Representatives from Japan Bank for International Corporation, Port and Investment Insurance and Innovation Network Corporation of Japan; Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen:
Of course it is a very happy occasion for us. Water indeed is one of the main issues for this country. But before I go to the issue of water, if I may also look into Japanese-Maldives cooperation throughout the years – Government of Japan and its people have always been, in the past so many years, very generous in assisting our development efforts.
Maldives during the last so many years have been also able to work very hard with Japanese assistance and cooperation and has now been able to get promoted from the least developed list to become a developing country. While we were in the initial stages of development, the Japanese government and its people were able to see that, in terms of assistance, the most important area that would be required by the people of the Maldives was education.
During the last 30 years especially, Japanese agencies and authorities have invested very handsomely in our education sector and in providing especially the infrastructure so necessary for education our young people. We thank the people of Japan and its government for having assisted us in this regard, all through out the last so many years.
Now, the Maldives is ready for anther level of engagement with the government, its industry and the people of Japan. We believe that we are now in a situation to competitively engage in trade and also in partnership with Japanese companies so that we may be able to get the best benefit from our investments and our development efforts. Therefore, it is indeed a pleasure today to see that one of our most efficient and productive and profitable public services are able to have a very good relationship between a similar company in Japan – Hitachi.
MWSC, as everyone has pointed out, has been in operation for the last 15 years, and during those 15 years, the company has performed with profit every single year. The company is actually a very lucrative company and it is making handsome profits. It is also able to, while making these profits, give reliable and affordable water and sewerage service to the people of Male’.
Of course, Male’ is our most populated island. It has more than a third of the country’s population. But, we now need to extend this service to the rest of the islands. In our attempts to do this, the government has divided the country into seven provinces and has created seven utility companies and these seven utility companies all are trying to find joint-venture partners in being able provide both electricity, water and sewerage facilities for the people.
Malé Water and Sewerage Company, especially has the license to provide water and sewerage services to the central atolls and therefore, we hope that MWSC will be able to rapidly expand their network and start providing these issues, these facilities to the people of nearby islands.
I would also like to pint out that at the same time other utility companies are also open for business and open for partnerships. We understand that water is a very important commodity, very important resource for our development and for our well-being.
We live in a country where it is always surrounded by water. 99% of our country is actually water and therefore it is strange that we talk about water shortages. But now, it is the dry season and we are running short of water. If the rains don’t come in the next two weeks, we will be in trouble.
Even now as we speak, a number of islands in the central atolls have water shortages. This is because the country has rapidly expanded. It has grown and therefore its demands and its needs and lifestyle of its people have changed. We are not able to do with the water aquifer or the ground water table that is available for us in the islands. In the past, the islanders were able to tap into their own water aquifers, water tables and therefore be able to have sufficient water for their daily needs. Population growth, changes in lifestyles and also changes in climate patterns have now made it so that water is no longer available from the ground. Therefore, we now need to find more innovative methods, ways of providing water to our people.
We are blessed that the technology has been tested in this country for the last 30 years. Water desalination was first introduced to this country through the resorts. We now have more than, I understand, 200 desalination plants all provided by Hitachi subsidiaries, all working in good order and condition in the Maldives. This is beyond the MWSC water production facility. The MWSC water production facility is the biggest single plant in the country, but there are a number of other plants all through out the country, especially in the resorts producing and supplying reliable and cheap water to the people.
Water becomes expensive not just simply because of its production technology, but mostly because of the high energy costs that involves production. Energy is expensive in the Maldives because we do not have large amounts of fossil fuel reserves.
Electricity production in the country can be as high as 30 – 35 cents a unit. This is much, much higher than any other country in the world. We must be able to harness electricity and harness energy from resources that we are blessed with. The country is very blessed with sunshine. We also have a fair amount of wind and there are many other renewable energy sources.
Maldives is attempting to become carbon neutral not because of just simply its environmental attractiveness but also because this makes economic sense. This is the only feasible way for development. We cannot provide, we cannot generate and supply electricity at 35 cents a unit for the rest of the country uninterruptedly. It’s just simply not possible. We won’t be able to import all the oil and we won’t be able to find the foreign currency for all the oil, if we measure our developmental efforts and if we understand the future oil requirements for this country. So therefore, we need to rapidly change our thinking, change our policies. We are now able to harness other sources of energy and therefore we should be rapidly changing to these sources of energy.
I understand and I am told that it is possible now to generate electricity at a unit cost of 15 – 20 cents through renewable energy sources. So we are attempting to become carbon neutral mainly because of the economic feasibility of that policy. Ours is an energy policy that we are trying to implement and within that energy policy, we have found that the most feasible thing to so would be to do away with carbon emission and try to find a development process without much carbon emission.
We have seen success achieved by other courtiers through these means. I have just come from a country called Iceland. The country has 300,000 people and it does not burn fossil fuel for its electricity generation purposes. It relies entirely upon geothermal. So therefore, all these links between carbon and development are not necessarily so true. We want to find another model where there is no link between carbon and development. In our mind this is the only way to develop, in our mind this will be the only way to have sustainability in our development.
So then again, I would like to thank the Japanese government and the Japanese people for coming to the Maldives and trusting the Maldives policies and also embarking upon this very, very exciting period of development in our country.
The opportunities in this country are very wide. We only have safe drinking water on a handful of islands. I understand we only have water networks on four islands and sewerage networks in not more than 15 – 20 islands. But we have 200 islands where people are living on. We must be able to find models of providing safe and reliable drinking water to all these people. We believe that it won’t be through government that we will be able to achieve these goals but through public-private-partnerships that we think more efficient and more reliable means of investments can be provided.
Therefore, we are also glad those presents here today are major development banks from Japan who are now willing to invest in these areas in the Maldives. I would again like to thank the chairman of Hitachi group for having the confidence in the country. I would also like to thank MWSC and its board. I would especially like to thank our privatization committee and Mr Mahmood Razi for doing the very hard work in getting the process right and getting the whole thing moving. I would like to thank the whole of the privatization committee and everyone who has been working very hard to get this programme going and moving.
Thank you very much.