The Hiyaa social housing flats remains one of the most iconic housing projects in the Maldives. With over 7,000 housing units, the Hiyaa social housing flats was set to alleviate the situation surrounding the housing crisis in the capital city of the Maldives and provide a temporary solution for the residents of Malé city.
Since its construction began during President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, then opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) pushed several false narratives surrounding the Hiyaa flats. The initial narrative was that the flats would only be given to members of then ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
However, this was debunked as according to the official flat list, of the 7,000 people who got a flat, 3,591 were from then opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), 517 people were members of other smaller parties and 933 were not registered under any political party. It was also revealed that only 1,959 people registered under the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were on the Hiyaa flat list.
Then came November 2018 and president Abdulla Yameen peacefully handed over the powers of the state to incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The change in administration and subsequent evaluation by the senior members of the current administration ended with the Hiyaa flats being labelled as “pigeon coops”.
While this was intended to associate a negative stereotype to the Hiyaa flats, it struck a different chord with the public. As senior members of the ruling party engaged in negative stereotyping the Chinese built Hiya flats as low quality, the term “Pigeon coops” became synonymous with the public’s struggle to gain a roof over their head. Ordinary people who had been systematically at a disadvantage and suffering for decades joined the struggle under the banner of “Pigeon coop”.
Two and a half years later, the current administration finally opened up for the public to visit and assess the Hiyaa Housing Flats. It was evident by the lack of tiling and doors that the current administration had done little to no work since the change in administration back in November 2018.
This erupted many questions on why the current administration refused to hand over the Hiyaa flats.
While the anti-campaigns continue to target and scrutinize the Hiyaa Housing flats, the ordinary people who received units from the Hiyaa Social housing flats are overjoyed.
However, if we look beneath the racism, classism and politicizing of a key social issue, we see that it all leads back to business. Rumors and allegations of real estate tycoons and businesses fueling anti-social housing hysteria and paying for certain local media to publish such contents has been floating for some time now.
This is only further exacerbated by the fact that incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s family business, Pan Real Estate is the first and one of the biggest real estate companies in the Maldives and it will face major obstacles and losses to their operations if the Hiyaa flats are handed over to the public.
If we compare the current rates by Maldives’ first and biggest real estate company Pan Real Estate, it is evident that they are set to lose a lot once the rent prices in the capital city drops after the public moves into the Hiya flats. The Hiyaa flat units which has a median floor area of 580.85sqft were originally meant to have a rent of MVR 6,500.00 while companies like Pan Real Estate are currently renting similar two-bedroom 592sqft apartment for MVR 14,000.00.
According to the last national census, 26,739 households were recorded in the Maldives. It is a well-known fact that the overwhelming majority of these households are constructed through financing from local financial institutions which carry a heavy interest rate. This leads to an ever-growing rent hike in the Maldives.
This itself leads to a myriad of other social issues as the majority of the residents of the capital Malé city live paycheck to paycheck renting apartments.
A sudden loss of rent from 7,000 tenants from amongst those 26,739 household would account for a 26.17% loss on income for the real estate sector. This would cause a considerable hardship on those who have built their homes through financing from financial institutions with the aim of paying back the home construction loans through rent money.
While this would put the real estate sector in a difficult position, it would also simultaneously alleviate the living conditions of 7,000 families.
Ultimately, the baseless accusations against senior members of the previous administration and the racist stereotyping by members of then opposition MDP are nothing more than the manifestation of the anxiety from those who are set to lose a quarter of their income from the suffering of the people.
Remarks on Celebrating the 73rd Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China & the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Diplomatic Relations between China and Maldives
This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Over the past 73 years, earthshaking changes have taken place in China.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has coordinated the overall strategy of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation and the great change that has not happened in a century, have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda but remained unsolved, accomplished many things of vital importance and long-term significance, and withstood the test of various risks and challenges at home and abroad. The Path of China’s development becomes wider and wider, the Governance of China becomes more and more mature, and the Theory of China becomes more and more prevailing. The Chinese people have successfully built a moderately prosperous society in all respects and fulfilled the first centenary goal. We are embarking on a new journey to fully build a modern socialist country, march toward the second centenary goal, and advance toward the grand goal of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
This year is of great historical significance in the development of the CPC and China, as the 20th CPC National Congress will be convened on 16th of October. This Congress will, in response to the expectation of all the Chinese people, set well-conceived goals and tasks for China’s development in the next five years and beyond, and it will draw an overarching plan for China’s future development. Having reached a new historical starting point, China will follow the Chinese path to modernization to achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China will work with other countries to make every effort for peace and development, shoulder the responsibility for solidarity and progress, build a community with a shared future for mankind, and embrace an even better world.
At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept resurfacing. Global security faces uncertainty. Global economic recovery is fragile and unsteady, and various risks and crises are emerging. The world has entered a new phase of turbulence and transformation. Changes unseen in a century are accelerating. At the same time, the world continues to move toward multi-polarity; economic globalization is deepening, and our societies are becoming increasingly digitized and culturally diversified. Indeed, countries are becoming ever more interconnected and interdependent. Peace and development remain the underlying trend of our times. Around the world, the people’s call for progress and cooperation is getting louder than ever before.
In response to the common aspiration of the international community for peace and development, and make up the global governance deficit, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Putting the people at the center, this initiative is a rallying call to refocus attention of the international community on development and build a global community of development. At the recent High-level Dialogue on Global Development he chaired, President Xi Jinping announced several dozen concrete major steps to implement this initiative, generating strong impetus for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022. He called on the international community to pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, to abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to take the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, to peacefully resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation, and to maintain security in both traditional and non-traditional domains. By putting forward this initiative, he has contributed China’s vision to reducing the peace deficit facing humanity and provided China’s input to meeting global security challenges.
As China has one-fifth of the global population, its march toward modernization has important, far-reaching significance for the world. The path that China pursues is one of peace and development, not one of plunder and colonialism; it is a path of win-win cooperation, not one of zero-sum game; and it is one of harmony between man and Nature, not one of destructive exploitation of resources. We will continue to contribute our input to meeting the challenges facing human development, and make our contribution to creating a new form of human advancement.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Maldives. Over the past half a century, China-Maldives relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes and become more mature and stable. China and the Maldives have been upholding the spirit of friendship and neighborliness, treating each other as equals, conducting cooperation for development, supporting each other with mutual assistance and tiding over difficulties together. China highly appreciates the Maldives’ long-standing understanding and support for China’s just claims on issues concerning China’s core interests and major concerns, and China also supports the Maldives in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and national dignity, and will continue to uphold justice for the Maldives at the international arena. The Maldivian government has a longstanding and firm commitment to the one-China principle. The China-Maldives relations have become a model of friendly exchanges, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between countries with different systems and cultures in international arena.
In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the leaders of the two countries, China-Maldives relations have maintained a good momentum of steady development. In September 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic state visit to Maldives and the two sides agreed to establish future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership, lifting the China-Maldives relations to a new level. In July 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone call with Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih and reached important consensus on deepening and expanding exchanges and cooperation in various fields between the two countries, setting the direction for the future development of the bilateral relations. In January 2022, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a successful visit to Maldives with fruitful outcomes, opening a new chapter in China-Maldives relations. Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid visited China twice over the past year, which enhanced the mutual trust and friendship between the leaders of the two countries, and laid a sound foundation for the future development of bilateral relations.
As an all-round friendly and cooperative partner, China has been always strongly supporting the Maldives to speed up economic and social development and improve self-development capability. Recent years have witnessed fruitful results on jointly building the “Belt and Road” by China and Maldives. The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is a landmark project of the “Belt and Road” Initiative. Since it opens to traffic 4 year ago, the bridge has witnessed over 100 million crossings by the local people and has dramatically promoted the sustainable development of Maldivian economy and society. As foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge built with China’s assistance had brought enormous changes to the country and greatly accelerated the economic development process of the Maldives and befitted the Maldivian people. So far Chinese companies has completed more than 11,000 social housing units, which have contributed a lot in the improvement of living conditions of thousands and thousands of Maldivian families. Power generation and power grid connection built by Chinese companies meet 80% of all electricity demand of the residents and enterprises in the Greater Malé. Expansion and Upgrading of Velana International Airport Project will further promote the development of Maldivian tourism. The great contributions made by the Chinese side to the development of Maldivian economy and society will further enhance the solid friendship between the two peoples.
Looking into the future on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, the two countries should continue with the past and open up the future, promote all-round cooperation to a new high and write a new chapter for the friendly and mutually-beneficial cooperation with a more far-reaching eyesight and broader vision. In this regard, I would like to put forward the following 4 suggestions.
Firstly, both sides should blueprint and steer the future development of China-Maldives relations under the guidance of the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries.
Secondly, both sides should adhere to the valuable experience to ensure the steady and smooth development of the bilateral relations. Both sides should continue to respect each other, treat each other as equals, help each other with sincerity as well as support each other on the issues of our respective core interests and major concerns. China will continue to support Maldives in safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity and in pursuing an independent foreign policy. We believe that the Maldivian government will uphold its longstanding commitment to the one-China principle and firmly support China to defend its core interests.
Thirdly, both sides should deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in full scale so as to benefit the people of the two countries. In this regard, both sides should continue to push forward Belt & Road cooperation with high quality, speed up major projects and tourist cooperation. I hope the Maldivian side could finish ratification of China-Maldives FTA as early as possible in order to boost the post Covid-19 recovery of the Maldivian economy. We should explore new areas of cooperation in telecommunication, big data and marine economy. We need coordinate closely in international affairs to safeguard the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law.
Finally, both sides should expand the people-to-people and cultural exchanges. We welcome more and more Maldivian youngsters to further their study in China. A Chinese language center based in Villa College has been set up now, which will further facilitate the Maldivians especially youngsters to learn Chinese language and culture. The visa exemption agreement of the two countries has come to effect. We believe that as the Covid-19 pandemic situation eases and the direct flights resume in the future, the people-to-people exchanges between the two countries will increase, which will further promote the traditional friendship of the two countries.
History has proved and will always prove that maintaining good-neighborly friendly relations with mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between China and the Maldives accords with the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and benefits the peace and development of the region and beyond as well. We believe that with the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties as a new starting point, China and the Maldives will enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and deepen friendship, jointly embark on a new journey of China-Maldives relations and promote the future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership between China and Maldives to a new level.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish China enjoy prosperity and its people wellbeing and wish China-Maldives relations flourish in the future.
Guest Opinion: U.S. should lift people’s living standards, not inflation
As the world’s largest economy, the United States must shoulder its responsibilities for world economic recovery, rather than push up inflation in developing countries.
by Xin Ping
BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhua) — The United States has tasted the bitter fruit of hyperinflation, which has stayed above 6 percent since the beginning of this year.
While attributable to the sharp rise in global energy, food and commodity prices caused by the Ukraine crisis, the hyperinflation is essentially a result of the unreasonable and irresponsible policies of the United States itself, such as massive bouts of quantitative easing, trade war against China, global supply chain disruptions, as well as escalating the Ukraine crisis and providing huge fiscal subsidies for the pandemic response at home.
When inflation became too high to bear, the United States chose not to address its root cause, but to switch to aggressive quantitative tightening. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice this year, including a record hike of half a percentage point, the first of that size since 2000. The Federal Reserve also announced that it would start to unwind the balance sheet in June. All these measures have failed to curb inflation significantly, and the U.S. price surge remains in a historically high range.
Inflation does not stop at the water’s edge. As indicated by recent statistics, hyperinflation in the United States is spilling over fast, and Southeast Asia has taken the brunt, where inflation rates of many countries have climbed to new highs.
The rate in Laos reached 9.9 percent in April, when Indonesia witnessed a five-year high. Singapore saw its inflation at a 10-year high of 5.4 percent in March, coinciding with a 14-year CPI record, a roughly 5.7-percent rise from the previous year, in Thailand.
After a 4.9-percent year-on-year CPI hike in April, the Philippines suffered the worst inflation since December 2018. Judging by the current numbers, the situation in other Southeast Asian countries may seem relatively better. But experts have warned that Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam will see inflation hit new records in the near future. The big family of Southeast Asia is sharing the woes. According to FocusEconomics, an information service company, the regional inflation rate rose from 3 percent in February to 3.5 percent in March.
Southeast Asian countries are mostly developing countries where food consumption accounts for a relatively large portion of overall national expenditure. Therefore, in addition to increasing people’s living costs, high inflation may also lead to a higher risk of social unrest, as pointed out by Mohamed Faiz Nagutha, an ASEAN economist at Bank of America Securities.
The high inflation rates in Southeast Asian countries have naturally evoked unpleasant memories.
The Asian financial crisis in 1997 following the interest rate upsurge and dollar appreciation in the United States took its toll on the economic growth of Southeast Asian countries. Foreign exchange and stock markets plummeted like dominoes. Indonesia and Thailand suffered the most severe losses, with their GDP shrinking by 83.4 percent and 40 percent respectively within two years.
In the 2008 global financial crisis ignited by the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, the financial systems of Southeast Asian countries were hit hard again. The Singapore Strait index fell by more than 45 percent. The Indonesian stock market had to be frozen indefinitely after a continuous sharp decline. More than 8 million overseas workers from the Philippines faced the threat of job loss and income reduction. And about 1 million workers in Thailand lived on the edge of unemployment.
Now the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes will again exert pressure on developing economies in multiple aspects. First of all, the rate hikes will further raise financing costs and trigger capital flight, both impacting the economic fundamentals of developing countries and complicating their post-COVID economic recovery. Secondly, the higher cost of the U.S. dollar may add a greater burden to debt-ridden countries, as underdeveloped nations tend to have a higher foreign debt ratio. Thirdly, in the foreign exchange market, the rising dollar index may create depreciation pressure on other currencies, thus triggering further inflation in other countries.
U.S. hyperinflation is seriously affecting the faltering world economy. Developing countries need to brace themselves for its long-term impact. Many of them, including Southeast Asian countries, have already felt the pinch of the surge in commodity prices, compounded first by the pandemic, and then by the U.S. interest rate hike and balance sheet reduction.
As the world’s largest economy, the United States must shoulder its responsibilities for world economic recovery, rather than push up inflation in developing countries.
Journalism: Drifting Dangerously
A picture speaks a thousand words. The image of rescuers retrieving Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s motionless body – perhaps lifeless too at that point of time – from the homicide site in occupied West Bank’s Jenin does point to an alarming truth. Journalism has become the most dangerous profession in the world today, with practitioners – labelled as “soft targets” – being widely considered as fair game. From gunmen, both State authorized and proscribed, to propagators of jingoistic politics, everybody seems to have developed a penchant for targeting journalists.
Who can forget Czech President Milos Zeman brandishing a replica of an AK-47, with “for journalists” inscribed in it, in a press conference? Early last year political protestors scratched “murder the media” on the door of the US Capitol – the seat of American democracy, and six months later, in July, members of Afghanistan’s Taliban militia brutally executed on-duty Pulitzer award-winning Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, holed up in a Mosque to evade heavy gunfight during an assignment. Like Shireen, Danish too was in his press vest. Ironically, this was supposed to be the century of the media, and yet we ended up having a dangerous ecosystem where news gatherers are frequently turning into news themselves.
The UN reported fifty-five journalists and media professionals casualty last year, with nearly nine in ten killings since 2006 still remaining unresolved. “Far too many journalists paid the ultimate price to bring truth to light” lamented UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. She underscored the dire need of independent, factual information in a conflict-ridden world more than ever before.
Despite the UNESCO chief’s concern over systematic targeting of journalists, for the UN and western world in general, Shireen is just another number in the list of victims who perished while contributing to freedom of expression, promotion of democracy and ushering of peace in these turbulent times. Her sacrifice will be remembered, the calculated risk she took to disseminate truth will be applauded, but her death will remain a collateral casualty – mortality from occupational hazards to be precise. Israel’s aversion to a criminal investigation into Shireen’s death lay bare the duplicity of the West, paying lip service to the call for closure. As Danish’s family learnt the hard way, while fighting a legal battle in the International Criminal Court, justice for these crusaders will not come easy. After all, we live in a world where destructive rhetoric has taken a toll on people’s ability to emotionally relate to the pains of fellow humans.
I do not know if Shireen and Danish knew each other, but both flew on the wings of honest truth-telling to try and shape the narrative and discourage society from travelling along a dead-end path to nowhere. Their zeal for capturing the underlying messages of life was unparalleled, and they excelled in it too. Shireen covered the harsh realities of occupied life with meticulous dedication. She never deviated from revealing the human cost of occupation. Countless statistics, faceless people, heart wrenching stories of separation found place in Shireen’s reporting. Helpless parents struggling to ensure children’s treatment for want of special permit, individuals prevented from attending relatives’ funeral, mothers giving birth at check point, students missing examination and scholarship, patients losing the fight for life due to travel restrictions – innumerable stories of tragedy and personal losses from the embattled Palestinian territory continues to evoke strong emotion. Shireen documented such anguish without losing objectivity – never allowing her Palestinian identity to overshadow the journalistic instinct and etiquettes, which made her a public icon. A beacon to the rookie scribes back home, her narrative remained inextricably linked to that stuffy experience of growing up in a territory which is prison-like in ambience. Shireen’s brush with death during earlier assignments remains a testimony to the dangerous working conditions of Palestinian journalists and their grit as well.
The intense urge to be the voice of the voiceless, who are deliberately silenced and remain unheard, made journalists like Shireen take risk time and again while reporting on the Gaza wars, Intifada, enforced eviction from homes, indiscriminate killings of Palestinian youths, detention without charge and continuous expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. In her death, Shireen eventually succeeded in bringing back the focus of the world to the necessity of a quicker political settlement to the Palestine issue so that no more talents are sacrificed in such a gruesome manner.
Danish, too, used his lens to create instant visual imprints on the human brain, concerning events happening around us that shake societal conscience, and in the process ruffled too many feathers. His pandemic photographs, the controversial Citizenship Act protest images from the heart of the Indian capital or that famous snap of frenzied mob beating a Muslim man ruthlessly during the 2020 Delhi riots, which shed light on the entrenched Islamophobia in society, enraged the Hindu right wing forces in India. Danish was on the hit list of majoritarian fanatics, but escaped fatality, only to fall into Taliban’s hands eventually.
Danish, like Shireen, might have been a victim of targeted killing, but both were consumed by hate, which blurs our vision and detaches us from sanity and rational thinking. Taliban guerrillas not only pumped bullets into Danish’s chest indiscriminately but also ran him over to mutilate the body further. Incidentally, methodical demonization of journalism through name calling has heightened risk factors and led to plummeting of trust in recent times. As journalists are frequently hunted down and murdered in cold blood for disseminating awkward facts, one wonders, what is the remedy to this ailment? To bring a perceptible change in the situation and reverse this dangerous trend, there is a need for greater awareness and stronger public defence of journalism’s true value for society. That can only happen when journalists do not shy away from telling their own stories of harassment to the world aggressively. Besides, judicial activism can help prosecute attacks against journalists.
We lose dozens of Shireen and Danish regularly. Is there an effective answer to such criminal assault on an essential pillar of democracy? Can the formation of an UN mandated high-powered investigation committee, to resolve those hundreds of cold cases of journalists killed for doing their job honestly, act as a deterrent? Three more reporters were killed around the world along with Shireen in the second week of May. It is an authoritarian world that we live in where even practicing democracies rely on subtle constitutional censorship to muzzle the press. Only legal retribution can send a stern message that the work and life of a journalist is priceless. The big question is, who will bell the cat to protect independent journalism and bring closure to the families of the dead?
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