The Maldives has banned foreigners from selling mobile phones and accessories in a bid to create opportunities for local businesses.
In an announcement today, the economic development ministry said foreigners engaged in the mobile phone trade will have a three-month period to shut down businesses operating in the Maldives.
“The ministry believes that the mobile phone business has much potential. We would like to encourage and pave way for locals to invest in the trade,” Ali Abdulla, economic development ministry spokesperson, told The Maldives Independent.
The business registration law authorises the ministry to ban foreign investments in selected areas.
Earlier this year, the government banned foreigners from providing photography-related services as well as operating souvenir shops and customs bonded warehouses. The move was intended to boost employment among Maldivian youth, almost a third of whom are unemployed.
Foreign investments in passenger transfer services and water sports were also restricted to partnerships with companies with at least a 51 percent stake owned by Maldivians.
In January, the economic development ministry ceased issuing work permits for foreign photographers while a ban on foreigners working as cashiers took effect in April.
Some 26.5 per cent of Maldivians aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, according to World Bank figures from 2013, the most recent figures available.
President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to create 95,000 jobs in his five-year term. Last month, Yameen said 50,000 new jobs have already been created during the past two years and that 42,000 young people have gained employment.
Critics have contested the claim, while Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof has asked the president’s office to disclose details.
Some 124,000 migrant workers are thought to be working in the Maldives. More than 30,000 of them are undocumented and many are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
The Maldives was placed back on the US State Department’s tier 2 watch list for human trafficking in July over lack of progress in the government’s anti-human trafficking efforts. If downgraded to tier 3, the lowest tier, the Maldives may be subject to non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.