Speech by His Excellency Abdullah Jihad , Vice President of the Republic of Maldives, at the Leaders’ Summit of the International Conference on Blue Ocean Strategy: Transforming Nations through Creativity and Innovation
16 August 2016, Ref: PS/NRAJ/2016/08

  

        بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم

        اَلحَمْـدُ لِلّـهِ رَبّ العَـالَمِـين،  وَالصّـلاة وَالسّلام علـى سيّدنا محـمَّدٍ، خاتم الأنبياء والمرسلين، وَعلـى آلـه وَصَحْبِـهِ أجمـعـين

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Assalaam Alaikum Warahmathuhlaahi Wa Barakaathu;

 

Let me begin by expressing my compliments to Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak, for convening the Leaders’ Summit of the International Conference on Blue Ocean Strategy: Transforming Nations through Creativity and Innovation, and for giving me the opportunity to address the Leaders’ Summit. I am honored to be here today in the beautiful city of Putrajaya.  Putrajaya is possibly one of the most befitting venues for such a meeting on Blue Ocean Strategy, as the city symbolizes the creativity, innovation and dynamism of the people of Malaysia.

The theme chosen for this Summit – Future Government: Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs and Expectations is surely a very important topic for our deliberations today.  The Government of Maldives firmly believes in innovation and creativity to achieve sustainable development and economic growth, addressing the needs and expectations of the Maldivian people. We have always worked with the hope of bringing social well-being and harmony through economic transformation. Those values lie at the heart of the Government I have the privilege to  serve.

 

Allow me to congratulate Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak, for embarking on this bold journey by putting innovation at the heart of national development. It is undeniably a brave step to adopt the fresh new approach of Blue Ocean Strategy to ensure a rapid delivery of development to his people.

 

Keeping with the theme of this Summit, allow me to say a few words on the governance framework and the vision behind the national development strategy for the Maldives. At the time President Yameen  Abdul Gayoom decided to run for office, he  looked into new ways and innovative solutions to come out of the economically and socially disadvantaged position that the Maldives  was facing. His  conviction is that by simply continuing along the development course set by his  predecessors would not ensure the economic and social transformation that our  people entrusted in him.

 

As the Blue Ocean Strategy theory suggests, “the only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition.” Critics of the Government of Maldives, some who seem detached from modern development theories such as Blue Ocean Strategy seem mystified and find it hard to understand why we  don’t apply conventional methods to Nation-building.

 

Just over two and a half years ago, the Government  embarked on a solemn pledge to deliver unprecedented economic growth and social development, followed by a new era of prosperity to the people of the Maldives. The Government’s  manifesto was based on economic principles and strategies to cater for the demands and the expectations of the people. It was one that was based on economic policies that were targeted towards delivering state of the art education, advanced healthcare facilities, security and opportunities for our youth, who comprise 46% of our population.

 

We have successfully navigated our way through often choppy seas and persistent head-winds to deliver rapid development to the Maldives. And at all times, innovation, creativity, imagination and faith has been at the heart of the development agenda.

 

During the  fairly brief tenure of H.E President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, we have managed to successfully initiate some of the largest development projects that the Maldives has ever seen.

 

For example, the dredging of the Second Phase of Hulhumale’ Youth City, the mega project of bridge connectivity between Male’ and the airport island of Hulhule’, and as well as expanding six-fold, the size of our main International Airport.

 

Yet we have carved out these successes while remaining fiscally responsible.We have controlled inflation, reducing it to single figures from double figures that we  inherited from our  predecessors. We have controlled the parallel market and reduced the budget deficit as a share of GDP from 14.4% in 2010 to 6.9% in 2015.

 

The central bank reserve has increased 51%, giving us leverage in the markets (2012-2015).With conventional thinking, we couldn’t have created over 200 hectares of land in just 9 weeks. This land is now being developed as the Hulhumale’ Youth City. We couldn’t have initiated the airport development project that will pave way to serve up to 7 times more tourists to the Maldives.

 

Without swimming out into the unknown ‘Blue Ocean’, we could not have brought the cost of social housing down by 50% and initiated 15,000 social housing projects, more than all the housing projects put together in the history of our country.

 

Critics of the Government might not understand the Blue Ocean Strategy, but we  take courage and seek blessing from Almighty Allah S.W.A in taking these bold decisions.

 

As this audience will appreciate, and indeed the world economy has witnessed, without swimming out into the Blue Ocean we cannot cater to the demands of our people.

 

In today’s modern, complex and interconnected world, economies must adapt and change to meet a global market in constant flux. While we steadfastly hold on to this progressive message, catering to the demands of a people of a country as unique as the Maldives is challenging. As you are well aware, as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) we are faced with limited natural resources.

Firstly, economies of scale remain a challenge to attract large businesses.

Secondly, climate change is a threat to sensitive coral reefs, fish and marine resources – a real issue to a nation considering 99% of ocean.

 

Elevated environmental conditions are also a challenge to the low-lying islands. Thus, Maldives is restricted in its ability to expand its economy to meet the ambitions of our people.

 

Our closest neighbors and friends have very different economies and a totally different resource base. To the east we have the strong economic power block of ASEAN countries. And to the west the African States that are profoundly different in terms of their economies and cultures.

 

All we can do is utilizing our  experiences and knowledge, and those of our  team, to derive new solutions to rise up to these unique challenges. We  rarely can borrow or replicate readily available templates from nations in our neighborhood.

 

Given the challenges that we face, it is therefore only natural that Blue Ocean Strategy is so befitting to my country’s development.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,

 

At the heart of the Government’s  vision for the Maldives is a new army of entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a Government, we are working around the clock to create an environment  for them to grow and        diversify – creating jobs, improving families’ lives and developing previously neglected parts of our nation.

 

So what is our vision? And what has been achieved? We have successfully set up several Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), established around low cost – low risk business areas.

 

We have devised ways of minimizing costs to the businesses that thrive in often competitive environments by carefully crafting policies to protect SMEs.

 

We have created opportunity for large and mega investments by enacting a Special Economic Zone Act, providing concessions to create a viable environment for local businesses.

 

We have successfully created a friendly environment for Foreign Direct Investments, giving Maldivian businesses the boost they need. And as an island nation, we cannot ignore the core pillars of our economy.

Instead of a subsidy program to fishermen, we devised an income based insurance program.

 

This program acts as a social security net for those fishermen, whose income falls below a certain threshold due to low catches or heavy seas. This has also been replicated in agriculture. Instead of farmers having to beg for assistance after every drought or natural disaster, we  devised an insurance program where 90% of the forecasted revenue from a given farm is covered at the time of investing on the crops.

 

We wish to develop the fisheries and agriculture sector as a resilient industry with the ability to absorb external shocks. Self-sufficient is more honorable and satisfying in comparison to reliance and dependency.

 

We have taken bold decisions to open up the economy and liberalize the business environment. Although not explicitly stated, our policies are based on the principles of the Blue Ocean Strategy.

 

The opponents of the Government have sadly failed to understand these solutions can be transformational. Yet I am convinced Maldivians will view these sincere efforts as a chance to seize a better future.

 

Distinguished Delegates,

 

It is no doubt that the world is going through an era of change and uncertainty. Economic growth in many regions continues to be hampered by adverse impacts of natural phenomena or political instability. While globalization and free trade has salvaged millions out of poverty, it is an economic system that is not perfect, and that continues to present challenges to policymakers worldwide. Population movements, climate change, new technology – these are all phenomena that offer challenges but also solutions.

 

What is beyond doubt is the need for innovative, creative and imaginative means of delivering sustainable growth and development. It is crucial to the development of our emerging economies. It is also crucial in delivering the fundamental needs of our people – health, educations, social care, and security – something that as leaders is our prime responsibility.

 

Blue Ocean strategy has and will continue to transform our societies and meet the aspirations of our people – a people more educated, more focused, more demanding and more exposed to the opportunities of the global economy than ever before.

Amongst this backdrop there is a huge responsibility to political leaders, policymakers and businesses to deliver a fairer, more equitable and sustainable economic model. A model not rooted in the past, but with both eyes set firmly on the complex challenges facing the world today, and that will test us in years to come.

 

May today’s discussions and the ideas and decisions formed from them help us continue to reform and renew this vision. I wish you all the very best during this event.

    

I thank you very much.

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