بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم

اَلحَمْـدُ لِلّـهِ رَبّ العَـالَمِـين، وَالصّـلاة وَالسّلام علـى سيدنا محـمَّدٍ، خاتم الأنبياء والمرسلين، وَعلـى آلـه وَصَحْبِـهِ أجمـعـين.

Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Mr. Natchiappan, Leading functionaries of ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI, Eminent Personalities of the Corporate India, High Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen;

May I thank the ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI for organising this lunch meeting, and thereby facilitating this opportunity for me to meet with the cream of Corporate India.

I can recall, from my forays in business and commerce, the importance of time for chief executives and entrepreneurs. I, therefore, am deeply grateful to you all for finding time to meet with me, to acquaint yourself with Maldives and to inquire about opportunities to do business in my country.
I take the floor to provide you what I hope will be a useful brief on the prevalent foreign investment arrangements in my country, as well as to share with you an overview of lucrative opportunities for investment, in line with the economic revitalisation vision of my government.

We are, first and foremost, just a stone’s throw away from India. And successive governments have sustained special bilateral and developmental ties that ensure ease of connectivity and travel.

Corporate India has naturally been investing in our shores for many decades, an affiliation that began with the opening of a State Bank of India branch in the capital city of Male’. That, incidentally, was the first venture out of Indian territory for SBI.

Today, Indian entrepreneurs have established a large footprint in many sectors of growth, including our world-renowned tourism and hospitality services.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen;

35 years ago, the Maldives featured among the 5 poorest countries in the world. The growth of the country’s economy and resultant improvement in the people’s standard of living in recent decades was, therefore, all the more remarkable. Today, we are no longer an LDC. Most of our MDGs have been reached and our Human Development Index is better than countries of equivalent population and conditions. Thank you India for providing us the human resource development opportunities. We now have the highest per-capita income in South Asia. What we lack in natural resources and scale of economy, we make up through innovation, industry and sheer perseverance.

These encouraging facts do, however, mask a number of challenges, shortcomings and deficiencies embedded in our economy. We are heavily dependent on imports. Our outlay on diesel and petrol imports for power generation and transportation across the archipelago has reached a point of critical unsustainability. Our economy is founded on a very narrow base and we are susceptible to global economic fluctuations.

While we face such challenges, none concern me and my administration as much as the prevalent arrangement for petroleum imports into the Maldives.

To reverse the current economic fortunes, my administration has opened its doors to foreign investors, by offering incentives, concessions, cross subsidies, leverages and government guarantees.

Our vision is to become a high income, resilient and inclusive economy. We aim to achieve this by laying the foundation to diversify the economy to new sectors and industries. Our target is also to diversify our financial services sector through the development of a modern legal regime for financial services. To attract international banks and other financial institutions. To build our reputation as a financial hub and to attract investment funds and venture capitalism.

In the Maldives, foreign investors are offered a simple and transparent policy environment. Continuous efforts are being made to make the investing environment more predictable, more transparent, and more conducive.

Without delving into further details on the prevalent investment climate, my administration’s economic vision and key sectors identified for growth and foreign direct investment, I will conclude my remarks by inviting you to browse through some of the literature that is made available here. I thank you, Corporate India, for considering the Maldives as your preferred destination for upcoming ventures.

I hope to impart further information on the chosen theme – Maldives Open – over the sumptuous lunch served for us by our gracious hosts. My sincere appreciation, once again, to ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI for making this opportunity possible. I hope to see most of you in the sunny Maldives in the near future. Maldives is truly open for business, open for investment and open for Corporate India.

I have had a very good exchange of my vision, and Indian Prime Minister’s vision for this region.

Indian entrepreneurs, leading entrepreneurs;

This part of the world is infested with poverty. This part of the world is infested with destitution. This part of the world boasts of over a billion people, a quarter of the world’s population. It is for us leaders, corporate leaders, political leaders, to rid this region of destitution and poverty. SAARC is a region, India leading its way in the international arena and also in regional development. I’m sure we can be a force to be reckoned with in global economics and regional economics, while politics and foreign diplomacy is important. My belief, my administration’s thrust in foreign policy, is factoring in to account more consular and commercial matters.

I urge the Indian entrepreneurs to find time to visit Maldives. Many of you are very conversant with Maldives. But at the same time I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for you, government of India, Indian leaders. We have had very productive exchanges.

I came with lots of expectations from my people. At this point in time our economy is nothing to be too proud of. We have been trying to cater to the needs of Maldivian people. And in doing so our economics is in tatters. Therefore I have come to our neighbourly country, neighbourly India. And the Indian Prime Minister and the President and of course professional people of India while showing generosity in welcoming us to this country, have also made my visit immensely satisfactory.

We have asked Indian authorities about stone aggregates which is absolutely essential for our construction. And as I speak now I’m told that these are being loaded right away. And who talks about bureaucracy in this part of the world? This is what we can achieve through mutual understanding. India no doubt is a partner in development. India has shown its continued perseverance in the pursuit of regional development. India is a friendly country. Maldives looks up to India and India’s leadership in foreign policies, international relations and regional commerce.

I therefore invite Indian entrepreneurs, Indian business community, to come to the Maldives, see for yourselves your investment opportunities in Maldives. I have here with me a delegation consisting of business entrepreneurs, and also ministers from economic and commerce. The will help me in answering all your questions and all your requirements. I assure you Indian industry, while we have constraints, while we have shortcomings, we would like to provide a conducive business environment to Indian investors.

This is also true for first world countries as well. But as India and Maldives are so close by, and India has been of tremendous help during the glorious 50 years of cooperation we have had, we rely on India for a lot of support. So in the years to come I am hoping with the accomplished travel this time, I’m hoping that India is always there. The relationship we have, the Indo-Maldives relationship is going to go from strength to strength. We are here as neighbours. India is here as a neighbour. Therefore there is no reason why Indian entrepreneurs cannot come to Maldives and invest.

Investment in the Maldives is going to empower our youth. I have a tremendous youth agenda. I have a tremendous economic agenda. So in order for my regime to survive it is imperative that I find Indian investments. Governments alone, it’s shown in India, governments alone cannot provide job opportunities. It is therefore absolutely imperative that we have overseas investments. So where do I find the investments? Where do I find the investors if I cannot find them from India? Indian investments are most welcome in Maldives. Yes, we have had rough patches. But my administration is committed, dedicated, to improve on relations with cooperate India.

Please come to Maldives. Please find time to invest in Maldives.

Thank you all very much.