Fishermen Await Payment as MIFCO Backlog Persists

Fishermen are yet again facing a prolonged delay in receiving payments for their catch, with a backlog of approximately ten days accumulating since March 7th. The situation persists despite President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s prior assurances that arrangements would be made to settle payments within 48 hours.

The last payment to fishermen was issued on March 10th, covering catches weighed until March 7th. This latest lapse in payment highlights the longstanding challenges faced by the nation’s fishing industry. Frustrations escalated last month when a two-month backlog led to protests and a temporary shutdown of the Kooddoo fish factory.

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Concerns over delayed payments are not new; when the current government took office, it inherited an outstanding debt to fishermen of MVR 250 million. President Muizzu had pledged to implement a system for paying fishermen within 48 hours of weighing their catch. However, recent events indicate that this promise has yet to be consistently fulfilled.

Addressing the fishermen’s protests, the President urged them to “accept economic reality” and explained that, while the previous backlog of MVR 260 million had been cleared, the ongoing nature of fishing necessitates continuous payments. He expressed determination to establish a 48-hour payment mechanism, stating, “I am someone who acts as I pledge. We’re doing the work of reaching the target. We will reach that target.”

Recent changes include the separation of the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) from the State Trading Organization (STO), transforming it into a fully state-owned company. This move aligns with government efforts to address issues within the fisheries sector, though tangible improvements for MIFCO have yet to materialize fully.

Further developments surfaced yesterday with the suspension of MIFCO’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ahmed Shamaah, pending an investigation into corporate governance matters. The outcome of this investigation and its potential impact on the payment backlog remain to be seen.

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