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News in Brief

Tax rate on domestic air travel for locals reduced to 6 percent

Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) will be charging the normal 6 percent tax on domestic travel instead of the 12 percent, aimed at tourists, from today.

A MIRA press statement read that the amendments to the 2011 tax act would come into effect starting December 1.  The amendment makes no changes to the requirement of foreign workers in the country to pay 12 percent T-GST on the domestic air travel.

According to the changes, employees would also be charged only 6 percent GST at staff shops in resorts, following changes to the law made in the Majlis last month.

Previously, former President Mohamed Nasheed had made remarks about the hike in T-GST from 8 to 12 percent, noting that a flight to the south of Maldives had become more expensive than a flight to India or Sri Lanka as a result.

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New Hulhumalé school to open in 2015, national first grade intake to increase 11 percent

Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham has said that the school under construction in Hulhumalé will open next year and that there will be an increase of 11 percent in the number of first graders nationwide.

While speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dr Aishath said that the number of students enrolling in first grade nationally is to be at 2,070, up from 1,950 students this year.

“This is a noteworthy increase. The number of students enrolling has also seen an increase with the population boom,” said Dr Aishath.

The preliminary results of the recently completed national census showed that the Maldivian population has grown by 14.1 percent since 2006.

The list of students enrolled in the primary schools in Malé can now be found on the ministry’s website and the respective schools.

The education ministry also recently announced that books and stationary will only be provided to parents who request for government assistance after submitting a form to the ministry. The ministry also discouraged schools from assigning a specific bookshop for the school when handing out vouchers to parents.

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Pre-feasibility study MoU signed with Chinese government

The Maldives has signed an MoU with the Chinese government regarding a pre-feasibility study of the proposed Malé-Hulhulé bridge.

The agreement was signed by Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizz and Yung Wan Xion, principal of the Chinese Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs.  ­

Dr Muizz thanked the Chinese government for the generous support and said that the Maldives was giving utmost priority to the project in order to complete it.

In October, a Chinese team of engineers reportedly conducted a survey on the feasibility of the bridge while also researching the best pier points for the bridge, while Chinese government officials announced they would “favorably consider” financing the project.

Speaking to Haveeru at the time, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said the survey was to be finished in a period of four months, with costs being covered by  US$4 million in aid from the Chinese government.

Opposition Maldives Democratic Party of Maldives (MDP) has, however, criticised the government’s inclusion of high amounts of funds allotted for the bridge feasibility study in the upcoming three years.

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National Conference on Domestic Violence Protection Act concludes

Hope for Women and the Gender Advocacy Working Group (GAWG) have today concluded the National Conference on Domestic Violence Protection Act.

Relevant stakeholders gathered to discuss the implementation of the law, with GAWG consultant Humaida Abdul Ghafoor concluding that, while there had been slow progress, there was still “a long way to go”.

The workshop was conducted as part of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, which concludes on December 10.

Numerous regulations were yet to be put in place, with the soon-to-be updated Penal Code, one such example.

Representatives from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office noted that 18 of 85 cases were successfully prosecuted in 2012-13, explained Humaida. Of these, however, 7 people received a MVR200 (US $13) fine, 8 received a MVR150 (US $10) fine, 2 were handed MVR75 (US $5) fines, while one person was sentenced to 6 months.

While the Maldives passed the landmark Domestic Violence Act in 2012, Hope for Women has previously expressed concern that poor implementation had meant the new law had little practical effect on the problem.

A 2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – showed that one in three women between the ages of 15-49 had been a victim of domestic violence.

The study suggested there was general acceptance of domestic violence across the country and among both sexes, who perceived it as being ‘normal’ or ‘justified’.

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Majlis committee approves two more EC candidates

The Majlis independent institutions committee has approved the nomination of two new member to the Elections Commission (EC).

The names of Mohamed Shakeel and Ahmed Sulaiman will now be sent to the full floor to be approved as the third and fourth members of the EC.

Despite being presented with three nominees earlier this month, the Majlis only approved Amjad Musthafa, leaving the five-seat commission with just two members following the expiry of Mohamed Farooq and Ali Mohamed Manik’s terms.

The five-member commission that oversaw last year’s presidential election was reduced to four after Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed resigned for health reasons during the poll.

The commission was further reduced in February this year, with the Supreme Court removing Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz.

Source: Haveeru

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Health Protection Agency to hold AIDS walk

The Maldives Health Protection Agency will organise a walk around the capital Malé in order to raise awareness for World AIDS Day.

The walk will begin at 4pm tomorrow (December 1) from the Youth Center in Maafanu and will conclude in Jumhooree Maidhan, with participants requested to wear red.

The Maldivian Medical Association has also said it will be holding a public awareness event to mark the day. The sessions in IGMH’s OPD area will be themed ‘Get tested and be sure’.

Globally, over 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Since the first case of HIV was detected in the Maldives in 1991, 19 cases have been reported, though the health ministry estimates numbers of HIV positive persons could be between 70 and 100.

Lack of prevention programmes and specialised care for population groups at risk could facilitate an HIV outbreak in the Maldives, officials from National HIV AIDS programme have said. Sex workers, gay men and intravenous drug users are particularly at risk, he said.

“We are sitting on a time bomb. We know those key populations exist [in Maldives],” Programme Manager Abdul Hameed has said previously. “At any time it can explode.”

In February this year, the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) transfused a pregnant women with HIV positive blood due to a technical error.

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Kadhdhoo to become military airport

Kadhdhoo Airport in Lammu Atoll is to be turned into a military facility, reports Sun Online.

Minister of Defence Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim told Sun that the airport had been handed over to his ministry and would begin operations as a military airport in January next year.

“This would not disturb the domestic flights. Our facilities would be installed there, and new jobs would be created”, Nazim told Sun.

The Maldives National Defence Force currently owns two helicopters – both gifts from India, though Nazim said he hoped new aircraft would be acquired.

Kadhdhoo Airport was opened in 1993, and currently operates flights between Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Malé and Gan International Airport in Addu.

Nazim has previously announced plans to secure revenue for the MNDF’s welfare schemes, including the commercialisation of its new naval base, its military hospital, and the training island at Thamburudhoo.

Late last year, the defence minister announced a new strategic action plan for the force which involved the introduction of an MNDF TV station – Addana TV (Shield TV) – and the upgrading of Senahiya hospital.

Source: Sun Online

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Changi Airport Group to sign INIA consultancy deal

Singapore’s Changi Airport Group has agreed to oversee the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), reports Haveeru.

The company, which manages Singapore’s multiple award-winning Changi airport, will officially announce the deal at a ceremony on Monday morning.

The development of INIA will be financed through China’s Exim bank, reported cabinet members earlier this month. Beijing Urban Construction Group were reported to have been working with Maldives Airports Company Ltd on the plans.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has previously explained that Changi would be hired as consultants as they are better qualified to work with Chinese and Japanese contractors.

Preliminary contract agreements for the development of the airport – stalled after the termination of the previous deal with India’s GMR in 2012 – were signed during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng in September.

Source: Haveeru

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Emirates to add third daily flight from Malé

Emirates airlines is to add a third daily flight between Malé and Dubai International Airport, starting from December 1.

Emirates flight EK656 will depart Dubai at 02:10 to arrive in Malé at 07:15. The return leg, EK657, will depart Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 08:45 and arrive in Dubai at 11:55.

“The Maldives has proven to be a strong market for leisure and family travel. With a wide range of luxury hotel chains, romantic beaches and adventurous water sports activities; it certainly has something for everyone,” said Ahmed Khoory, a senior vice president at Emirates.

“The increased cargo capacity on the route will also help facilitate business between the Maldives and its key trading markets,” he added.

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Torture victims in the Maldives tell their stories