Speech by His Excellency Abdullah Jihad, Vice President of the Republic of Maldives, Launches Maldives Investment Forum 2016 in New Delhi
22 November 2016, Ref: PS/NRAJ/2016/15

                                                                                       

بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم

 

اَلحَمْـدُ لِلّـهِ رَبّ العَـالَمِـين، وَالصّـلاة وَالسّلام علٰـى خاتم الأنبياء والمرسلين، سيّدنا محـمَّدٍ وعلى آلـه وصـحبه أجمعـين

 

Excellency’s, Leaders of the corporate sector, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a privilege to address this auspicious gathering and say a few words at the opening of the Third Maldives Investment Forum. I am also honoured to represent the Government on behalf of my president at this important event.

Maldives was one of the poorest island economies in the 1970s with a GDP per capita of less than 275 US dollars. However, thanks to the innovative thinking and foresight of the successive Governments as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector, the GDP per capita of the country now exceeds over 7000 US dollars. This dramatic increase is mainly driven by tourism and tourism related activities.

We are all well aware that a small island developing state such as the Maldives in not without challenges in its path towards progress and prosperity. I am happy to note that we are now one of the few countries who have graduated from a Least Developed Country to be among the upper middle income developing group of nations.

The opportunities in our traditional industries of tourism and related areas, the development of the fisheries sector and to some extent, our agriculture sector has transformed our economy from a subsistence level to what the country is today.

It is investments, both foreign and domestic that has transformed our economy and elevated us to our current position. On the strength of our past achievements, the Government is looking into new investment opportunities and is actively seeking Foreign Direct Investment as part of that plan. This forum is one such event to highlight the opportunities available in the Maldives today.

Distinguished Guests,

Foreign direct investment is one of the fundamental driving forces of His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdula Gayoom’s The opportunities in our traditional industries of tourism and related areas, the development of the fisheries sector and to some extent, our agriculture sector has transformed our economy from a subsistence level to what the country is today.

It is investments, both foreign and domestic that has transformed our economy and elevated us to our current position. On the strength of our past achievements, the Government is looking into new investment opportunities and is actively seeking Foreign Direct Investment as part of that plan. This forum is one such event to highlight the opportunities available in the Maldives today.

Distinguished Guests,

Foreign direct investment is one of the fundamental driving forces of His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdula Gayoom’s transformational economic plan. As a Government we are committed to directing our policy and changing our legal framework along this trajectory.

Maldives is renowned throughout the world for its success in tourism based on its unsurpassed natural beauty. The Government has embarked on the expansion of this sector, while capitalizing on the country’s strengths and beauty to obtain maximum benefits for its people.

Distinguished Guests,

Let me brief you on the some of the ongoing economic initiatives.
The fiscal deficit is being narrowed, through the prudent and far sighted policies and measures of the Administration of President Yameen and due to the sustained strength of revenue collection.

The monetary policy stance has been eased and as a result, credit access for the private sector has been substantially improved. Inflation in the country remains subdued and will stay so, as long as fuel prices remain low.

To diversify our economy and to cater to a continuous increase in the influx of tourists, the Government of Maldives has embarked on a massive infrastructure investment program.

With the substantial infrastructure scaling up, including the mega projects of airport expansion, the connection of Male’ and Hulhule’ by way of the first ever bridge to be built in the country, the development of Youth City in Hulhumale’, the port expansion and relocation project and the recovery of our tourism destination markets, the GDP growth is expected to grow over 6%.

Dear Guests,

Maldives has made considerable progress in reaching middle income status on the strength of rapid tourism development over the past two decades. The planned infrastructure scale up I mentioned earlier would be transformational for the country, providing new investment opportunities for investors both local and foreign and in turn increasing the supply of jobs and income for our people.

Our highly dispersed population poses considerable challenges for development in both financial and logistical. However, Maldives has so far proven successful in overcoming these challenges. Near universal access to basic services has been provided in remote atolls. This is evidence of the Government’s commitment to take bold steps in order to improve the welfare of our people.

The Administration of President Yameen aims to consolidate the population in more climate resilient, planned islands there by saving the cost of service provision, at the same time investing in human capital development and promoting economic growth and diversification. Concentration on the development of regional hubs, work on improving inter island connectivity, development of regional airports and investment in Hulhumale’ are programs being carried out in this regard.

On the trade and investment front, the Government of Maldives has embarked on the revision of key commercial legislations and introduction of new laws to facilitate trade, increase the ease of doing business and attract investments. The Government is also working on signing bilateral investment treaties with respective countries and I would like to note here that, our first Free Trade Agreement will be signed early next year.

Dear Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The financial soundness indicators of the country are strengthening, and the banks are meeting the capital adequacy ratios in compliance with prudential limits.

With the expansion of infrastructure, in the country, there are ample opportunities for banks and lending institutions to engage with the public and private sector of the country. The Government believes that, the economic gains from the investment scale up will be substantial and that with the expansion of the airport, the Maldives will be able to cater to over 7 million visitors into the country.

We are also expecting sizeable spill over effects from public investments and this would boost the growth of the country in the medium to long term.

On the efforts being made on diversification of the economy, I would like to mention the SEZ law that was enacted in 2014, to facilitate investments.

Port development, shipping, IT services, financial services, export processing activities, trans-shipment, international logistics, bulk braking and bunkering, education and health are some off the strategic areas where we plan to create Special Economic Zones. Investors are free to submit proposals in order to avail themselves of the opportunity to gain tax exemptions and other privileges afforded to Special Economic Zones.

Dear Guests,

As corporate leaders you might be wondering about the unique selling points of investing in a country like Maldives. I do not have to explain the success of the tourism industry to anyone gathered here.

When making comparisons to other island economies, the fiscal revenues are high. The Government is working on reining in expenditures through realigning the subsidy programs, while focusing on investing in improving productivity of the country.

Moody’s Investors Service has rated our country. This is a first for us and the rating as you know came out very positive.
A positive rating by an institution such as Moody’s is an added incentive for the Government to further improve the ratings in the future, and gives a positive signal to potential investors to gauge the investment climate of the country.

Paying taxes is easier in the Maldives, compared to the region as well as other island economies. This is regardless of the fact that our tax regime is quite new. The efficiency of the tax administration and strong revenue collection is due to policies and programs put in place by the Government. I specifically mentioned taxes here because of my background as a former Finance Minister and I particularly want to emphasize the work being carried out to strengthen the administration and efficiency of the Government as well as prudent policies and measures being implemented to facilitate an enabling environment to do business in Maldives.

Before I conclude, let me assure all potential investors and the business community at large that the Maldives is open for business and we will welcome all investors with open arms. We will also ensure that your investment set up and registration is hassle-free, efficient and smooth.

I am confident that this Third Maldives Investment Forum will be a platform for investors to gain in-depth knowledge about existing investment opportunities in the country, and that it will give potential investors opportunities to invest in the Maldives. I urge all present here to make the most of this forum and I hope that corporate leaders here will go back with added knowledge about the rich opportunities in our investment climate.

Finally, I would like to thank the organizers for the tireless effort to make this event such a success.

I would like to specially thank the Government of India for making the necessary arrangements to make this event a success and I wish to applaud my cabinet colleague Minister Mohamed Saeed and his able team for their hard work.

I thank you all.


                                                                        والسّلام  عليكم

 

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