In the bustling streets of Hulhumale’s second phase, leading to the beach from the “Hiyaa” flats’, a lively, unregulated market has taken root, challenging the norms of city trade and urban management. Initially starting as a collection of small tables selling snacks, drinks, and various goods, this informal market has now expanded into a thriving hub of activity.
Six years ago, when the flats were first handed over, the area saw the inception of these food tables. Initially, the businesses were run by both locals and foreigners, operating from vehicles near the park under development. The influence of foreigners in these early stages was particularly notable.
As the area developed and more residents moved in, the nature of this marketplace evolved. HDC, responsible for city maintenance, initially removed the carts and tables, demolishing the wooden structures of the market cells in a bid to beautify the area. However, as the community settled, the tables re-emerged, this time expanding onto the streets leading to the beach. This transformation has turned the area into a bustling market, replete with food courts, cafes, and stalls selling clothing and toys.
Notably, these businesses operate without official permits, conducting trade free of charge and without paying taxes or rent. Many seem unaware or choose to ignore the requirement of obtaining permits for selling food and beverages, including a special permit from the Food and Drug Authority.
This situation presents a stark contrast to the formal businesses in the shelter area, which operate from rented properties at high costs and adhere to tax obligations. The involvement of HDC employees in running some of these tables adds a layer of complexity, as the company overlooks the regulations set by the Food and Drug Authority and the Trade Ministry.
The issue extends beyond the Hiyaa flats area, with similar unregulated businesses prevalent in different parts of Male and Hulhumale. The Trade Ministry has voiced intentions to crack down on businesses illegally transferring money into foreigners’ accounts, yet visible and open operations continue unabated on the main streets.
Furthermore, some of these locations have become gathering spots for illegal immigrants, yet there appears to be little intervention from the authorities. Thus, the situation in the Hulhumale Hiyaa flats area not only reflects the vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of the residents but also highlights the challenges of urban management and regulatory enforcement in the rapidly evolving cityscape of the Maldives’ capital.