بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم
Invitees, Ladies and Gentlemen;
A very good afternoon.
You have just heard a report, very clearly described. As Tony mentioned, this is absolutely the right time, and I certainly agree with you. When presidential candidates are deciding their manifestos, I hope they will seriously consider these reports, and bring changes to our beautiful country.
I think it’s very important for us to realise, that these reports are extremely valuable. In terms of your future plans for your nation, in terms of your partnerships- internationally and nationally, the partnerships that you have made with other countries. This time they have looked at the south because the south is, as you know, extremely successful, as you have seen in the report.
We have also seen and heard that there are areas where the Maldives must seriously consider. I would like to highlight a few areas. First of all, the disparity between the wealthy and the less fortunate. It’s very important that when you are planning your future, when you are reading out the laws and regulations, you have to bring these two levels as closer as possible. Because the level, the huge level of discrepancy can create social unjust, misunderstanding, hatred, anger and frustrations. And these are bad for building a nation. So it’s very important that we find ways and means, how you can bridge the gaps. And in the modern society, in a civilised world, the most effective way is a proper taxing system. Until today, the Maldives has not established a proper taxing system. And I think it’s very important that we have to look at it from this angle.
I am very grateful for the work, for the contributions and the support given by the UN and UN Agencies. I am also grateful for the international agencies, World Bank and other organisations and also governments’ support. But there is something that we have to clearly understand, that as the nation develops, as we have heard that the Maldives has made progress. But the true progress can be seen by us the Maldives having a system where we generate our income to a level that we do not ask foreign donors for their support.
It is extremely important that we have to stand up on our own feet. And unless we can achieve that, it would be very difficult for us to independently show our progress. We would always have to ask international donors’ help. Why I say this is because I’m not a believer of expecting donations and support all the time. Donations and support must be utilised in a context as a catalyst for sustainable developments.
When UN and other organisations, or UNODC or other organisations assist; water, rainwater, sewerages, it is the responsibility of the government to make it sustainable. Very often we see that these supports are given. In the next year’s budget it is important that the government must include sustainable methods and possibilities to carry on those facilities and services within the people. And the people themselves must be told to stand up on their own feet. And unless we do that, it is very difficult to achieve what we have just seen in the reports.
Today, we are very proud to be talking about democracy. And I am grateful for the changes that have taken place in the Maldives. But I think it’s very important for us to educate the people on democracy. By changing constitutions, and changing Presidents, it is hard or almost impossible to run a democratic nation. The mind-set of the people must understand what democracy is, and how we can sustain a democracy. Unless we do that we would not be able to sustain a democratic system.
Although the subject I am trying to talk today now, is not directly related, but is certainly related to the developments. I strongly believe that the Maldives must have a population consolidation method. And unless populations are consolidated, economically viable solutions, healthcare, education and other services and facilities required for the Maldives’ democratic system. It is almost impossible for you to live in 150 to 200 islands. And some populations which are 1500, 2000 or 8000, it is extremely difficult. So these are important issues that we have to address while we are looking at this report and learn from it.
I am standing here, and I can say this. But it is extremely difficult for presidential candidates to talk about this. For one reason, they are afraid that the islanders might get angry because you talk of population consolidation. And for the other reason, which is worse. Divide and group policy has been in the Maldives for hundreds of years. It is easier to control the votes if you are in small, small, little islands. But it is difficult for the population’s consolidation.
So these are issues that we have to address in future. And unless these issues are addressed, a sustainable economically viable nation cannot be established.
I would also say that it is important for us to make more people richer, and tax from the people, so the income will be greater. This is a policy that has been proved viable in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and many other countries in the world.
In the report we have seen about education, about educating the people, which is I would say is extremely important, and more important than building harbours. Today, we are faced with these challenges. Should we build a remand jail, which costs maybe 10 million or 20 million rufiyaa. Or should you build a harbour for a 600 population, which is costing 46 million or fifty million. What would you choose? Certainly a politician, a clever politician, will choose a harbour.
But a person, who thinks of sustainability for a nation, would build a remand jail. Why? Because we have created one of the best constitutions, or one of the best drug courts in the Maldives. When you sentence these people, when you want to bring the people who are suffering with the illness of drug addiction, when you want to bring them into the society, there are ways and means you can do that. But unless you are prepared, ready for these rehabilitation centres, it is impossible to achieve this stuff?
So today, I am very grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to launch this report. And I hope those who are going to be in the list of presidential candidates, and politicians, will seriously think about the development of this nation, and not thinking how long he can stay in power.
Sadly, this has been the problem in our small, beautiful country. Many presidents have thought of not going in to the direct problems we have within the society, and within the island communities, especially health and other facilities. No doubt we have achieved fantastic results, I have no doubt about it. But please understand we cannot be happy and we cannot be satisfied. We have to go a long way. And as you said in the report, you have to create jobs much earlier than the demand. Today the Maldives faces the same situation. A younger generation, educated generation, is left without jobs. Because we did not plan for them, we did not plan ahead.
What has happened to us today, our situation, is not something that has happened overnight. It took time and years. So I would suggest, that we listen to the community, we listen to the people, we listen to the youth of the Maldives. We bring the youth and ask them to express themselves, in forums, in different platforms, bring their ideas, so that they would not go and talk behind. Or go in to more wilder activities.
The best method is to let a person express him, or herself, and not to hide the real problems of the country; domestic violence, child abuse and many other issues related to gender. Quite unfortunately, we pretended we did not have these problems. We pretended these things never existed in our society. What a wonderful, clean society we had. But the truth is that people suffer, children suffer, women suffer, and we have these problems. And unless we accept that we have these problems, we would not bring changes.
So today, the process of democracy, with the process of changing of the constitution, fortunately or unfortunately people coming on the roads, we have to allow it. The voice of the people must be heard. Please understand, Maldives would never, never go back in reform.
Therefore the leaders, especially like me today, we have to listen to these voices and bring changes. So that in reality we can bring the changes that these reports recommend. Reports can come and reports can go. But unless you make an effort to change yourself that report will never benefit you. That’s why it’s important that when you see these reports, when these are published, it is very important that you make full use of these. UN can do all these reports and can give us advice, but unless the leaders are willing to accept, and the parliament is going to bring these changes, and the politicians are willing to accept these changes, the county will not progress. The only way for our country to progress is to listen to the people and the voice of the people.
Before I conclude, I would also like to thank the UN for your generous support always. I can assure you that as long as I am in this government, I can only promise as long as I’m here, I will do my utmost to support you, and continue to listen to you all.