Financial Times

Employment opportunities opening up in the Maldives
By Dilshani Samaraweera

The Maldives business sector says there are growing employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in the Maldives. “Already around 9,000 Sri Lankans are working in the Maldives. But we need more people. The Maldives has a population of only about 350,000 and our labour force is much smaller.

So there is a need for workers at all levels, skilled, semi skilled and unskilled,” the President of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Omar Maniku, told The Sunday Times FT. Mr Maniku was in Colombo to address the first Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka – Maldives Bilateral Business Council, this week.

“Sri Lankan companies are already investing in the Maldives. For instance, in tourism, Sri Lankan companies are investing in a big way. But there are job opportunities in other sectors as well,” said Mr Maniku. However, the Maldivian Chamber of Commerce said it does not see the need for a formal agreement at government level, to regulate employment of Sri Lankan nationals in the Maldives.

“Already Sri Lankans work in the Maldives and the other way around. So why do you need to have things like job quotas. That is a restriction. We don’t want such restrictions,” said Mr Maniku. The Maldives is the Sri Lanka’s third largest trading partner in the SAARC region and Sri Lanka enjoys a positive balance of trade with the Maldives. Currently Sri Lanka holds about 12% of the Maldives’ hotel rooms. Tourist arrivals from the Maldives to Sri Lanka, also increased by 19% in 2007, amounting to 29,539 visitors.

The businesses sectors of the two countries set up the Bilateral Business Council last year to facilitate further trade between each other. To date the Business Council has 90 members. The President of the Sri Lanka – Maldives Bilateral Business Council, Jayatissa Kehelpannala, said that potential areas for trade and investment between the two island nations have already been identified.

“Position papers were prepared for agriculture, banking, freight forwarding/shipping and tourism sectors, initially,” said Mr Kehelpannala. The Business Council plans to work on tourism promotion, education services and agricultural development with the Maldives.

The Council is looking to facilitate exports of fruits and vegetables from Sri Lanka into the Maldives and to import marine products from the Maldives. The Council is also looking to facilitate agricultural technology transfer from Sri Lanka into the Maldive islands to produce and market agricultural goods to Maldives’ tourist resorts.

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