Speech by His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives, at the Investment Conference
20 February 2009, Ref: PRO/RMN/2009/54
Thank you very much. Good afternoon.
Thank you for coming to our investment seminar. I will not take much time. I would rather try and answer your questions. But I will simply highlight some of the issues.
We have recently had our first multi-party elections. We have been able to have a peaceful transfer of power from dictatorship to democracy. We believe that it is very important for the international community and the Italians to be observant about this - mainly because we are surrounded by problems. You have Sri Lanka right next to us, which has a civil war for the last 20 years. You have east African countries also with lot of civil conflicts and you have all sorts of Islamic radicalism that surrounds us and t infringes upon us.
We believe that, if the Maldives can become a democratic country, this can happen in any other Islamic country. We are a hundred percent Muslim country and we have been able to come up with a home-grown democratic movement. We feel that this exercise can also be successful elsewhere in the Middle-East and any other Islamic country. We, very strongly feel that democracy is very important for stability and to manage religious extremism and religious fundamentalism. We have all the ingredients of trouble in our country. We have extreme religious groups. We have more conservative religious parties. We also have elements like ourselves who are more secular in outlook.
We think that consolidating democracy in the Maldives is very important for business. It is very important for regional stability. It is very important for managing and understanding climatic changes and environmental problems. Governance is important if we are to adapt, if we are to mitigate, the effects of global warming and climate change. Governance is important if we want to have the beaches, the sand and the sun, intact for a lot of suntan lotion. Therefore, it is really quite important to keep the political stability of the country.
We would request from the people of Italy, the government and your academia to be observant and vigilant about the Maldives. To not only study its coral features, but also study changes. Study democracy in action. Study how we have been able to succeed in a very smooth transfer of power from feudalism to democracy.
With the change in government, we have changed the way in which we think about managing our resources and using our resources. In the past, the government decided to use its resources and provide for the people simply through government and only government. There was no much outside participation. Of course tourism industry is another story. This was the only industry that had little government interference and therefore, that was the only industry that boomed and produced a very handsome return to all our friendly and lovely Italian industries.
The government cannot invest in all the infrastructure. The country needs a fair amount of infrastructure development; in water, in sanitation, in healthcare, in education, in transport. So, we believe that although the government cannot provide through its own budget any of these facilities or utilities, it would again give you a good return if they were done in a corporate commercial manner.
For instance, we are already producing and buying 700 million Dollars of electricity. Basically, we are asking someone to come and produce it and sell it to the people of Maldives.
We are not asking for aid. We are asking for trade. We want you to diversify your investment portfolio from tourism to other infrastructure areas.
Now, I have been saying this over and over again during the four days that I have been here in Italy. Some of you who had already heard me, I’m sorry to bore you to death by again talking about investment opportunities in the Maldives.
Basically, we think that to consolidate democracy it is very important that we provide these infrastructure facilities to the people. The people have high expectations and they have had a very hard life during the last 30 years. They deserve better facilities.
Meanwhile, we have to be imaginative in providing these facilities in a more renewable and a sustainable manner. With the help of the university we are able to study such areas. With the help of academia we will, perhaps, be a carbon free country. We feel that this can be achieved through alternative energy and renewable energy. There are already a number of companies fairly interested in developing a power grid and supplying power to the people of Maldives.
Tourism opportunities, as shown on the video, have more to it than what was available. I think what you saw was just one island – Hulhumale’. There is land and space available in other places as well.
As for our work with Biccoca University, we feel it is very important. In my mind if coral growth can off-set or can keep up with sea-level rise, perhaps wave action can be mitigated. I’m not an expert, but I’m very interested in it and I always try to learn it. Hopefully, with your university we should be able to learn more of it.
Basically, what I am looking at is this: Is there coral growth? Does it always maintain a standard level between surface and its bed? Will it grow with the rise of sea-level? And if the answers are ‘yes’, we would be a happy nation. Because then, there is chance.
Anyway, we don’t think that we are not going to be here. We have a written history of more than 2000 years old. Maldivian ambassadors visited the court of Julius Caeser with credentials. So we don’t really quite see us not being there in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I think we should be able to off-set many aberrations and many climatic changes.
All and all, democracy has to be consolidated. Please help us to do that. Please come and invest in the country. We are not asking for aid. We are asking for investments. And I would like to point out that already there is, in my offhand estimate, more than a billion dollars of Italian investments in the Maldives. You could ask them. Their returns have been very handsome. And I’m sure more investments will yield better returns.
Thank you very much.