Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen.
And a very good morning to you all.
Welcome to the Maldives Partnership Forum. Your presence here represents a sincere commitment on your part to forge mutually beneficial, long-term development partnerships with the Maldives.
The favourable turnout has exceeded our expectations and reassures us that the Maldives is indeed a country with many friends. As you may know, this forum, previously known as the Donor Forum is being reconvened after a decade.
This year’s forum is the largest of its kind ever to be held in the Maldives. An event of this scope provides a wonderful opportunity to share our development vision, and renew our engagements with our partners.
Ladies and gentlemen, development has, in the past, been predominantly assessed in economic terms. Such measures however, are on their own, inadequate. An impressive GDP per capita in the absence of equitable development and good governance is at worst a meaningless statistic and, at best, one that prioritizes abstractions over actual human beings and their welfare.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government prioritizes well-being of the Maldivian people over all things. The overarching promise of this administration, of Jazeera Raajje, is for our citizens to be able to live dignified and fulfilling lives.
Our goal is to create an inclusive society free of systemic inequities; one that leaves no one behind, and where everyone has an equal start in life to thrive.
Distinguished guests, the Maldives has made remarkable strides in its development journey over the years. However, we are not content to rest on our laurels and wax lyrical on our achievements. Not when there are so many pressing issues demanding the State’s attention.
Too many of our citizens have been struggling to find adequate housing and shelter, and often when they do, they are forced to spend an inordinate share of their income on meeting the rent, and are barely able to save or spend on anything else. This is unacceptable, especially in a country of less than 500,000 people.
This administration is committed to resolving the Maldives’ housing crisis and ensuring that everyone living in the Maldives has access to adequate and affordable housing.
Further, for too long higher education has been treated as the preserve of the privileged few who can afford it. A well-educated citizenry comprise the building blocks of a successful nation and we believe that all Maldivians should be provided the resources and support they will need to be able to reach their fullest.
This is why this government is the first to provide free education to all Maldivian citizens up to their first undergraduate degree. We have also revised our scholarships schemes and policies with regard to providing student loans, to facilitate the aspirations of those who wish to pursue their higher education abroad, at the world’s best universities.
Thirdly, we believe that good health and happiness are not merely conducive to an efficient workforce, but are the entitlement of every single human being. As outlined in the Jazeera Manifesto, the Government of President Solih attaches high importance to the physical and mental well-being of all.
We made remarkable strides in the health sector within this Government’s first 100 working days - the establishment of a National Mental Health Institute covered by the government’s insurance policy ‘Aasandha’; the administration of HPV vaccines for girls between the ages of 9 and 13; and the installation of a GeneXpert Machine in two regions in the country as part of the ongoing efforts to eradicate Tuberculosis are only a few of these noteworthy achievements.
Further, the Government is pursuing digitization of the healthcare sector through an interconnected healthcare system and telemedicine to help redress geographic disparities surrounding affordable and quality healthcare services.
With regard to youth, the government believes that the importance of investing in this essential demographic cannot be overstated. It is imperative that we instil in our youth not only the social and cognitive skills needed to succeed in their professional endeavours but to also emphasise the values of empathy and civic-duty, to allow for the development of responsible and caring citizens.
In addition to improving access to higher education, investing in vocational skills and transitioning to single session schools, our administration recognises the crucial role played by arts and culture in society. To preserve our history and our customs is to preserve our very Maldivian identity.
Finally, a development agenda that neglects half the population is a dead end. This is why women’s empowerment should be at the very core of our policy priorities.
Despite the huge number of driven, capable and enterprising Maldivian women, they have been short-changed by a set of patriarchal norms that have become embedded in our country over the years, limiting their horizons and discouraging them from reaching their full potential.
For instance, despite the active role played by women at the grassroot’s level across all sectors, they are severely underrepresented at the top of each hierarchy. Women in leadership roles are the exception rather than the norm in the Maldives, and this is extremely unfortunate.
To eradicate gender discrimination and to enhance women’s representation, the Maldives Government has spearheaded a number of game changing initiatives. For instance, through our amended decentralization bill we will ensure gender quotas on all Atoll and Island Councils, whilst augmenting the role played by Women’s Development Councils.
Further, to ensure that women do not have to choose between motherhood and advancing in their careers, we guarantee 6 months paid maternity leave for all women, along with 1 month paid paternity leave for new fathers.
In all these important endeavours, we will need the support and cooperation of our development partners. In light of the amount and diversity of our guests I am sure that many of the issues that we have highlighted, resonate with your own priorities and interests, as well as that of the countries and institutions that you represent.
We are keen on working with all of you to help us achieve success in all of these vital areas.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
And have a nice day in this beautiful Maldives.