Honourable Speaker of the People’s Majlis:
I am here at the first sitting of the first session of the Majlis this year to present my statement about the current state of our nation and measures that can be taken to improve this status, as stipulated in Article 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives.
My highest priority is to perform the duties of the President in line with the Constitution and laws of the country. I assure you that I will not take any action that goes against the constitution or law. Neither will I interfere with the work of the Judiciary. I also assure you that I will not intervene in the affairs of any institution granted independence by the constitution or by law. I fully assure you that I will not order anyone to act against the Constitution or laws of this country.
Political stakeholders should work to ensure that Maldives is free from political turmoil and that citizens live without fear. No one should put the country in danger of destruction just to protect the interests of a few. Such an opportunity should not be given to anyone.
Following the political unrest in the nation on February 8, some people have committed acts of destruction and violence in some islands. State buildings were burned down and destroyed as a result of these unlawful acts. In Addu City and Huvadhoo Atoll, which were among the most affected areas, the cost of destruction to Island Councils, buildings under the care of these councils, homes of citizens, and police stations is currently estimated at more than One Hundred and Eighty Million rufiyaa. The archived records of the people of Addu maintained by the institutions of the Judiciary in Addu City are immeasurable.
We are working to ensure that services previously delivered at the destroyed building continue without interruption. With the Grace of the Almighty Allah reconstruction work will be started in the near future.
The benefits of the Constitution that the Maldivian people accepted in 2008 can be realised only to the extent that it has been implemented. Work still remains to be done to strengthen institutions created by the constitution, to uphold and sustain principles outlined in the constitution; develop necessary human resources and formulate laws required to implement the constitution.
The main project on strengthening democracy has now been formulated to include these areas. With foreign assistance and with the Grace of the Almighty Allah we will work towards implementing these measures in the near future.
The talk of elections is ongoing in the political arena. However, there are pre-requisites for such an election to take place. Ensuring national peace and harmony among the people for social and economic development should come first.
This is the time for all of us to work together in one spirit, the time to bring political differences to the discussion table in order to formulate solutions. According to the Constitution, the earliest date for a presidential election is July 2013. If a presidential election is required at an earlier date, changes need to be made to the Constitution. I will do everything in my power to bring together all the political leaders, to hold discussions on the matter.
Being a 100% Muslim nation the Maldives does not offer opportunities for the practice of other religions within the country. The government will work to revive the spirit and strengthen the principles of Islamic faith among the people.
Similarly special efforts will be made to strengthen national spirit and togetherness of Maldivians. Activities to understand our history, culture and nationality will be conducted.
The Maldives is currently in a state of economic vulnerability. State expenditure greatly exceeds State income. The current deficit stands at 3.086 billion rufiyaa.
On 11 November 2008 total state debt was 9.9 billion rufiyaa and an additional 13.3 billion rufiyaa was added to this amount in 2011. At the end of 2011 the State owes 23.2 billion rufiyaa to foreign and local parties.
Estimates for 2012 indicate that the debt component of the current account in our Balance of Payments will increase by 11% as compared to 2011. With respect to GDP, debt of our current account will go up to 28%. This figure in 2011 was 26%. The main reason for this rise is the expectation that imports will increase, resulting in an increase in expenditure for these imports.
One of the main aims of the government is to strengthen the trade sector while continuing the work undertaken to strengthen small and medium enterprises and increase their participation in the Maldivian economy.
Ensuring a reasonable price for fish caught by Maldivian fishermen, based on fish prices in the global market is one of the key targets that the government aims to achieve. Work is in progress to obtain the Marine Stewardship Council’s Certificate which will enable Maldivian fishermen to get a better price for fish caught through the pole-and-line method.
Last year a number of training programmes have been conducted with the aim of increasing the skills of farmers and achieve greater productivity in our agriculture industry.
A special school is to be established in Laamu Atoll to conduct agricultural research and training.
This year began with a lot of challenges to the tourism industry, the lifeblood of our economy. I want to note that positive results have been achieved through the counter measures taken by the government in the past few days to respond to travel advisories issued in some countries.
I plan to form a Tourism Advisory Board to determine policy directions for tourism and address the challenges currently faced by the tourism industry
Efforts to improve the education standard of the country and performance of students will be continued by the government. I assure this Majlis and the people of Maldives that the government will ensure access to education by all while sustaining Islamic Education. The government will work towards encouraging the development of strong Muslim Maldivian characteristics through the school system. Skill development of teachers and changes to the learning environment will be implemented to facilitate the implementation of the National Curriculum.
School education and higher education systems will be developed with the aim of increasing national development opportunities and individual prosperity. Scholarships and loan assistance for higher education will be continued.
To ensure sustainable funding for health services is among the highest priorities of this government. We will develop and sustain the existing health insurance system in light of experiences in this area since 2008, and in line with current legislation on health insurance.
Necessary changes to strengthen health services will be implemented in light of experiences of delivering health care through corporate entities and through mechanisms stipulated in the Decentralisation Act.
The youth and sports development centres established in different areas of the Maldives are currently under-utilised. Measures will be taken to fully utilise these resources this year. Additional programs to improve health and well-being of youth; and decrease crimes committed by youth will also be conducted this year.
With the ratification of the Drug Act, a new system of protecting the nation from drug abuse will be put in place this year.
Construction of a total of 1957 housing units has started under the government housing policy. The construction of the remaining housing units will be continued according to plan.
Water and sewerage projects being undertaken so far will continue this year. Work is underway to commence new water and sewerage projects this year with foreign assistance.
Environment-friendly mechanisms that will enable protection of the islands from erosion and flooding are in progress. With the Grace of the Almighty Allah we will be able to implement these mechanisms in some islands this year.
Work is being continued with regard to improving the quality of ferries to all inhabited islands in the country. Efforts to improve the quality of services delivered by these ferries will also continue.
To better maintain our regional airports the government plans to run regional airports under one state-owned enterprise. Discussions regarding the provision of sea plane services in areas where regional airports do not exist have already started.
Internet services to the islands at the same speed as services in Male’ will be achieved through the establishment of a submarine optical fibre network. This will also help to decrease the price of internet services.
Political and economic zones of the Maldives will be safeguarded and measures will be taken to protect the country form both internal and external threats. Management of the Maldives National Defence Force will be strengthened in line with the government’s defence policy, and services of the Maldives National Defence Force will be made more accessible to the citizen through its area commands.
Foreign relations will be established with friendly countries in order to develop defence diplomacy which will be utilised to exchange information, obtain training and resources, and stop activities such as terrorism, piracy, poaching, drug trafficking and illegal arms smuggling in the region.
The foreign policy of Maldives is to protect and safeguard the independence and sovereignty of the nation, while maintaining the nation’s Islamic state. The government will accord a high priority to strengthen relations with countries that respect our sovereignty and are concerned about our national well-being.
One of the key objectives of our foreign policy is to secure foreign aid for economic and social development.
The government will encourage the voice of small island nations to be heard in the global arena with regard to climate change. The Maldives will always participate in voicing out concerns of small island nations.
We will work towards promoting international human rights and ensure that the Maldives is a nation with respect for human rights. In this regard Maldives will fulfil the responsibilities required as party to International Human Rights conventions and treaties.
In the work of protecting national interest and development, the executive will provide assistance required by this esteemed Majlis. In this regard I note that important Bills related to national development have been submitted to this Majlis. I highlight the importance of speedy approval of these bills into laws by this esteemed Majlis.
My sincere prayer is that the people of the Maldives will love and protect their nation, will place national harmony above all else; will work towards the well-being of the nation; will find stability in an Islamic upbringing and the strength and courage to work towards progress and national development.