Honorable Speaker of the People’s Majlis:
The opportunity to outline the state of the country as well as measures seen as necessary for its development, at the first session of this esteemed Majlis each year is a privilege granted to the Head of State. I note that this is the third time I have been bestowed the honor and I call upon all my faculties in praising the Almighty for His Grace.
2010 was a year of achievement in many areas. It was a year which saw marked improvements in various sectors. The most important accomplishment is the establishment of local councils. Obviously, there are obstacles in the management of some of these councils. The government’s aim is to solve these complications, in introducing decentralization in a manner that does not compromise the features of a unitary state stipulated in the Constitution. The government as well as I cannot allow the unity of the country to be disrupted in any manner. I expect that competitive parties will not deliberately participate in any such activity.
When the budget was presented to the Peoples Majlis in December 2009, the year’s deficit stood at Rf 3.8 billion - which translates into 18.7 percent of our GDP. Although expenditure stood higher than revenue due to budget cuts, deficit was down by 2.3 over the previous year to reach Rf 3.1 billion, which signifies 16.4 percent of our GDP.
In the year 2010, the total debt stood at Rf 607 million which is 41 percent of our GDP. The government has been regular in the management of liabilities.
By the end of 2010, the income revenue of the government amounted to Rf 6 Billion. By 2010 the government had estimated recurrent revenue of Rf 9.1 billion. However, the government had earned Rf 7.8 billion. Government expenses have been reduced to a large extent. The estimated recurrent expenditure for 2011 stands at Rf 9.77 billion ,while Rf 9.713 billion has been passed as the recurrent expenditure of the People’s Majlis.
In my second address to the People’s Majlis, I highlighted matters to be resolved by 2010. I am pleased to note that most of our measures are moving towards targets of resolving these challenges.
To increase the value of Maldivian currency, I note that there are two important short term measures. That is to strengthen regulations within context of existing laws and their prompt implementation. I assure this esteemed Majlis that the Government is prepared to take all steps necessary to achieve these aims. Additionally, we need long and mid-term measures for effective solutions to the economic infrastructure. According to the Strategic Action Plan, recurrent expenses and income are required to be kept in line with national income. The government had made several efforts to achieve this target, including corporatizing and privatizing government services.
In addition to these measures, the government’s center right philosophy was adhered to in improving balance of payments and in stabilizing currency values.
The government worked on many fronts to attain economic development last year.
Without the introduction of a proper taxation system, income and resources cannot be managed as that of a developing country. Therefore, I thank this esteemed Majilis for having passed the previous year, the bill on tax administrative measures, the business profit tax bill and the Maldives tourism goods and services tax bill.
The main aim of the government is to prevent indirect taxation of consumers caused by the levy of import duties and to supplement government revenues from taxes charged on business profits. I am happy to note that the government is achieving these targets.
Small and medium enterprises in the Maldives will continue to receive government financial assistance this year. With focus on various economic sectors, financial assistance or a program of providing soft loans worth Rf 78 million is currently in place. In addition, between 2011 and 2012, a program worth Rf 12 million is underway to increase small and mid-market businesses. Business development centers have been established in Kulhudhuhfushi, and Hithadhoo and 489 participants were trained by the end of 2010. In these programs, projects to diversify fisheries, build guest houses in inhabited islands, handicraft, cultural artwork and farming are included. The government shall not falter in this work as they are related to the economic growth of the country.
Important steps taken to eliminate obstacles facing those wishing to start a business, include enabling vital information, trade licenses and permissions to be submitted and received via the Internet. These will be facilitated this year.
The main obstacle faced by Maldivian traders in developing their businesses further, is the problem of sourcing finance. To mitigate currency shortages for Maldivian traders, the government will develop a collateral guarantee scheme worth Rf 300 million via Maldivian banks this year. This scheme will help to provide speedy government interventions for businesses that can be developed through market mechanisms. This project would make it easier for businesses to obtain loans without facing complications in the provision of collateral. This credit scheme is especially developed for infrastructure development.
Programmes for the development of harbor areas in various islands will be initiated this year. The opportunity to submit expressions of interest will be open soon. Various trade opportunities will open up for private parties under this project.
Priority is being extended to small and medium enterprises to increase job opportunities in the atolls, and widen the self-sufficiency of the people. It is also designed to increase exports and clear pathways for a greater number of Maldivians to have easy access to foreign currency. These measures are important for the socio-economic growth of Maldives.
I am happy to note that a rebate of 30% has been waived from import duties for goods unloaded at regional harbours. Under this reduction, from July to December, goods worth Rf 3,765,000 have been cleared from Kulhudhuhfushi harbour. From January to July of 2010, goods worth Rf 5,191,000 were cleared from Addoo Hithadhoo harbour, and with the introduction of the rebates on import duties, goods worth Rf 44,535,000 were cleared from July to December. This is an increase of 857 percent in comparison to the first 6 months of 2010.
During this term, the government will propose amendments to the Fisheries Law. Last year, the law covering fisheries for export and trade, manufacture of fish products for export, and the issuance of licenses for aquaculture, was amended, before being implemented. The regulations for catching Yellowfin Tuna were also amended. The Fishery businesses are more open than before and this has resulted in an increase in the amount of income received for the average quantity of 5 tons of fish presently equals the earlier average earnings from 15 tons of fish. The household incomes of fishing families have risen significantly.
Other government initiatives to facilitate commerce include unrestricted licensing for parties wishing to export raw seafood products starting on 10 December 2010, exemptions on packing materials, and assigning Maldives Customs Service as the issuer of import license. For the convenience of those in the fisheries sector, the responsibility of issuing operating license for the economic zone was handed over to the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. The decision to cease the levy of royalties from parties operating in the E.E.Z was also made last year.
Last year, fishermen were assisted both practically and financially on the installment of refrigeration systems on fishing vessels. To alleviate challenges for fishermen, the period allowed for the repayment of loans granted for building fishing boats and installation of engine systems has been increased. Soft loans were granted to fishermen under a specific project to increase the quality of businesses processing fish and fishery products.
The framework and management plans for sharks and groupers were also begun and the task of providing compensation for those affected by the proscription of shark- hunting was also carried out.
To expand and improve the fishing industry further, a project to develop the Skipjack tuna trade was implemented and the minimum price for the purchase of fish was fixed. Furthermore, the agreements established on the trade of Skipjack Tuna were revised and private companies were allowed greater participation in the Skipjack Tuna fishery. In addition, various researches, programmes and projects were implemented to establish modern infrastructure for fisheries in various regions of the country.
Earlier this year, in order to facilitate high-quality surveys and research of international standards on the reefs and seas of the Maldives, the official opening of an outpost of the University of Bicocca Milano was held in Faafu Atoll Magoodhoo. Meanwhile, a fisheries research facility is currently being established and developed in Maniyafushi.
Last year, much work was also done to develop agriculture in the Maldives. In this regard, agricultural products of 3 islands were brought out to the market, by contracting tourist resorts and food supply companies. Moreover, efforts were made to raise the prices of poultry farming and agricultural yield through the production and marketing of locally produced goods. In addition, a 1.7 million Rufiyaa worth of goods were made available to farmers at reasonable rates and 1,932 farmers were trained in various aspects of agriculture. The preliminary work was also done for the establishment of the first veterinary clinic in the Maldives last year. Four uninhabited islands were leased for agriculture, and soft loans worth Rf 18 million were extended to 332 agricultural workers.
Significant measures to be implemented this year include, granting subsidies worth a total of 50 million Rufiyaa, paving the way for farmers in 25 islands to market their agricultural goods on a regular basis, and the setting up of an Agricultural School in Laamu Atoll Gan to train farmers in advanced agricultural techniques.
More than 900,000 tourists visited the Maldives last year, which is an increment of 21% compared to arrivals the previous year. This is interpreted as the effectiveness and efficiency of our policies in the tourism sector.
To facilitate the greatest possible number of tourists to visit various parts of the Maldives, Laamu Atoll has been selected as the zone, providing accommodation of 3 and 4 star qualities. The Integrated Tourism Development Zone being developed on the island of Gan in Laamu Atoll, would initiate many new economic opportunities as a result of mid-market tourism in the region. The region will also be opened for the construction of two hotels in the mid-market category of 3 and 4 star qualities, and for allocating and dispensing land to private investors who wish to run guest houses. To enable this, discussions and preparations are underway between the Ministry of Tourism and the people of the Laamu Atoll region. Mid-market zones are planned to be established in other regions of the country as well.
In order to expand the services offered at the Male’ International Airport, Malaysia Airports Holdings and India G.M.R Group were contracted last year, to develop the airport and to handle the management and administration more effectively. As you would know, increasing the number of passengers to the Maldives is only possible with the development of Male’ International Airport. This will augment the flow of foreign currency into the country.
The groundwork of the land reclamation and the building of airport in Kolhumadulu Thimarafushi was initiated last year. This would introduce even greater opportunities to all the islands in the region, and multiply economic activities. The construction of an airport in Fuvahmulah is underway and the airport in Baa Atoll Dharavandhoo is likely to reach the stage of completion by the end of 2012.
In order to standardize and develop Gan International Airport in Addu Atoll to international standards under a joint venture enterprise, a contract was signed between STO, Maldives Airports Company Limited and Gan Airport Company Limited last year. The culmination of this project to turn Gan into a fine international airport would expose the Southern part of the Maldives to tourism even more and be a tremendous step in allowing greater expansion for an improved flow of visitors.
The major policies formulated to achieve the pledge of establishing a nation-wide transport system are currently underway. A vast proportion of the nation’s population is using the transport system to the extent to which it has already been established. The transport network is vital to improve local trade and way of life by allowing for the freight of goods between islands and for providing a convenient mode of transport for people wishing to visit islands, rather than being in the confines of their homes. The modernization of the transport systems is being planned to further enhance the ties of fraternity and amity existing between local families that signify the success of the transport network being implemented.
Last year, I proposed to provide the people of the Maldives with basic utilities such as water supply, sewerage facilities, harbours, electricity and roads, in an affordable and sustainable manner through corporatization.
A safe water supply and sewerage system are fundamental human rights and therefore, 7 different areas of the Maldives were improved for the provision of these services. 8 islands were completed with sewerage facilities, at an expense of 295 million US Dollars, to ensure indiscriminate reception of these services.
In 27 islands, designing work of sewerage systems were completed and opened for expressions of interest in 2010. Submission for expressions of interest to design and build sewerage and water system under the Contractor Finance Policy were also opened and completed on 11 islands. Out of these islands, sewerage systems of 9 islands were agreed to be built under a contract signed last year. Under the AFD loan contract signed to improve the sewerage systems in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Thinadhoo and Laam Atoll Gan, the practical work for which will be begun this year. The sewerage systems of Alif Dhaal Atoll Mahibadhoo and Laamu Atoll Fonadhoo to be designed under the ADB loan contract, commenced construction last year and are expected to be completed by the end of this year.
To improve the quality of drinking water available for consumption in the islands, last year, submission for expressions of interest in establishing water supply systems in 10 islands were opened, under a Contractor Finance Policy. Amongst these, 9 islands were engaged under the contracts signed. To establish a water supply network in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, the government is working in tandem with the Ministry of Housing and MWSC under a contract signed last year. In addition, 58 islands were supplied with water on an emergency basis last year.
2010 saw the completion of 27 projects of building harbours, the gross cost of which amounts to 687 million Rufiyaa. In addition to that, groundwork of harbor projects is currently underway in 4 islands. This year, the construction of harbors in 39 islands, the construction of jetties in 3 islands to ease transport, and the ‘Maintenance Dredging’ of 3 islands is slated for commencement. In addition, a project to connect Madaveli and Hoan’dedhdhoo islands by a causeway would be implemented this year. Furthermore, the revetment of reclaimed islands and the protection of the erosion zones of 7 different islands will be carried out this year.
I reiterated last year our pledge to provide affordable housing and to strengthen family relations.
Providing affordable housing is one of the most essential pledges of our government. Therefore, we have commenced the project of building a total of 10,000 housing units, of which 4,150 have been contracted and 1,750 of which are currently under construction.
In order to resolve the issues of congestion and lack of housing in Male’, under the first phase of Veshifahi Male’ programme, application forms are being issued for those wishing for housing. The second phase of the Gulhifalhu Project is underway and the reclamation of the 50-hectare land is scheduled to begin next month. An approximate area of 10 hectares of land is consigned for the establishment of the campus of National University of the Maldives. The development of 2500 housing units in Gulhifalhu will also take place and by the end of 2012, new residents will have been relocated there. Moreover, a bridge will be constructed to link Vilingili and Gulhifalhu by the month of July 2013. The strategic plan of possibilities and action for this project is expected to be devised and with the Grace of Allah, initiated this year. The primary objective of the government is to construct a 12-kilometre road connecting ‘Male’ Lonuziyaaraiykolhu’ and the ‘Giraavaru Kan’duolhi’. This is under the main aim of the government to convenience the lives of one-third of the entire population living in Male’, and accelerate overall development.
Under the programme to provide shelter for those afflicted by the Tsunami, the 298 housing units planned for construction in Gaaf alif Atoll will continue at a faster pace this year. The proposal for the construction of 42 houses in Thaa Atoll Madifushi has been tendered and the contract has also been signed. The project to build 78 houses in the same island has begun and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, Along with that, the 45 houses’ project in Laam Atoll Maabaidhoo is currently in progress, while 168 houses are being built in Meem Atoll Kolhufushi to arrange for the permanent accommodation of those residents displaced in the tragedy.
Moreover, the residents of Haa Dhaal Maavaidhoo, Faridhoo and Kun’burudhoo have been relocated to Haa Dhaal Nolhivaranfaru, where 181 houses have already been built for their residential purposes.
Various efforts were exerted by the government last year to transform the Maldives into a carbon-neutral nation. In this regard, auditing of carbon present in the Maldives and the measure of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere were identified. It is highly essential that we embrace renewable energy and diversify sources and techniques used to generate renewable energy.
The environmental changes instigated by the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are directly linked to the life of every Maldivian. The problem of energy usage is not solely an environmental problem – and so it is an economic predicament. It is necessary for the government to reduce our dependency on oil for energy uses. It is an aim of the government to pave the way for private parties to emphasize this proposition. In order to prompt such forms of trade, efforts will be underway this year to reduce import duty on biodegradable goods and modes of transport employing renewable energy forms such as battery and solar energy for operation, so as to achieve our pledge of being a carbon-neutral nation. It is scheduled for the government to commence the task of establishing rules and regulations required to introduce renewable energy to the Maldives, practice the trade of energy sources and transform the country into a carbon-neutral nation.
The 30 million dollars’ fund granted by the World Bank will be specialized and opened for private traders and utilities companies. Our aim is to lessen electricity service prices by incorporating such technological advancements in all governmental endeavors to ensure the former is achieved.
As you would know, the Government is working in many ways to protect our fragile environment and promote tourism. In order to regulate environmental affairs in a decentralized government, sub divisionary offices of the Environment Protection Agency are to be set up in the North Central Province and the South Province this year. It is also planned for charts to be made, illustrating the environmentally delicate regions in the nation, and for these charts to be transmitted to concerned authorities throughout the nation. In addition to that, guidelines will be set on reclamation and dredging, coupled with an effort to instigate and implement the laws revolving around waste disposal.
The waste disposal techniques exercised in Thilafushi will achieve even greater improvements this year. Under a consultancy of the International Finance Corporation, a contractor will be engaged this year, to undertake the disposal of waste generated from Male’ and nearby resorts. The contracting party will invest a sum of nearly 50 million dollars to execute the task. In addition, utilities companies are to carry out related projects in various areas of the country.
Significant efforts were made last year to promote and improve socially stable communities.
During 2010 more than 56,000 people have been brought under the care of Madhana (the state health insurance system). Currently, the number of clients under Madhana is estimated to be more than 75,000. The government expended over 144 million rufiyaa on social protection last year in an effort to assuage the public plight of having to depend on handouts for healthcare. Work will continue this year on increasing the number of people registered under Madhana. The government’s aim is to raise the number of Madhana clients to nearly 100,000 by the end of this year. Work will also continue on expanding Madhana Plus coverage to include more countries besides India and Sri Lanka.
Consequent to numerous efforts undertaken last year to expand health services, Telemedicine has now been introduced in 5 islands of Maldives. This service would alleviate health service difficulties presently experienced in islands of the Maldives and the requirement of keeping doctors of all specialties in each island. This system would instead allow patients to benefit from the expertise and facilities of hospitals and doctors all across the world. This service would be introduced in another 34 islands of the Maldives in the future.
Five health service corporations were established last year to maintain health services in a sustainable, decentralized manner. Health corporations would be established in three more regions this year. Following the creation of these corporations, 108 clinics under government administration and based in resort islands have been licensed.
Under the integrated human development project, community pharmacies would be established in 21 islands this year. The registry of health service assets and practitioners would also be completed by the end of this year.
The government will be working with the honorable members of this Majlis this year on two health sector bills. These are the Health Service Bill and the Medical Negligence Bill. As work on the last two bills can be completed swiftly, I appeal to the Majlis to conclude deliberations on these two bills at your earliest convenience.
Last year, government assistance was granted directly to the less fortunate and underprivileged families in our society. In order to improve the lives of all senior citizens above the age of 65 the government granted allowances up to Rf 2000/- each, which amounted to an expense of 399 million Rufiyaa last year. In addition, those included in the social safety net were accorded financial and medical aid worth a total of 29 million Rufiyaa was granted as welfare assistance to single parents and foster-parents of orphans. I take this opportunity to thank this esteemed Majlis for having passed the bill of protecting the rights of the disabled and granting them financial aid.
In order to maintain social security costs at a sustainable level, a social security fund has been established and is being developed further to protect people from economic instability and insecurity. A special budget has been allocated for this purpose.
The key philosophies of this government are to reach out to people with good governance and benevolence. With God’s Grace, we shall not falter in ensuring the lives of our people are that of satisfaction and contentment. The government will not allow its efforts to be disrupted in ensuring social security. In this regard, I am fully confident that the bill submitted to this esteemed Majlis on social security will be passed at your earliest convenience.
Significant steps were taken once again last year to further develop the Maldivian educational system. An educational framework has been finalized and the Education Bill has been submitted to the Majlis for implementation. An additional 25 schools would be changed to single session schools. By the end of this year, 126 schools will be operating as single session schools. Technical training was provided to 2084 teachers the past year, an increase of 267 compared to 2009.
School boards were instituted in all schools in order to direct the school management. Standards and levels have been established for the purpose of creating and regulating modernized, student-friendly schools. Pre-schools have been established in all islands of the Maldives.
Last year I stated that our main goal for 2010 was to increase the percentage of graduates holding 5 passes from 32 per cent to 41 per cent. Even though this goal was not reached, the figure has now been increased to 35 percent. Performance improvements were achieved by 100 schools in 2010 over 2009. To sum up, the percentage of students who passed in 5 subjects has increased in those schools.
Another point of note is that a large number of students have achieved extraordinary accomplishments at an international level. I also emphasize the large number of students who have obtained a perfect score of 100.
A professional development loan scheme -‘Loan Scheme for Educational Assistants’ - for the sector has been introduced at the Bank of Maldives to provide partial and complete tuition assistance for vocational training courses and higher education courses. Under this scheme 50 top level officials from schools were sent abroad for studies in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Last year, approximately Rf 50 million were provided under the student loan scheme to more than 1000 students. Consequent to numerous efforts undertaken to seek out as many opportunities as possible for local students to attain higher studies abroad, the number of scholarships offered under the Australian Development Scholarship programme was increased two-fold at the outset of 2011.
I believe that we have now arrived at the grandest advancement in the history of the country’s academia. That is, a national university has now been established in the Maldives. The university will serve the purpose of creating, preserving and disseminating knowledge and skills required for national development in cultural, social, economic and public spheres to safeguard the Maldives as a sovereign Islamic nation. I take this moment to sincerely thank the honorable members of this Majlis for granting passage to the National University Act.
Last year had also seen notable achievements in the government efforts to spread religious awareness in the Maldives and to rejuvenate Islamic faith among the public. Religious scholars were engaged for religious sermons to be delivered all across the country. In 2010, mosques were built in 12 islands and several renovation projects of mosques were undertaken. Alms collection was also increased compared to last year, and the funds were used for major projects. 39 islands were selected for construction of new mosques this year, 21 of which would be funded by the state budget. Construction of these mosques is set to begin this year, and work is being done to procure foreign assistance for the construction of another 18 mosques. In addition to those, I would like to highlight that the first Islamic bank to be established in the Maldives will be opened during this month.
Compared to 2009, the number of crimes reported to the Maldives Police Service declined by 11 percent in 2010.
“Strategic Plan 2011 to 2013” has been compiled and put in effect to ease the public anxiety fostered by the prevalence of brutal crimes and violence. The Plan also sets out to penalize newly emerging criminal acts such as cybercrimes, human trafficking and money laundering.
The efforts exerted by the government to prevent the illegal trafficking of narcotic drugs into the country have been rewarding. This is evidenced by the reduction in the number of people reported for drug offences by 46% in 2010, compared with that of in 2009, according to recent Police records. Moreover, these records indicate a 40% reduction in the percentage of youth exposed and therefore, are highly susceptible to adopting the habit of drug abuse. Even more, a 55% reduction was seen last year in the number of people diagnosed positive of alcohol consumption compared to that of two years ago.
Reports reveal that approximately 114 addicts were treated at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, 135 addicts completed treatments at the Vilimale’ and Hulhumale Detoxification Centres and 91 addicts were treated at various community centres across the nation last year. This year, we have planned to establish a rehabilitation centre in the South Province, a detoxification centre and a halfway house with a capacity of 25 in the North Province, and an additional drop-in centre in the North Central Province. Since many of our projects to cure drug addicts are backed up by financial corporations, we aim to help strengthen, fortify and expand their services rendered, this year. To examine the current drug situation further, a nation-wide survey will be conducted under assistance from the European Union by the UNODC. The complete effectuation of these measures is inseparable from the passing of the new bill currently proposed to this esteemed Majlis. Therefore, I appeal to this Majlis in all confidence, to endorse the presently submitted bill in the most absolute and rightful manner.
Presently, there is a programme in place initiated as a joint approach by the government, private companies and organizations to rehabilitate and re-integrate those alleged addicts recovering from powerful drug habits, back into the society. Several successful events were held in 2010 to analyze and identify the ways and means by which these addicts could be brought back into the society, through training them to embrace social etiquette and relate to the environment and surrounding people. The expansion of these programmes is currently underway in liaison with various companies. I assure you that we will not step back even the slightest bit in ensuring that these propositions are realized.
Under the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme, 12,094 youths were trained. Maldives Polytechnic was established last year to improve technical capabilities of youth In addition, job centres were established in 3 islands and information on local job opportunities was disseminated from these centres.
Initiating volunteerism in the Maldives is a high priority of the government. In this regard, 120 youths who had completed their A-levels last year were engaged to Maldives Volunteer Corps. In addition, on the occasion of the International Voluntary Day, more than 600 youths voluntarily took part in activities held last year.
The tasks necessary for the administration of the ILO Convention are underway. Various activities were held last year in association with ILO to resolve issues faced by employers and employees, strengthen the laws of employment and the work of agencies assigned with the task of ensuring the effectiveness of these laws enforced. The reformation of the employment law is currently being carried out by the government with the assistance of ILO.
We have previously emphasized the need to develop cultural and literary talent in this country. One of the best opportunities opened for Maldivian writers and artists include the Hay Festival held last year for the first time. The Hay Festival is an annual art and literary festival held in Wales. The importance of a Hay Festival to the Maldives is justified by the fact that it is a platform for all writers, poets and artists to assemble, exchange ideas and communicate on issues concerning politics and society. The festival was all the more important for us as the Maldives is a fledgling democracy. It was inferred from this event that the natural bountiful beauty of the Maldives was indeed made more meaningful by the rich cultural and literary inheritance displayed by Maldivian artists, poets and writers.
In order to develop local skills and talents, the government will establish an Arts Council and a Heritage Council this year. Two bills will be submitted to this Majlis to accord legal identities to these two Councils.
Last year, the National Sports Council was strengthened and advanced to ensure their endeavors were at par with the lines of a decentralized system of good governance. This work will progress in the same manner this year as well. Plans are in progress to establish the National Institution of Sports and the framework has already been established. Attempts are being made to gain the attention of foreign investors to develop equipment available in the Maldives for water-sports. Six different programmes held by associations and communities under the title ‘Sports for All’ were assisted by the government. This year, it is planned to conduct these programmes inclusive of all provinces in the Maldives. In order to transform the nation into a regional and a tourist centre for sports and increase the number of international water-sports activities held in the Maldives, Maldives Invitational Beach Games is being planned and scheduled to be held this year.
On this note, I shall express my pleasure on the success the Maldives garnered in the field of sports last year. Our national cricket team had won the first place in the ACC Trophy Challenge held in Thailand. This is a remarkable achievement and an enormous pleasure to all of us.
Significant work was done by the government last year to reduce incidences of issues concerning gender inequality and gender discrimination,. In this regard, a resort forum was held to promote products crafted by women and financial aid was rendered to organizations striving to encourage and emancipate women in our society to gain their rights and opportunities, and to extend and employ their potential in managing trade and businesses.
There have been favorable outcomes ensuing increased efforts to improve bilateral diplomatic relations and attract foreign aid and assistance. A Donors Conference was held in March last year with friendly countries and organizations. The participants of this conference had pledged to provide aid to the Maldives in terms of health, infrastructure, education, trade and governance. This aid is currently being provided.
Within the past year itself, approximately 1.3 Billion Japanese Yen and 50 million Chinese Yuan worth of foreign grants were received by the Maldives. The National Museum constructed under grant assistance from the Chinese government was also completed. The extension of the period by 10 years, for the settlement of the 100 million US Dollars’ worth Standby Credit Facility granted by the Indian government to the Maldives also took place the same year. As with the partnership between the Indian government and the local government, 500 housing units were agreed to be built and 40 million US Dollars were granted as a Line of Credit last year. In addition, there are ongoing international talks on the elimination of the impediments and complications that may surface, in terms of losing special privileges and amenities offered to Least Developed Countries, as a result of the graduation of the Maldives from the list of the LDCs of the world on the 1st of January 2011.
In order to increase bilateral relations, efforts were made to create political connections between the Maldives and other foreign countries. In this regard, political relations were established with a number of countries. In addition, I undertook trips to some countries last year to strengthen bilateral relations. Under an initiative taken by the Maldives, a Climate Vulnerable Forum was held in New York during the time of the United Nations Common Debate last year. Discussions had been held with the members of CVF on matters concerning climate change prior to the successful UN Climate Change Meeting held in Cancun, Mexico in November 2010.
The Maldives has successfully become a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The Maldives is a frontline member of several efforts being exerted by the Human Rights Council to monitor and cease the inhumane acts taking place in Libya. The elections of the Sub-committee of Prevention of Torture established under UN’s ‘The Optional Protocol To The Convention Against Torture’ were also succeeded by the Maldives. I am proud to note that this is the first time a Maldivian judge, especially a female member of the judiciary, has been nominated for a global institution striving to prevent all forms of violence and injury.
Work is underway to compile a National Security Plan in order to distinguish the challenges being faced regarding security, and conduct deliberations on the establishment of laws on national security. The objective of this Plan is to create and sustain a safe and serene environment in the nation, and to set targets and goals from a collective viewpoint of all concerned authorities at a national level. Under this plan, the tasks of the National Security Council would be expanded further and an administrative layout of national security would be drawn up. In addition, the framing work of laws pertaining to national security would be carried out. The office of the National Security Advisor has been established to attend to these requirements.
National policies regarding Maritime security and its associated strategies will be established as an important aspect of the National Security Plan. This includes the initiation of a ‘’Maritime Domain Awareness’’ Programme this year. 8 action plans will be patterned under Maritime security. This mainly includes the propagating and analyzing awareness on maritime domains, the layout of a Marine Security information plan, identification of internal threats, improving bilateral relations, identification of marine threats, recovering the network of the marine industry and studying the transport system and marine trade systems. This action plan will be devised within 90 days forward. For the first time in the Maldivian history, Maldivian soldiers will participate in the UN Peace Keepers’ regiment under a contract to be signed this year.
The special economic boundary of the Maldives was marked and submitted to the United Nations on the 26th of July last year to facilitate the stabilization of the economical and political power in the country. As a result, the rights of local fishermen have been protected and the strengthening of efforts to protect fishing areas has taken place.
Given that the Maldives has been a nation subsisting on the bounties of the sea throughout its history, last year, the boundary of the continental shelf of the Maldives was marked and registered at the UN. In addition, on the 31st of this month, an area of 169,000 square kilometers will be allocated for this purpose by the government.
This is the year of the first SAARC Summit to be held in the Southern Hemisphere of the world. The central objective behind the selection of the Southern Province of the Maldives to host this Summit is to give the region a distinguishable geographical identity on the world map. Simultaneously, the aim is to introduce and inaugurate a way by which all travellers passing the Indian Ocean in either an East-West direction, or West-East direction, can obtain various opportunities from this region. The principal objective of the government, however, remains to develop and continue using the SAARC Convention Centre to be built, subsequent to the actual summit, to host other such conventions and conferences on various occasions. The government shall constantly endeavor to organize such summits, meetings and other formal procedures of international magnitude, to earn the citizens of the Maldives, greater honor and reputation, and enable them to reap the many benefits such events may yield.
The National Awards of Honour and Awards of Recognition were given last year as well. The awardees honored last year were indeed of high merit and contributed much in their respective fields. I firmly believe the National Awards Committee has always been independent, responsible and judicious in their selection process for the awards. I shall state here that the government does not and shall never exert any influence on the work of the committee. The Government had decided to bestow opportunities upon the conferees of National Awards to participate as guests of honour at functions organized by the government, and this will continue this year as well.
Last year, in my Republic Day’s speech, I had stated that the National Awards Committee had been assigned the task of setting a criterion for the acknowledgement of those who have served the government and the people for a very long time with sincerity and loyalty. This is through according them with special honour and titles of recognition. The committee’s work is drawing to a close. Selected figures will be awarded the honour and recognition in the coming Independence Day celebrations.
The privileges bill of the People’s Majlis was returned to this Majlis for reconsideration as I felt it could be revised and redrafted to allow more meaningful amendments to be made. I have proposed my recommended amendments to the Speaker of the Majlis already. I advice to seek ways of safeguarding the main foundations of the privileges bill at your earliest convenience.
I regard it as being highly important that the members of the Majlis receive their necessary privileges and protection. During the history of 77 years of the Majlis, there have been several circumstances under which some respected members of the Majlis, either incumbent or resigned then, had to face various contemptible consequences concerning politics, justice and other controversies.
Therefore, I believe that it should be highly emphasized that the members of the Majlis receive their privileges and protection under an established, legitimate law.
As I have mentioned on various occasions before, the most important mission of this government is democracy. In other words, it is the division of state powers and the trouble-free running of important independent institutions. The role of the Majlis is significant in making the most of our vision and plans to come into existence practically and successfully. A noteworthy example is the establishment of important offices that come under the judicial system in the Maldives last year.
The passage of the law on judges and the establishment of a permanent Supreme Court, form one of the most important cornerstones in the consolidation of democracy in the Maldives.
Several successful projects were undertaken during the last two years in the fields of economy, social order and good governance. The speedy rate at which governmental policies are being implemented proliferates the benefits and advantages received by the people. The gratifying changes are being seen from every angle and in every direction. The responsibility of providing services and conducting projects, that were long carried out and supervised centrally by institutions in the capital, will now be conferred to the democratically constituted Councils, to be implemented by respective communities. In reality, the government’s aim is to pass on the administrative powers that were once centralized on the government and concentrated in Male’, to Island, Atoll and City Councils. These changes have been accepted and acclaimed by the people of the Maldives.
Today, my main appeal is for you endeavor to instill trust and faith in the judicial system of the Maldives and in the work of parliament. I appeal for unity in the national interests and prioritize constructive judgment and wisdom to allow for peace, progress and order in our country, without being associated with those seeking abrupt opportunities to disrupt and topple the government. I sincerely thank you for your co-operation and collaboration with the government. I appeal to this esteemed Majlis to start afresh and continue working together with the government in all areas that are advantageous and beneficial to the people of the Maldives.
Today, the people of the Maldives have acknowledged the efforts of government and are now keen to see the work of the judiciary and the legislature reach acceptable norms of attaining public confidence. The people will not wish to see themselves being denied any services or rights from a house in their name, and would definitely not want to see their own representatives caught up in a drive to overthrow the government.
This government seeks to establish a completely new nationality. For us, the nationality that the people seek is very clear. The government’s present vision for a new nationality is based on good Islamic principles, Maldivian culture, human rights, and on civil, social and economic progress. Today’s vision for a new nationality is complemented further by the presence of an integrated nation-wide transport system in the country and the, easy availability of affordable housing and shelter for all the people of the Maldives.
I am very happy to note that with God’s Grace, our quality of life has improved with time as indicated by aforementioned achievements, statistics and facts. The achievements of the many projects and endeavors being carried out by the government is not specific only to a particular group of people. This is the government of all Maldivians.
In this nation’s existence, today also would be marked by the sun’s radiant, golden yellow rays that light up blue skies and bountiful seas, a day filled by the beautiful rich hues of Nature. A new day that signifies the evergreen, trouble-free, joyful clean living, granted us by Providence.
May Almighty Allah grant His bountiful blessings forever on the Maldives and its people. May the work of this esteemed Majlis be more productive and prosperous. My earnest prayer is for Almighty Allah to grant the people of the Maldives the benefits of both the worlds. Aameen.
Thank you very much. Praise be to God.
28 Rabeeul Awwal 1432
3 March 2011
Republic of Maldives