UN Resident Coordinator, UN Agency Heads, the Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Diplomats, and everyone present here today.
It is a great pleasure to attend the launching of the 2010 Global Human Development Report, on the report’s 20th anniversary.
We find ourselves two years into the life of the first democratically elected government in Maldives. Just as the development community reflects on twenty years of an important resource, the government finds itself considering the impact of its policies over the last two years, and how we may build upon and improve on our successes in the years to come.
But there were many steps needed to get to where we are now.
We had one over-riding motive during the democratic reform movement that gave birth to this administration. That was to empower people and create an environment for them to live healthy and fulfill their lives: to live the good life.
It was through this empowered citizenry that political change came about. And it is through our empowered citizens that we shall bring the social and economic changes that this country needs.
This government does not believe that development should be state-led. Rather, it should be led by people. This is why our programme for government is based on our discussions with the people.
In the two years preceding the election we traveled to all corners of this country. We spoke to people, we listened to them, we sought to understand their needs- and thus, the needs of the country.
Our election manifesto- and subsequently the Government’s Strategic Action Plan- are the result of these conversations.
We believe that economic and human development should take place concurrently.
A lot of people see development just as a lot of concrete. They see it as being about physical infrastructure.
A number of important projects have taken place here, in the last two years. We have built harbours and run land reclamation projects in 27 islands, and there are projects ongoing in a further 14 islands. Twelve sanitation systems have been completed since we took office. Many more such projects will be completed in 2011 and beyond.
Engaging the private sector is an important plank of our programme.
We have just handed over the Male’ International Airport to the GMR Infrastructure company of India. This project will bring in much needed investment into the Maldives and give the country an airport that it deserves.
At the same time, we have been facilitating opportunities for people to engage in enterprise.
In addition to being politically empowered, we want people to be economically empowered and to be able to stand up on their own two feet. Our support comes in the form of programmes such as the loans to small entrepreneurs, and the intra-atoll transport network that brings goods and services to people.
You will all be familiar with the advances that have been made in the social sector. I refer to programmes such as the national health insurance scheme, the basic state pension, and the targeted subsidies to the most vulnerable.
You will know of our holistic approach to education - of which single session schools is the bedrock. This will allow children the opportunity to engage in activities outside the classroom to give them the broader education they need to become successful citizens.
The timing of this gathering to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this path-breaking global development resource is very appropriate. I note that the 2010 Human Development Report includes three new development measures, as the Resident Coordinator has pointed out. We too, have an important innovation to showcase.
The Finance Minister has, just a few days ago, performed his constitutional duty of submitting the 2011 budget to the People’s Majlis. The budget represents a major innovation in our country.
For the first time we have prepared a budget that is programme based. And these programmes correspond to the policies articulated in the Strategic Action Plan. It represents budgeting for programmes, rather than programming for budgets.
This will give the government the focus and clarity it needs to successfully deliver on its programmes. It will help consolidate the successes on our path to development.
All our policies - on transport, on gender, on education, on health, on the environment - have been expanded into programmes with costed activities.
We are also ensuring that we continue to walk the walk on decentralization. This year’s budget will have allocations for all islands, to make sure that central government does not absorb everything.
Ultimately, however, our biggest project is Democracy. We wish to strengthen our democratic institutions and processes, and ensure that our people enjoy its fruits.
We face a number of challenges on this path. But I am confident that we will be able to overcome them.
I have always believed that one of the most important aspects of democracy is local democracy. I am very happy that this will become a reality next February when local councils are elected and will take over the administration of their islands.
I have repeatedly said over the last few years that giving power away is never an easy thing to do. Devolving power to the islands is certainly not an easy thing for the central government to do. However, it is a very necessary step to have a functioning democracy and I am glad that we are reaching that milestone.
Before I conclude, I would like to note that the Climate Change Summit in Cancun is now underway. The Maldives has been working tirelessly to seek a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
But we are not waiting for the rest of the world. We are ensuring that our own development is environmentally sustainable. This is why we have pledged to go carbon neutral and are seeking to make the transition to renewable energy.
We are counting on the support of our international partners to make do on the commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord. Climate change adaptation is crucial for us. It is a matter of our survival. I hope that that United Nations will continue to work with us and support our adaptation programme.
The United Nations has always been a staunch and reliable partner of the government of Maldives. I wish to thank all the UN agencies working in the Maldives for their contribution to development in this country.
We value your contribution immensely and I look forward to working with you in the future.
Thank you very much.