most densely populated city in the world, government had put a time limit on transporting cargo within the city with effect from Sunday.

Transport authority had initially planned to restrict transportation of cargo within the most densely populated city in the world from 10pm to 6am. However, following concerns raised by local businesses, the transport authority has now revised the time cap from 6pm to 6am giving businesses a 12 hour window to transport cargo.

Following the change to regulation, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) has now changed cargo clearance to after sunset.

Dockworkers who had been on strike from Sunday demanding better compensation for now having to work round the clock over the regulation change have now reportedly more than doubled their charges for clearing cargo from the main port in the capital.

Local businesses have warned that the significant increase in dockworkers' charges could lead them to raise prices.

However, the economic minister during a press conference insisted that the government would not allow anyone to use the change in traffic regulation as an excuse to drive up commodity prices.

Responding to reports of dockworkers raising their fee, the minister said the government would step in to ensure that no one exploited a "simple change to the traffic regulation."

"We spoke with a lot of local businessmen before we implemented this change. But I admit that businessmen would need sometime to adjust. But this should not be used to increase fees or prices. Because almost everyone has benefited from this change. So we would not allow dockworkers or anyone else to raise their fees," Saeed stressed.

The minister also warned dockworkers that raising their fees could force the government to takeover cargo clearance or lift the current cap on cargo clearance.

"The government will do whatever it takes to ensure that there is no increase in prices to the end consumer. If the dockworkers are raising their fees than we will get a government company to clear cargo or allow more people to offer the service," he warned.

Saeed said the ministry would set-up a hotline for the public to notify the government of any move to increase commodity prices.