Good afternoon. I would like to extend my best wishes for the happy New Year. Wish you are very happy New Year and a very peaceful new year.

We have come here not only to open the country for business but also we have come here to thank the people of Sri Lanka, its business community and its government.

During the last so many years while we were at the formative stages of implementing a good governance system in the Maldives. Your people, your NGOs, your government and many of your institutions have assisted us in so many ways. We would like to thank you for these assistances.

The Maldives during the last 30 - 40 years, the government had accumulated a number of state owned industries. This government does not believe that it is in the best interest of the people of the Maldives to have government ownership of these state owned industries. We intend to relinquish the ownership of the government to private sector engagement. We are, therefore, seeking for private partners to venture with the government of Maldives or with Maldives’ industries entrepreneurs in providing infrastructure facilities as well as transport, ports, airports, so on and so forth.

I can go on and on but the message is simply this – Maldives is open for business and open for investments. You are very welcome to come and join us. You are very welcome to come and venture with the government of Maldives if the case be that, or with the private sector in any venture that you may think profitable.

The government does not intend to hold on to any majority shares of any of these industries. So you may have the majority shares of these industries. Presently we have the Hulhulé Airport which is tendered and we are receiving a number of vey interested parties. We have already had some 12 airports that have an interest in joint venture exercise with Hulhulé International Airport. Similarly we have an airport down in the South, in Gan. We also have a number of regional, local, smaller airports. I would like to, just as an example, state that the entrepreneurs of Galle Face Hotel are investing in a hotel on an island which has one of these airstrips. Now, what we are simply asking is, ‘are you interested in the development and the management of the airstrip?’ After all, it would only be through the airstrip that you will be getting your tourists in to your hotels.

So again, to cut a very long story short, the A-Z of this whole story is that we have a number of state-owned white elephants and we would like to see if the Sri Lankan investors or entrepreneurs are interested in joint venture ownership of these industries. If you are, please network. We have all our ministers here. We also have champions of our industries here. Mr Hilmy is leading our business delegation. He is an experienced hand in trade, in entrepreneurship; he was also a former minister.

We would like to remind you that both our countries, our relations, both trade, cultural and hereditary relations go many years back. We are from the same racial stock. We share similar language and we share a lot in common in our outlook to life. There is no doubt about that. So we are only doing what our forefathers had done. Joust building upon the very good relations, the very good contacts maintained with the people of Sri Lanka.

I would like you to use the rest of the day to meet up with our industry people and our government ministers and see what is there for you in the Maldives. The balance of payment figures for both countries remain almost equal. We would like to increase the volume of it. We would like to attract your investments to the Maldives. Even now a fair amount of Maldives tourism industry is owned by Sri Lankan concerns. We have I think a 10% of bed capacity owned by Sri Lankans. We don’t have a problem with foreign ownership. We encourage that. We like it. So that’s the full story of it.
Politicians like us have a tendency to go on and on when we are in front of the mike. But I would restrain from inflicting that pain upon you and just simply stop here and again try to impress upon you that the Maldives is open for business.

Thank you very much and happy New Year again!