May take upto two years for economy to recover: Pres Solih

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has stated that it would take approximately one to two years to recover from the setbacks caused to the economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delivering the presidential address at the first parliamentary session of 2021, President Solih said even though a timeline of approximately two years is expected to rebuild the economy, the government is working to increase economic activities such that the timeline is expedited.

In his address, the president noted that the government aims to ensure that the benefits of the tourism industry reaches all corners of the archipelago. In this regard, several plots of land from local islands were opened up for tourist hotel and guest house development last year, said the president. He further noted that changes were brought to the law such that individual villas and rooms in local resorts can be leased to other parties for extended periods, and said that it is an important step to expand the tourism sector.

President Solih further said 18 resorts, including those currently in development, will be opened this year, and 5,062 additional tourist beds will be put on the market. Therefore, over 9,000 new jobs will be available in the tourism sector within this year, said the president.

The president said in his address that the government prioritizes assisting businesses that are in trouble due to the pandemic. In this regard, loans worth MVR one billion have been issued to small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs in addition to large companies, on the condition that the employment of locals are protected. The payment of tourism land rent was also deferred for a period of six months, he noted.

Acknowledging that the construction industry also suffered heavily as a result of the pandemic, the president said loans worth MVR 95 million were issued to 40 companies in the industry.

Adding that the steps taken by the government in the face of the pandemic saved a large number of jobs, the president said that while the government’s actions prevented many large companies from declaring bankruptcy, it also provided social protection to families and households.

The president also noted that over MVR 221 million was issued upto the end of December 2020 as allowances to 17,147 people whose employment status was affected as a result of the pandemic. The government will be offering loans to small and medium businesses even this year, and MVR 400 million has been allocated for the purpose in this year’s budget, said the president.

He also highlighted that 2,421 Maldivian citizens who were stranded in 15 different countries due to the global pandemic were repatriated with the government’s assistance. The government also arranged for the deferment of higher education and housing loans, said the president. Additionally, over MVR 117 million in total were cut from water and electricity bills during the course of the pandemic, said the president.