President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and First Lady Fazna Ahmed have arrived in Japan for an Official trip on the invitation of the Japanese Government. The President’s Official Bilateral Visit to the State of Japan will commence on Monday, when he is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and is further scheduled to meet with several other leading figures in Japan’s Government and Private Sector for discussions regarding how to take forward the already excellent cooperation between the two countries.
The President, along with his counterparts and visiting delegations from almost the entire globe, will attend the official enthronement of the Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne earlier this year, following the abdication of Emperor Akihito. The President and First Lady will also attend a multilateral networking function with several dozens heads of states and governments present.
Japan is a country to whom the Maldives owes much. For decades Japan has been one of the largest aid donors to the Maldives, helping the Maldives progress virtually all of its national sectors: from health to education, to tourism, to finance. The sea-wall that surrounds the Maldives’ capital city, Male’ – and was instrumental in protecting it from the devastation of the 2004 Asian Tsunami - was built with Japanese aid. Japan’s magnanimity over the years has helped the Maldives’ infrastructural development, strengthened human resources, and made the islands more climate-resilient.
Japan’s aid and investment, much of it channelled through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), greatly complemented the Maldives’ national development efforts and helped the country graduate from Least Development Country (LDC) status in 2011.
The Maldives wishes to climb much higher economic heights, while also rectifying the economic and social disparities that have emerged between the capital city and other islands as a result of over-centralization and longstanding governmental neglect of outlying atolls. President Solih’s Administration has embarked on an especially ambitious national development agenda, prioritizing: decentralizing the country; building urban centres in each atoll; vastly improving the country’s nationwide transportation network and building economies of scale, complemented by sound financial institutions and good governance.
To realize this vision, Maldives needs the help of international allies and partners, and few have proven to be as reliable or as generous a friend as Japan. Further, Japan is a country whose economic growth and industrial success are almost unparalleled in rapidity and scale, and one which still boasts the designation of being the world’s third-largest economy. The scope for learning from Japan’s experiences and ongoing projects, and availing their technical expertise in several fields, in terms of progressing the Maldives’ own economy and building up infrastructure is immense.
Towards those ends, in addition to meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for bilateral talks, he is also scheduled to meet with the Japan-Maldives Parliamentary friendship group; the President of JICA, as well as CEOs and senior figures representing Japanese businesses. In his discussions and deliberations with these figures, the President will aim to secure Japanese investments in a range of areas, from budgetary support to infrastructural development and institutional strengthening.
Further, to symbolize and encourage the cultural engagement and growing people-to-people contact between the two countries, while paying his respect to Japan’s monumental cultural achievements and rich history the President will be making several stops in places especially significant to Japan. His visit will include programs in Kyoto City, Hiroshima and Osaka. In addition, he will also meet with the community in Odawara, whose residents were exceptionally generous in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, raising funds of their own accord and sending the Maldives direct aid to help in the country’s recovery.
Following the conclusion of these official components, the President will return to the Maldives within six days. It is expected that this trip will be a success and will help open a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the Maldives and Japan and yield several multilateral benefits to our country.