Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Handicraftsmen versus Tourist Shops
The lucrative tourist souvenir business in the Maldives has always been controlled by a handful of shrewd businessmen, many of who have gone up in life to become rich resort owners. The artisans who create handicrafts and curios, on the other hand, have little choice but to sell their products to shops at a tiny fraction of the market price. But then this is how things should be in a free market economy. The rich will get richer and the poor could only hope to get a few crumbs thrown down at them –the so called treacle down effect.
Not satisfied with the overwhelming advantages they already enjoy, some shop owners have also been using unfair (? illegal) trade practices. They import cheap products from neighboring countries and palm them off to unsuspecting tourists as Maldivian products. This deprives local artisans of their already meager earnings. According to Miadhu Daily, Maizan Adam Manik, recipient of the 2008 UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicraft, has recently said that products of foreign origin are being sold in Maldives under ‘Made in Maldives’ label. He said shop owners often use misleading information in their sales pitch, sometimes with pictures of impoverished elderly people, to raise sympathy and sell foreign products.
Minister of State for Economic Development Adil Saleem has identified the urgent need for an authentication system for Maldivian products, Miadhu Daily reports. Considerable work has been done to produce an authentication logo, Director at the Economic Development Ministry Mohamed Luaiz has revealed. However the work has been delayed for various reasons.
This is not surprising since the long arms of businessmen reach the corridors of power in Male to ensure that no policy or regulation detrimental to their monopolistic practices is implemented. But again this is how things should be in a free market economy.