Government breaks promise on fishermen’s payments

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The Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) now owes fishermen a staggering MVR 62 million for their catch, a stark contrast to President Muizzu’s pledge to settle payments within 48 hours. This mounting debt highlights a significant gap between the government’s promises and its actions.

The last payment of MVR 22 million was made on April 22, coinciding with the parliamentary election. Since then, no further payments have been made, leaving fishermen without their rightful earnings from April 23 to May 26.

At a press conference on Sunday, Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam revealed the growing debt but failed to provide a concrete timeline for the outstanding payments. He vaguely mentioned the hope to make payments “as soon as possible” but cited financial difficulties faced by MIFCO as a hindrance. This lack of specificity and the indefinite nature of the commitment offer little reassurance to the fishermen waiting for their money.

Minister Shiyam mentioned ongoing efforts by MIFCO and the government, including the Finance Minister’s attempts to find financial solutions. However, these assurances appear hollow without clear actions or deadlines. The promise of a “bright path” remains a distant and uncertain prospect for those who depend on timely payments for their livelihood.

Despite claims of progress, with MVR 881 million supposedly paid to fishermen since President Muizzu took office, the reality for fishermen has been far from satisfactory. Initially, a kilo of fish was sold for MVR 25 when the current government began its term, but fishermen were not paid promptly for their catch, leading to protests.

One significant protest occurred in February when fishermen took over the Kooddoo fish factory, demanding immediate payment. The protest ended only after a large portion of the owed money was paid. However, the government subsequently reduced the price of a kilo of fish to MVR 20 and reiterated its promise to make payments within 48 hours—a promise it has yet to fulfill consistently.

This ongoing issue underscores a troubling disconnect between the government’s promises and the harsh realities faced by the fishing community. The failure to honor commitments and provide timely payments not only affects the fishermen’s livelihoods but also raises questions about the government’s credibility and its ability to manage the nation’s critical fisheries sector effectively.