Petition submitted to Parliament, HPA seeking remedies for challenges facing businesses

Customers place their orders at a takeaway outlet in Male' City on August 23, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Local café and restaurant operators have submitted a petition to the Parliament and Health Protection Agency (HPA), seeking remedies for challenges facing their businesses with the restrictive measures imposed to control the coronavirus outbreak.

The petition was signed by 108 local business operators in the greater Male’ region, who, in a statement on Tuesday, said that local businesses are facing massive losses as Maldives go through the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak.

They said that businesses are facing immense financial constraints, and many have gone bankrupt.

They said that the restriction on café and restaurant opening hours has resulted in a 70-80 percent drop in daily revenue, and that the 08:00 pm to 5:00 am ban on vehicular traffic has resulted in multiple obstacles to providing delivery services.

They said that Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO)’s charge for waste disposal services is far too high, but that businesses have no choice but to continue paying the charge given lack of alternatives, and lack of options to reduce the charge in light of the dire situation.

They said that businesses were facing major losses due to the high cost of basic services such as electricity, water and telecommunications, lack of concessions on payments, such as an arrangement to pay the bills in installments.

They said that many local employees serving as cashiers and in other positions have resigned in face of challenges by businesses in paying salaries and allowances, and that the turnover of local employees remains high despite businesses recruiting and training new employees to replace the ones who resign.

The café and restaurant operations made several recommendations which they believe will ease the challenges they face.

They asked that cafes and restaurants that are registered and provide services in accordance with HPA’s safety guidelines be allowed to provide in-house dining services until 11:00 pm, and that businesses permitted to provide delivery services on vehicles until 02:00 am, and that special permits be issued to delivery workers so that delivery services may be provided even during curfew hours.

They asked that the restriction on employing foreign workers as cashiers be lifted, and that the restriction on obtaining waste disposal services solely through WAMCO be temporarily lifted to provide businesses with alternatives.

They also asked for arrangements to pay bills for basic services such electricity, water and telecommunications on installment basis, and for similar arrangements for businesses to clear all pending bills.

They asked that the arrangements be available not just to the main companies, but subsidiaries as well.

“As these challenges exist for all food service providers in Male’ Hulhumale’ and Vilimale’, we, all business operators, together, appeal to you to provide a solution for these issues as we believe only you can provide us with a solution,” they said.

The café and restaurant operators who signed the petition wrote in their statement that they do not represent a specific political party, but hope to receive support from all political parties and government officials for their plight.

They also said that while they currently represent individual businesses, they plan on forming an association to advocate for the rights of businesses in all similar issues which may arise in the future.

They invited interested parties to join them in forming an association.

“With all due respect to the government’s regulations, we also announce that unregistered food businesses who require assistance to get registered in accordance with HPA’s requirements will receive our full support,” they wrote in the statement.