Minister for Economic Development, Mohamed Saeed, Ministers, Distinguished Representatives of Industries, the Financial and Private Sectors;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I welcome all delegates to the Maldives Investment Forum held in this iconic venue of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. This is the first such event organized by the Government of Maldives in overseas to focus purely on investment opportunities in the country.

I am extremely delighted to speak at this eminent gathering and share my government’s economic vision with representatives of over 160 companies, representing global and local business community.

My government is thankful for the over-whelming support received for this forum. I am told that close to 200 representatives from 16 foreign countries are present at this forum. I have no doubt, that this reflects the interest and vibe of the international business community in considering Maldives as an attractive destination for investment in South Asia.

Distinguished delegates;

The Maldives is entering a new phase of development. As a small, forward-looking middle-income developing country, we are transitioning into a stable and mature democracy. Building on decades of sustained and stable economic growth, we have embarked on an ambitious economic agenda to transform the economy. The transformative change envisions active engagement of private sector. As a growing small economy, our economic vision is to become a resilient, diversified high income economy in the next decade. We believe foreign investments and private sector engagement is a key ingredient and pathway to achieve this goal.

This forum is a manifestation of the government’s desire to engage with private investors. This is a beginning of the series of events to continue and sustain a proactive dialogue with the international business community. We are committed, to explore openings for increasing foreign investment flows to non-traditional sectors to lift Maldives beyond the image of a “picturesque postcard.”

Distinguished delegates;

Many gathered here today will not question the potential of tourism industry in Maldives. However, 40 years back, most of us would not have imagined its potential of becoming a luxury tourism destination that we are today. Ingenuity, private enterprise and a liberal policy environment for foreign investments in the tourism sector have proven it otherwise.

Truly, Maldives has more to offer than the idyllic beauty of a tropical island destination. I deeply believe that the potential for growth is immense when the geographic beauty of the nation is combined with strategic location advantages it enjoys. The projects unveiled today are, hence, designed to position Maldives to take advantage of its strategic location as a hub and gateway for commerce, innovation and creativity, linking rest of the globe with South Asia.

Distinguished delegates;

Economic transformation is a key pledge of my government. We are committed to bring the necessary reforms to effect this change. The projects launched today seek to engage private investors in the delivery of key pieces of infrastructure critical to effect national level transformative economic vision. It will indeed play a catalytic role in sustaining our growth, diversifying the economy and creating employment for youth population.

My Government firmly believes that broad-based, private sector-led growth is essential to achieving faster development progress and to transform the economy from where it is today. We believe that Investments, in particular foreign investment, is imperative for economic growth, private sector development and wealth creation. I am here to give my government’s full assurance and commitment to engage with investors in realizing a long term economic development vision.

Distinguished Delegates;

Let me briefly touch on the initiatives that are launched today. The integrated development project, iHavan in the north of the Maldives is a bold and ambitious initiative to realizing our vision of a diversified economy in the South Asia. As we emulate the developmental experience and pathway of many developed island economies, this initiative offers an ideal investment opportunity for global investors to exploit the vast untapped markets of South Asia. Nature has blessed the Maldives by placing it in the middle of the Indian Ocean strategically in the main East West trade route. With the growing Chinese and Indian markets, and the global economic shift to Asia, iHavan provides immense potential to capture substantive share of the trade and commercial opportunities in the South Indian Ocean and capture the trade flows crossing the 7 degree channel.

Other infrastructure development projects concentrated in the Greater Male’ area, namely Hulhumale Youth City, maritime seaport and airport development projects are essential priority investments of the Government to cater for the growing demand and growth in the central region of the country. With these investments, we foresee the region surrounding the Male City emerging as a vibrant commercial hub in the region.

Distinguished delegates;

As we unfold large investment projects, my Government is cognizant of the need of our investors and the requirements to strengthen and redefine the legal and regulatory environment governing foreign investments. The Government, since taking office, has tirelessly worked in the last few months to address the investment climate. Essential reforms were initiated in the past few months to better business-friendly environment.
To address investment climate and to facilitate mega investments with attractive incentive packages, a Special Economic Zone Bill will be tabled in the Parliament soon. Additionally, the Foreign Investment Act and Companies Act are being revised to cater the ever increasing needs of the modern foreign investors. Investment registration and facilitation has also been strengthened recently, with structuring of Invest Maldives as a one-stop shop for investment promotion, registration and facilitation.

Distinguished delegates;

Many long-time investors and senior business personalities in Maldives are present in this forum today. I wish to personally thank you for your support and presence. Your commitment to and participation in the forum, gives us comfort and gives us confidence that the economic and trade policy pursued by the government is heading in the right direction. We hope the presence of eminent long time investors and their success will spur interest and encourage other new investors to consider Maldives as a destination for future investments.

As we embark on these mega development projects, it is the belief of my Government that foreign investors of global acumen have an important role to play in this transition. The Government of Maldives welcomes investment from overseas companies and is committed to providing the best support to ensure faster investment and quicker results.

Distinguished delegates;

This is the first meeting of its kind held by Maldives and for us this is just a beginning. Our doors are open for investors across the globe. We are committed and keen to engage with you all as our development partners. I hope this Forum provides an avenue for enhancing understanding of the investment environment and opportunities in Maldives.

Let me congratulate Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Mohamed Saeed and his team for taking the initiative to hold the first overseas investment forum. I would also like to acknowledge and express our deep gratitude to the key sponsors of this forum. I thank the business community – both local and foreign- for their commitment and participation. This forum provides an avenue to better understand the investment environment and opportunities in the Maldives.

Yonder lies the greener pastures.