Govt plans to extend provision of income support for next three months

The government is preparing for a situation where an adequate number of tourists do not visit the tourism dependent island nation in the coming months.

Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail said the government is preparing for such a circumstance and are taking measures to ensure that adequate support is given to the public.The minister said the government has made the decision to extend the provision of income support allowance to include more people whose employment have been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working to extend the provision of income support allowance to July, September and October, and are trying to include additional people who did not initially qualify for the allowance under the current policies. We are currently in the process of completing some legal requirements to enable it,” said the minister.

Fayyaz said although upto 40,000 people are said to have lost employment due to the pandemic, the actual number would be lower due to steps taken by the government.

“Around 1,500 people registered at the job centre. The exact figure is 1,449. 928 people’s job status was affected, for an example, they were forced to go on no pay leaves. For most people, their salary was reduced,” said Fayyaz.

The minister said the government was working on stimulus packages to assist businesses, and said the government intends to stimulate the economy by ensuring government projects are awarded to local parties. Additionally, instead of targeting loan assistance to all businesses, the government intends to focus on viable businesses that can remain afloat.

The government has issued MVR 35 million thus far as income support to 8,488 individuals. While loan repayments have been deferred for 17,000 individuals, SME Development Finance Corporation, SDFC has issued loans worth MVR 300 million. The Bank of Maldives, BML has also issued over MVR 400 million as loans.

The Maldives reopened its borders on July 15 after closing it earlier in March as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. Although more tourists were expected to visit upon border reopening, only 2000 tourists have visited the archipelago thus far. Tourism experts say a substantial amount of tourists are expected to arrive starting October.