President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih struck an optimistic tone in his annual address to parliament this year. Acknowledging that Covid-19 has been a trying ordeal for the country since the pandemic reached our shores in 2020, the President nonetheless highlighted the many steps the Government has taken to build up the country’s resilience to the virus, while laying foundations to build back better. He emphasized that despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, the year ahead will be a busy one in terms of delivering on key projects, advancing the country’s key sectors and diversifying the economy, while effectively addressing the pandemic.

The President remarked that the reason the country has been able to manage the pandemic so far, and effectively implement the Government’s health policies, has been the support and resilience demonstrated by our citizens, and the bravery and dedication of the country’s frontline workers. The Government’s work carried out through the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), and subsequently the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC), has also been greatly assisted by the international community, vindicating this administration’s proactive efforts to engage with the global community and revive ties with our neighbours.

As the President noted in his remarks, India made the very generous decision to gift the country with 100,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine developed by the country’s Serum Institute, using the same formula as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This has enabled the country to launch a mass vaccination drive targeting the major urban centers of Male’, Addu and Kulhudufushi cities. The President earlier pledged that the entire population of the country will be vaccinated and achieve herd-immunity within the next six months. The Government is currently in the process of negotiating with our partners to increase our stock of vaccines.

President Solih made clear that since taking office, he has continued to envision a bright future for the country. Towards that end, this Administration has continued to invest in the capacity and well-being of our youth, making the provision of educational opportunities a high priority. That is why one of the earliest actions this Administration took was making education free, up to the first undergraduate degree, and why it has continued to provide scholarships and loans at affordable rates for the benefit of students to pursue their higher education aspirations. Even throughout the pandemic, and despite the economic difficulties this entailed, the Government has not reneged on its scholarship and loan schemes.

The Government has also made efforts to expand major industries by investing in building new resorts and strengthening the country’s fisheries sector, for instance, by increasing the amount of cold storage facilities. President Solih noted that the Government remains mindful of the need to diversify our economy so that it is not overly reliant on a single sector. Towards that end, the Government will not only expand major industries but invest in new ones, including in the agricultural sector. While pursuing development, the Government will also be heedful of environmental concerns and will prioritize sustainability, the President remarked.

Commenting that it will take up to two years for the country to fully recover from the impacts of the coronavirus, the President nonetheless reiterated that light is now visible at the end of the tunnel and called upon citizens to continue to listen to health authorities and to continue to provide the Government with their full support. The President ended his remarks with a prayer asking Allah Almighty to bless the Government’s efforts to help the country recover from the pandemic and build back better.