Parliament, on Sunday, passed the Public Health Emergency Bill 2020, which details sunset provisions aimed at easing the economic impacts of COVID-19 on livelihoods.
The bill was submitted by the parliamentary representative for the constituency of Central Fuvahmulah, Hussain Mohamed Didi, on behalf of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and focuses on aiding the working class and government institutions.
Relief for working class
According to the bill, any individual that is quarantined at an island and is unable to physically attend to their work will not face financial repercussions such as salary or allowance reductions.
Employers must facilitate a special leave for such instances. A medical certificate is not required as proof to acquire the leave.
Moreover, workers that contract the virus are also awarded a special leave under the bill, whether under home-quarantine or isolated at a medical facility.
The bill also stipulates an additional leave for family responsibilities when an immediate member of the family tests positive for the virus.
Employers are further barred from deducting leave from annual leaves to organise a special leave for the affected staff.
Furthermore, the bill mandates employers to prove damages to a company before a position is made redundant, and to give advance notice before terminations.
Relief for tenants
In reference to an inability for individuals to make rent during the pandemic, tenants are now required to submit a written notice informing landlords 60 days prior to vacating a premise.
The leaser must not influence a forced eviction prior to the stated 60 days.
Other noteworthy additions
– The government must provide temporary shelter for those displaced as a result of the virus.
– The government must provide food assistance to those eligible.
– Facilitating treatment for those requiring rehabilitation for substance abuse.
– Establishing digital mediums to complete legally mandated proceedings.
– Providing financial moratoriums based on an individual’s situation
The government will impose a fine between MVR 5,000 and MVR 100,000 for those in violation of the law.
Major fines will be imposed by the authority vested upon the Director-General of Public Health, ranging between MVR 10,000 and MVR 100,000.
As a country heavily reliant on the hospitality field for income, the restrictions on local and global travel and tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have severe repercussions on the Maldivian economy, with many losing their jobs and local companies struggling to stay afloat.
Prior to the sunset bill, the authorities urged companies against laying off staff or cutting salaries as much as possible, as well as landlords in capital Male’ to refrain from evicting tenants.
However due to inevitable job-loss and pay cuts, and inability to meet rent, a number of people residing in Male’ have returned to their home islands amid the pandemic.
In mid-April, the World Bank estimated that the Maldives will be the worst-hit country in the South Asian region, in the ensuing economic regression caused by the pandemic.
Ministry of Finance projected earlier that the state deficit would reach MVR 13 billion this year compared to the MVR 5.9 billion originally stated in the 2020 State Budget, as a result of economic repercussions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry also projected that the total state debt sans guarantee would increase to MVR 70 billion, which accounts for 86.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). An overall 115 per cent drop is projected in the GDP, along with 81.3 per cent for nominal GDP.
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