Honourable Ministers, President of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Managing Director of Artline Design Services, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen;
It gives me great pleasure to be here today to inaugurate the Maldives Hotel and Trade Exhibition 2002. I extend a warm welcome to all the participants of the exhibition.
I thank Mr. Gasim Ibrahim and the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the beautiful commemorative plaque they have just given me to mark this occasion.
The number of those taking part at this fair, I understand, is almost three times that of the last Maldivian Traders’ Association Trade Fair held in 1998. I congratulate the Co-Convenors, the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Artline Design Services for securing the participation of such a large number of companies at this exhibition.
Trade has always been an important human activity. Not only does it satisfy need, but it also encourages creativity, promotes prosperity and facilitates friendship. Indeed, productivity increases where trade is brisk.
For a small island country like the Maldives, trade plays a central role in enabling the people to obtain essential goods and other items that improve their standard of living. Trade is also essential in order to find markets for our own products. Here, I would like to express my deep appreciation to all our traders, merchants and businessmen who have contributed so much to the promotion of this vital sector of our economy and to the progress of our country over the years.
Three days ago, in my National Day message, I called upon the nation to make the year ahead a time of national productivity. I appeal to our business community to join hands with the Government in this national endeavour.
Indeed, one of the most important activities that stimulate productivity is trade. Finding markets provides incentives for higher productivity. It also means more jobs and better living standards.
The Government has always encouraged both trade and productivity, through many initiatives such as holding various national fairs, seeking access to foreign markets, and developing trade-related infrastructure. I would like to re-affirm here the Government’s commitment to do everything possible to increase our productivity.
Our trade policy seeks to increase the exposure of the Maldives to the outside world, through taking part in trade and investment promotion events abroad, and by hosting such activities at home. Our businessmen should make the maximum use of these important opportunities.
The growth of trade today requires considerable foreign investment, and we have always welcomed foreign investors to the Maldives. Many of them have invested in the tourism and hotel industry, aviation, banking, manufacturing and other areas. We have recently joined the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. Our most important national asset is the peace and stability that, above all, guarantees the protection of foreign investment in the country.
We are looking forward to concluding investment promotion and free trade agreements with other countries. The Government also encourages Maldivians to invest abroad. I applaud our nationals who are already doing so.
The Maldives Vision 2020 envisages the country as a regional hub of free trade. Indeed, the development path that we see ahead of us is one where the role of trade fairs and of exhibitions will become more prominent. I am confident, too, that the quality of Maldivian products exhibited in future trade fairs will greatly improve.
I hope that over the next few days new trading opportunities will be found by all of you. I wish all the participants in this exhibition every success.