Corporate Maldives Magazine

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Corporate Maldives | May 24 1

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Greetings and welcome to the May 2024 edition of Corporate Maldives Magazine. As a quarterly print publication, we are committed to providing comprehensive coverage of the Maldives business community.

This month, our Corporate Maldives Spotlight is on SJ Group, a leading company in the Maldives’ construction and trade industiry. Our team had the privilege of sitting down with Shihad Ibrahim, the CEO of SJ Group, to gain insight into their operations. Additionally, along with the company’s numerous milestones over the years.

In our People section, we feature an insightful interview from Dr Mariyam Shakeela, a prominent Maldivian entrepreneur and champion of women’s empowerment.

Our news segments cover a broad range of industries and business sectors in the Maldives, including tourism, construction, banking, technology, trade, fisheries and agriculture, among others.

We hope you find this edition informative and engaging. Happy reading!



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Corporate Maldives | May 24 5 58 86 68 64 Human Resources Society & Investment Women in Business Banking & Finance 46 48 52 Transport & Construction Environment & Sustainability People 10 Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group 24 34 Government & Economy Tourism & Aviation 90 Business Directory 80 74 72 Trade, Fuel & Shipping Technology & Innovation Small & Medium Enterprises
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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

In the ever-evolving construction sector of the Maldives, Shihad Ibrahim has established SJ Group as a force to be reckoned with. His strategic leadership and unwavering commitment to innovation have propelled the company to the pinnacle of the industry. From embracing cuttingedge technologies to prioritizing client satisfaction, Shihad’s vision is reshaping the construction industry of the nation, making a lasting impact on its infrastructure and development.

Shihad Ibrahim’s journey with SJ Group is a testament to his multifaceted expertise. With a strong legal background and his deep understanding of the community’s evolving needs, Shihad brings a unique perspective to the construction industry. The company’s diverse portfolio, encompassing both essential public projects and sought-after residential developments, showcases Shihad’s dedication to building a better future for the Maldives.

His business expertise and relentless pursuit of excellence, along with his legal background, have positioned SJ Group as a pillar of the Maldivian construction landscape, leaving a legacy of progress and quality.

We were fortunate to sit down with him and discuss SJ Group and their business in the Maldives.

SJ Group has undergone significant expansion since its founding. Could you share some reflections on this journey?

Ever since its founding in 1996, SJ Construction has experienced tremendous growth and change. Even though our main operations started in 2002, we, the directors, actively participated in the early work, which included painting and trimming trees. The turning point came when we applied for a project that the Ministry of Tender Board had posted in 2006. Nevertheless, obtaining bid security turned out to be a significant challenge. We made multiple tries at the Bank of Maldives, but we kept running across small problems, such as inconsistent letterhead or logos. As we were about to give up, there was a glimmer of optimism when the Bank of Ceylon offered support, maybe seeing the persistence in our efforts. We were able to obtain bid security and embark on projects such as the mosques at multiple islands in the Maldives.

After the 2008 presidential election, there were even more prospects. Projects like health centres were introduced, which we successfully finished together with other projects for MVR 5–10 million. That being said, we were awarded the first school, Design and build of MilandhooSchool project in 2013–2014, which was estimated to be worth MVR 53 million. This was a major turning point in our journey, indicating that we were moving on to bigger projects. In 2018, we have multiple housing projects around the Maldives, expanding our footprint throughout the islands of the Maldives.

By establishing our sibling company, SJ Trade Pvt Ltd, in 2017, we made a significant move ahead. SJ Hardware and SJ Aluminium, two stores that sold hardware, construction materials and aluminium products, were the first to open when SJ Trade Pvt Ltd first started up. Over time,in2023 we opened SJ Mall to further diversify our offerings. To meet the varied demands of our consumers, SJ Mall provides a broad selection of goods, such as food and beverages, electronics, home appliances, and furntures.

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Even though our early attempts since 2017 to get into real estate were unsuccessful, our persistence and determination won out, and we successfully launched SJ Creek, our first real estate project. We are excited to begin work on SJ Nove, our second residential project, after overcoming several challenges, including unreasonable pricing demands. Our path highlights the virtues of tenacity, willpower, and aspiration as we proceed from building to real estate development.

Additionally, our focus in the current year extends beyond our existing ventures. We are actively pursuing opportunities in two additional sectors: the financial sector and the tourism sector. Our aim to consistently grow and diversify our business portfolio is in line with our strategic expansion, which shows our dedication to investigating fresh opportunities for development and innovation.

The construction industry can be a competitive and challenging landscape. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing SJ Group currently, and how do you plan to navigate it?

SJ Construction is a well-known public sector contractor; about 95% of our portfolio consists of government contracts. Getting the goahead from government officials is one of our biggest challenges. Our experience with the Dharumvantha New School project serves as an example of this problem. Our experts noticed that the foundation plans lacked the essential strength for the proposed structure just as we were about to pour concrete for the foundation.

The Ministry of Education first disagreed and pressed us to move forward with building despite our misgivings. But after careful examination by our engineers and experts from design consultant, it was evident that the proposed structure could not be built according to the original blueprints. As such, we had to make revisions to the designs, a procedure that lasted almost three months. There were still idle charges, labour costs, overhead charges and material waste associated with the building’s hold-up. Notably, despite the contractual provision for compensation in such circumstances, these charges were not reimbursed.

Compounding this challenge is the delayed payment process by the government. While the agreement stipulates payment within 28 days of invoicing, it typically takes up to 60 days for invoices to be posted and another 14 days for processing from the Ministry of Finance. This results in an average delay of three months in receiving payment for our services, putting strain on our financial resources.

Moreover, the lack of responsiveness and support from government officials exacerbates our challenges. Simple queries or requests for clarification on project details often go unanswered for extended periods, hindering project progress.

It’s important to note, though, that other government agencies, the Ministry of Housing, (formerly the Ministry of Planning) have shown greater responsiveness, especially when it comes to housing projects. In a similar vein, clients such as MNU have responded promptly, which has made project execution go more smoothly.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

While sourcing finance hasn’t been a significant challenge for us, obtaining foreign currency for importing materials has presented logistical hurdles. Furthermore, we encounter challenges with the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA). Despite fulfilling our obligations by completing public sector projects, we’re compelled to remit GST upon invoicing, irrespective of whether we’ve received payment from the government. Once we issue an invoice, we become liable for taxation, yet the significant delays in receiving payment from the government for the services rendered exacerbate our difficulties.

In summary, addressing these challenges requires proactive engagement with government authorities, streamlining payment processes, and seeking resolution to taxation issues. Despite the obstacles, we remain committed to delivering quality projects and navigating the construction landscape with resilience and determination.


COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions across industries. How has SJ Group adapted to the challenges and ensured business continuity?

SJ Groups managed to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with minimal disruption to our operations. Thankfully, SJ Construction was largely unaffected, allowing us to maintain regular salaries for our staff without any cuts in wages or reductions in benefits, including overtime pay. In fact, we took proactive measures to support our employees’ welfare during this time, offering family support, providing welfare fund, providing bonuses, and extending loans as needed.

The only setback we encountered was related to our sewerage projects, where we experienced losses. It is imperative to highlight that the loss incurred in our sewerage projects was deliberate and attributable to the actions of certain officials within the Ministry of Planning. Lockdowns and border closures in some countries, especially France, where we sourced goods, made it impossible to obtain supplies. Everyone was well aware of the lockdown in fact the Maldives was in lockdown as well. Even after we made several attempts to explain the difficulties and delays brought on by the lockdowns, the officials managing the sewerage projects from the ministry persisted in pressuring us, giving the impression that the work was incomplete. Considering that other contractos were granted extensions and leniency due to the pandemic, it seemed biased.

Sustainable construction practices are gaining importance globally. How does SJ Group incorporate sustainability considerations into its projects?

From 2002 to 2010 in the Maldives, construction practices often caused disruptions in neighborhoods, with areas closed off and roads obstructed by dust and debris during foundation concrete. However, SJ Construction initiated a significant change in 2013 by introducing environmentally friendly machinery like concrete pumps, minimizing environmental impact while enhancing efficiency.

Moreover, we’ve embraced technological advancements integrating the latest survey equipment, replacing traditional methods with more accurate and efficient alternatives.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

Despite these advancements, the construction industry in the Maldives has yet to fully align with technological progress. While cutting-edge technologies like robotic plastering machinery, Construction Drones, Intelligent Compaction Rollers exist, the prevailing Maldives construction contracts and methodologies have not evolved to accommodate such innovations. This lack of upgrade restrains us from fully utilizing advanced technologies, thereby impeding our ability to implement more sustainable and efficient construction practices.

It is imperative to emphasize that the government should update the technical specifications and methodologies within construction contracts to align with advanced technologies.

The construction industry is constantly evolving. How does SJ Group stay ahead of the curve in terms of modernizing techniques and practices?

SJ Groups stays ahead of the curve in modernizing construction techniques and practices through a multifaceted approach that emphasizes innovation, collaboration, and adaptability.

Firstly, SJ Groups invests heavily in research and development, constantly exploring emerging technologies and methodologies that can enhance efficiency, sustainability, and safety

in construction. Whether it’s adopting Building Information Modeling (BIM) for more precise project planning or integrating advanced construction materials for improved durability, the company remains at the forefront of technological advancements.

Moreover, SJ Groups fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement among its workforce. Employees are encouraged to participate in training programs, workshops, and industry conferences to stay updated on the latest trends and best practices. This commitment to professional development ensures that the team is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement cutting-edge techniques on-site.

Additionally, SJ Groups prioritizes collaboration with stakeholders across the construction ecosystem. By engaging with architects, engineers, subcontractors, and clients from the early stages of a project, the company can leverage diverse perspectives and expertise to identify innovative solutions and streamline processes.

Furthermore, SJ Groups is quick to adapt to regulatory changes and market demands. Whether it’s incorporating sustainable building practices to align with environmental regulations or embracing modular construction to meet the growing demand for rapid project delivery, the company demonstrates agility in responding to evolving industry dynamics.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

In essence, SJ Groups’ commitment to innovation, collaboration, and adaptability enables it to stay ahead of the curve in modernizing construction techniques and practices, ensuring the delivery of high-quality projects that meet the needs of clients and communities alike.

Could you elaborate on your role in contributing to the development of the Construction Bill in the Maldives? How do you see this legislation shaping the industry?

Our involvement in contributing to the development of the Construction Bill in the Maldives has been a significant endeavor for us, reflecting our commitment to advancing the construction industry in the country. When the Committee on National Development of the Parliament extended an invitation for professional opinions on the official draft, our chief engineer took an active role in this process, offering valuable insights and recommendations garnered from our experience and expertise in the field.

However, despite our sincere efforts to contribute constructively to the development of the legislation, we have observed limited interest from the government in considering our suggestions and opinions. This lack of engagement can present challenges in ensuring that the final bill adequately addresses the diverse needs and concerns of stakeholders within the construction sector.

Nevertheless, our participation in this legislative process underscores our dedication to fostering positive change and promoting best practices within the industry. While the current situation may present obstacles, we remain hopeful that ongoing dialogue and collaboration between industry professionals and government representatives can lead to the creation of a robust Construction Bill that effectively regulates the sector and drives sustainable growth.

Looking ahead, we believe that the implementation of comprehensive legislation tailored to the specific context of the Maldives has the potential to shape the industry in numerous ways. By establishing clear standards, guidelines, and regulations, the Construction Bill can enhance transparency, accountability, and quality assurance throughout the construction process. Moreover, it can facilitate the adoption of modern construction practices, promote innovation, and ultimately contribute to the development of resilient infrastructure that supports the country’s economic and social objectives.

Despite the current challenges, we remain committed to actively engaging with stakeholders and advocating for policies that promote the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the construction industry in the Maldives. We are optimistic that through continued collaboration and dialogue, we can collectively overcome barriers and contribute to the realization of a vibrant and thriving construction sector in the country.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping many industries. Do you envision a role for AI in the future of construction in the Maldives? If so, in what ways?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) undoubtedly holds immense potential to revolutionize the construction landscape in the Maldives. Currently, we are heavily utilizing AI for tasks such as surveying and modeling, which has already led to significant improvements in efficiency and accuracy within our projects. However, while AI presents exciting opportunities for innovation, it’s crucial to recognize the need for responsible implementation to mitigate potential socio-economic impacts.

One of the key considerations is the potential impact on employment. While AI can automate certain tasks and processes, leading to increased efficiency, there is a valid concern about job displacement. It’s essential to strike a balance between leveraging AI for productivity gains while also ensuring the preservation and creation of meaningful employment opportunities within the construction sector.

Moreover, existing regulations, particularly

within construction contracts, can pose barriers to the full integration of AI technologies. Contractual restrictions may limit the adoption of innovations like robotic bricklaying and thermochromic coatings, which have the capacity to significantly enhance productivity and the quality of our work. Addressing these regulatory challenges will be essential to unlocking the full potential of AI in construction.

Despite these challenges, there are numerous ways in which AI can continue to shape the future of construction in the Maldives. For instance, AI-powered predictive analytics can optimize project planning and scheduling, leading to more efficient resource allocation and reduced project delays. Additionally, AI-driven algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify trends and patterns, enabling better decisionmaking and risk management throughout the project lifecycle.

Furthermore, AI technologies can enhance safety on construction sites through the implementation of advanced monitoring systems and predictive maintenance solutions. By leveraging AI-enabled sensors and drones, construction companies can proactively identify potential hazards and improve overall job site safety.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

Where do you see the construction industry in the Maldives heading in the next 5-10 years, and how is SJ Group positioning itself to thrive in this evolving landscape?

In the next 5-10 years, we anticipate a substantial surge in infrastructure projects in the Maldives, driven by initiatives such as Apartment buildings, Road Developments, building bridges, metro systems, and developing new islands like Giraavaru, RasMale, and Gulheefalhu. This presents a golden opportunity for SJ Groups to thrive in our local market without relying on foreign outsourcing. Moreover, as the resort industry in the Maldives continues to flourish, we aim to embrace this growth by developing unique resorts that celebrate our traditional culture, adding a distinctive touch to the tourism landscape.

With dredging and reclamation projects progressing in Ras Male, Giraavaru, and Gulheefalhu, we foresee a corresponding increase in construction activity. This will coincide with a

significant migration of individuals to key areas like Male’, Hulhumale, RasMale, Gulheefalhu, and Giraavu. As the population continues to swell, there will be heightened demand for essential infrastructure such as schools, health centers, hospitals, and universities, providing us with abundant opportunities for expansion and growth.

As the country’s lifestyle becomes more luxurious, we anticipate changes in social housing, potentially shifting towards labor quotas or even creating ghost cities. However, despite this trend, we foresee an increasing demand for upscale housing among Maldivians. This is why SJ Groups is well-positioned to offer luxury residential developments like SJ Creek and SJ Nove, catering to the evolving housing needs of our community.

In conclusion, the future of the construction industry in the Maldives is brimming with opportunities, from major infrastructure projects to luxury residential developments. SJ Groups is poised to capitalize on these chances, leveraging our skills and knowledge to support the growth of Greater Male and beyond, contributing to the prosperity and development of our nation.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

SJ Trade – Transforming the Maldivian Retail and Construction Landscape

SJ Trade Pvt Ltd, a dynamic member of the esteemed SJ Group, plays a pivotal role in shaping the retail and construction sectors of the Maldives. This multifaceted operation comprises three specialized stores, each catering to distinct market segments.

SJ Mall: SJ Mall reimagines the concept of a one-stop-shop by offering an extensive selection of food, beverages, home appliances, and electronics. This popular store empowers busy individuals and families to streamline their shopping experience, providing a diverse range of products to fulfill everyday needs and lifestyle aspirations.

What sets SJ Trade apart is its relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction. Beyond simply providing products, the company excels in personalized assistance and exceptional aftersales service. This dedication fosters a sense of trust and loyalty among its clientele. Moreover, SJ Trade recognizes the critical importance

of sustainability and actively integrates ecofriendly practices throughout its operations, demonstrating a commitment to responsible business practices.

SJ Aluminium: As a cornerstone of the Maldivian construction industry, SJ Aluminium provides a reliable source of premium-grade aluminum construction materials. Builders and contractors rely on SJ Aluminium for a consistent supply of top-quality components that are essential for the success of their projects – from residential developments to large-scale infrastructure.

SJ Hardware: SJ Hardware is the preferred destination for procuring a comprehensive array of hardware supplies, tools, and equipment. Whether you’re a seasoned professional undertaking a major renovation or a homeowner embarking on a DIY project, SJ Hardware has everything you need under one roof. The store’s knowledgeable staff are always on hand to offer expert guidance and help customers find the perfect tools for the job.

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SJ Construction –A Legacy of Building Excellence in the Maldives

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

Since its establishment in 1996, SJ Construction has become synonymous with exceptional construction services across the Maldives. As the founding pillar of the diversified SJ Group, the company has accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise through the successful execution of countless challenging projects.

SJ Construction’s comprehensive suite of services encompasses civil construction, carpentry work, and the rental of heavy-duty construction equipment. The company’s team of skilled professionals possesses in-depth knowledge of building solutions and engineering works, enabling them to tackle projects of varying scale and complexity with unwavering confidence.

Innovation and a focus on operational best practices are embedded in SJ Construction’s DNA. The company is constantly exploring ways

to improve its processes, streamline workflows, and adopt cutting-edge technologies to deliver state-of-the-art solutions to its clients. This forward-thinking approach ensures that SJ Construction remains at the forefront of the industry.

The company’s strong track record and reputation for excellence have solidified its position as a trusted partner for the Maldivian government. SJ Construction has undertaken numerous successful public sector projects, ranging from vital infrastructure improvements to the construction of essential public buildings. Its commitment to quality workmanship, timely project delivery within budget, and efficient project management has earned it a well-deserved reputation for reliability and professionalism.

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22 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

SJ Real Estate – Redefining Luxury Living in the Maldives

SJ Real Estate, a key division within the SJ Group, is dedicated to creating modern residential properties that epitomize comfort, sophistication, and island elegance. The company understands that a home is more than just a dwelling; it’s a reflection of one’s lifestyle and aspirations.

SJ Real Estate’s commitment to excellence shines through in its established developments, such as SJ Creek Residence, and its highly anticipated upcoming project, SJ Nove Residence. SJ Creek Residence, strategically nestled in Hulhumale’ Phase-1, offers residents a haven of tranquility, away from the urban bustle yet within easy reach of essential amenities. The success of SJ Creek, with all 115 apartments swiftly booked within a week of opening and with over 70 percent of the construction completed, testifies to the company’s reputation for quality and customer satisfaction.

Now, SJ Real Estate is poised to redefine the benchmark for luxury living in the Maldives with SJ Nove Residence. This meticulously designed condominium development in Hulhumale’ Phase One offers a range of apartment options to suit diverse needs and preferences. Prospective homeowners can choose from typical, deluxe, and penthouse units, with prices ranging from MVR 2.4 million to MVR 9 million. Floorplans showcase two-bedroom, three-bedroom, and four-bedroom options, and some units even include additional maid rooms.

Residents of SJ Nove Residence will enjoy exclusive access to an unparalleled suite of amenities. Relax and unwind by the expansive 1500-acre infinity pool, or spend quality time with family at the children’s pool and jacuzzi. Maintain your fitness goals at the wellequipped gym, host memorable gatherings in the event hall, or savor the convenience of barbeque areas and a nearby convenience store. Younger residents will appreciate the dedicated children’s play areas. The development also thoughtfully provides ample parking facilities, including space for 43 cars in the basement and dedicated motorcycle parking on the first floor, with each apartment allocated two motorcycle parking spaces.

SJ Nove Residence boasts a prime location featuring a three-lane design and a channel connecting the two phases of Hulhumale’. This unique configuration promises residents breathtaking, unobstructed sunset views. Furthermore, the proximity to a mosque and children’s park enhances the appeal of this desirable address.

SJ Real Estate places the utmost importance on ensuring that every project meets the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship. The company’s focus on exceeding client expectations is a hallmark of its commitment to create exceptional living environments that enhance the lives of its residents.

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Corporate Maldives Spotlight: SJ Group

US and Maldives Commit to Enhanced Economic and Trade Relations

A meeting was held at the President’s Office between US Assistant Secretary Bureau Of South And Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, focusing on boosting trade and economic ties with the United States.

The discussions held centred on enhancing cooperation between the two nations, particularly in the realms of trade, tourism, and security in the Indian Ocean region. Assistant Secretary Lu highlighted the importance of bilateral cooperation in these areas, spotlighting both countries’ potential for growth and development. President Muizzu expressed his gratitude for the continued support and cooperation from the US government. He reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to foreign policies that are beneficial for Maldives and contribute positively to the nation’s economic development.

A significant portion of the dialogue was dedicated to international issues of mutual concern to both Maldives and the United States. President Muizzu voiced his hope for a permanent cessation of Israeli aggression

against Palestinians in Gaza, especially with the approaching month of Ramadan. He emphasized the need for a lasting solution, advocating for the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the establishment of two internationally recognized states, and the sovereignty and independence of Palestine.

The meeting concluded with Assistant Secretary Lu congratulating President Muizzu on his recent electoral victory. He commended the peaceful and democratic transition of power in Maldives, describing it as a model for South Asia and the wider international community.

This high-level meeting marks a continuation of the longstanding relationship between Maldives and the United States, which officially began on 10 November. The discussions are a testament to the growing partnership between the two countries, as they seek to strengthen economic, trade, and security ties. The emphasis on mutual cooperation in these areas signals a promising future for bilateral relations, with potential benefits extending beyond national borders.

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Key Developmental Initiatives Announced in President Muizzu’s Presidential Address

In his first presidential address to the parliament this year, President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives outlined a comprehensive plan to bolster the country’s economy and enhance the quality of life for its citizens. His ambitious agenda includes significant developments in tourism, transportation, employment, and social welfare.

The president announced the “Asseyri Tourism” project in Addu City, aiming to diversify and expand the tourism sector. This initiative includes the establishment of a seaplane hub in Addu City, the inauguration of 20 new resorts, and the revitalization of non-operational resorts. The government, collaborating with various ministries and councils, is also working on completing 63 tourism development projects across different islands. Additionally, the ‘Visitor Economy Council’ has been established to broaden tourism services, with a focus on MICE tourism, education, culture, heritage, health, and environmental tourism. President Muizzu anticipates welcoming two million tourists this year, with an expected average annual growth rate of 10.3 per cent in the medium term.

In transportation, President Muizzu disclosed plans to construct two new airports and

introduce advanced, secure helicopter services. The ongoing projects for building domestic airports are nearing completion, enhancing the country’s transport infrastructure. Additionally, the national airline, Maldivian, plans to acquire two new wide-body aircraft and introduce seven new international destinations.

Addressing employment and social welfare, President Muizzu proposed increasing the optional retirement age to 75, recognizing the value of the experience and wisdom of senior citizens. The government aims to create a registry of senior citizens and establish dedicated social centres for them. Emphasizing the inclusion of people with special needs, the president announced the allocation of 500 housing units from new social housing schemes and the enhancement of their employment opportunities in civil service and state-owned enterprises.

Overall, President Muizzu’s address painted a picture of a dynamic, forward-looking Maldives, with a focus on sustainable tourism, improved transportation, and inclusive social policies.

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26 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Government & Economy
World Bank Reaffirms Commitment to Maldives’ Development, Urges Fiscal Reform

Martin Raiser, the World Bank Vice President for South Asia, concluded a four-day visit to the Maldives, reinforcing the World Bank’s commitment to supporting the nation’s development objectives. This commitment builds on a partnership spanning over four decades, during which significant progress has been made in sectors such as health, education, housing, and public services.

During his visit, Raiser engaged in discussions with key Maldivian officials, including President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, Finance Minister Dr Mohamed Shafeeq, Minister of Climate Change, Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim, and Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed, among others. These meetings focused on the Maldives’ development achievements and the challenges ahead, particularly in the context of fiscal sustainability and environmental resilience.

Raiser highlighted the critical need for fiscal reforms to address the risks posed by increased spending, limited foreign exchange reserves, high debt levels, and the impact of elevated global interest rates. He stressed the importance of taking urgent measures to contain nonessential spending, enhance revenue generation, and manage debt more effectively. These steps are deemed essential for creating the fiscal space necessary for continued investment in the Maldives’ human capital, natural resources, and infrastructure, which are crucial for sustainable growth and development.

The launch of the first-ever Human Capital Review for the Maldives was a highlight of

Raiser’s visit, revealing that while the country’s human capital index surpasses that of its regional, small-island, and income comparators, challenges such as regional and gender inequities remain. Addressing these inequities requires a shift from increasing overall spending to prioritizing and targeting expenditures based on need, alongside efforts to enhance the quality of services, especially in less developed islands.

Raiser also focused on the existential threat posed by climate change to the Maldives, emphasizing the interconnectedness of economic and climate crises. He advocated for collaborative efforts with the government, development partners, and the private sector to identify investment opportunities that yield economic, social, and environmental benefits.

The World Bank’s ongoing engagement in the Maldives includes a portfolio of 10 projects financed by the International Development Association (IDA), a regional project, and an IDA guarantee operation, totalling a net commitment of USD 217 million. These projects span various sectors, including renewable energy, competitiveness and growth, youth resilience and employability, digital development, urban development, solid waste management, COVID-19 response, fisheries, labour, health, education, and social protection. Additionally, the World Bank provides analytical support across a range of areas, including macro-fiscal monitoring, financial sector analysis, social protection, and poverty reduction.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 27 Government & Economy

Government Prioritises Development of Stalled Resort Islands

The Maldives Tourism Minister, Ibrahim Faisal, has outlined plans to revitalise the development of stalled resort islands. In an interview with local media, the Minister emphasised his priority to address the lack of revenue generation from underdeveloped islands that were allocated for resort development many years ago. He aims to complete the development of around 25 of these islands during his tenure.

Minister Faisal noted that 63 islands remain undeveloped, some having been allocated for resort purposes for up to 25 years. Funding issues have been cited as a major obstacle to development. To address this, the Economic Council will identify challenges faced by developers and propose solutions to be submitted to the cabinet for approval.

The Minister stated that many undeveloped islands would be offered to the market under revised policies and regulations. Efforts will

also be made to find “fair solutions” for islands where some investment has already been made. He highlighted the lost revenue potential of these stalled projects, noting that the tourism industry offers the most straightforward path for the state to increase income.

According to the Tourism Ministry’s “Fiscal Risk Statement”, approximately MVR 26 billion (USD 1.7 billion) in revenue is lost annually due to the lack of development on islands allocated for tourism. Kaafu Atoll has the most significant number of stalled projects, with 29 nonoperational resorts.

Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also attempted to tackle the issue by significantly reducing penalties for companies failing to pay rent associated with stalled developments. Minister Faisal expressed optimism that 2530% of the islands could be brought to market.

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President Muizzu Courts Private Investment at Dubai Forum

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has underlined the critical role of private-sector investments in achieving the nation’s ambitious development goals. The President made these remarks while delivering the keynote address at the Invest Maldives 2024 Dubai forum, held at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, UAE.

During his speech, President Muizzu emphasized the government’s commitment to creating a secure and efficient business environment in the Maldives. He highlighted the reactivation of the Special Economic Zones framework, offering incentives for strategic investments, and outlined plans for a new Foreign Investment Law that would guarantee investment security and enable investment treaties.

The President noted the Maldives’ need for public-private partnerships to meet development objectives. He detailed ongoing efforts to streamline procurement processes, provide investment safeguards, and establish a favourable business climate for private sector ventures.

Acknowledging the economic challenges facing the Maldives as a small island developing state, President Muizzu expressed confidence in overcoming these hurdles and fostering favourable conditions for growth. He also outlined efforts to diversify the economy and enhance economic resilience.

The President expressed gratitude for the strong presence of UAE investors and the long-standing partnership between the two nations. He highlighted the UAE’s position as the Maldives’ top trading partner, with trade reaching half a billion dollars in 2023. President Muizzu expressed the Maldives’ interest in learning from the UAE’s development model.

Concluding his remarks, President Muizzu recognized the urgency of global economic challenges, advocating for international collaboration to strengthen resilience. The Invest Maldives 2024 Dubai forum attracted numerous investors from both the Maldives and the UAE.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 29 Government & Economy

Maldives’ Subsidy System, A Lifeline for the People or a Boon for the Wealthy?

The Maldives’ economy relies heavily on state subsidies to ease the cost of living for its citizens. From healthcare and electricity to food and fisheries, the government spends substantial funds to make essential goods and services more affordable. However, there’s growing debate about the efficacy and fairness of this system, with concerns that much of the intended benefits actually flow towards the wealthy rather than those most in need.

30 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Government & Economy

Healthcare: Questioning Universal Coverage

The state-funded healthcare program in the Maldives provides medical care to all Maldivians, regardless of income. While this universal coverage is laudable, critics argue that it effectively subsidizes the medical expenses of the rich, draining resources from the system. Expensive treatments and medications, often accessed through private clinics, may disproportionately benefit the affluent. Meanwhile, the average citizen may only receive access to basic medicines and consultations. Medical providers may also question the system’s sustainability.

Electricity: Subsidies Without Equity?

The Maldives likely spends a significant amount annually to reduce electricity costs for its citizens. However, if the state-owned electricity provider doesn’t differentiate based on economic status, wealthier households will naturally consume more electricity. This results in them ultimately receiving a greater subsidy than lower-income families, raising concerns about the system’s fairness.

Fishing: Who Benefits Most?

The fishing industry, a vital sector of the Maldivian economy, likely receives state support. Generous subsidies might be aimed at lowering fuel costs for fishermen and stabilizing the prices they receive for their catch. However, a closer examination could reveal who truly benefits. Do fuel subsidies primarily advantage boat owners? Do commercial fishing enterprises

claim a large portion? If state-operated entities are meant to ensure fair prices, are they serving the individual crew members effectively?

Food Subsidies: Misdirected Support

The government may invest in providing lowcost staples such as rice, sugar, and flour. However, investigate whether much of this ends up in the hands of businesses or the significant foreign worker population in the Maldives. The benefit to the average citizen then might be minimal, amounting to only a small amount saved per kilogram.

The Debate Over Direct Subsidies

Calls for change may be increasing in the Maldives. Many might advocate for replacing the current system of indirect subsidies with direct cash transfers to those genuinely in need. This model could ensure that scarce resources are used most effectively to support the most vulnerable members of society. Debates on this issue likely occur within relevant government bodies, but the influence of wealthier interests could be a significant obstacle to reform.

The Maldives’ subsidy system, while wellintentioned, may suffer from the same fundamental flaw: it can inadvertently redistribute wealth upwards. A thorough reevaluation is needed to create a system that genuinely supports the common citizen, ensuring their basic needs are prioritized. Failure to act risks perpetuating a system that contributes to a widening gap between rich and poor rather than closing it.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 31 Government & Economy

IMF Bailouts: The Price of Economic Rescue

32 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Government & Economy

With discussions surrounding the possibility of the Maldives entering an IMF program – even with the government’s firm denial – it’s timely to understand what such a step would entail. When an economy tips towards imminent collapse, an IMF bailout can offer a chance at rescue. However, these financial lifelines are tied to significant conditions: structural adjustment programs aimed at a complete overhaul of a nation’s economic foundations.

IMF programs often focus on austerity measures – substantial cuts to government spending with the goal of reducing budget deficits. While fiscally prudent, these can come at the cost of reduced social services and public sector jobs, potentially impacting a nation’s citizens, as the Maldives might well understand given its dependence on public sector employment. IMF packages also tend to champion market liberalization, including policies promoting free trade, the privatization of state industries, and a scaling back of government controls. While fostering efficiency is the target, this shift can expose a country to global market volatility and create instability for existing industries.

Currency devaluation serves as another common tool within IMF bailouts. Although a devalued currency may boost exports, it also dramatically increases the cost of imported goods, leading to inflation and strain on households. To counter

this, IMF programs can demand monetary tightening measures, such as raised interest rates. For nations like the Maldives, heavily reliant on imports, these adjustments can create widespread economic hardship.

Beyond monetary interventions, IMF bailouts come with demands for deep structural reforms. These entail revisions of labour laws, tax systems, and regulations, all targeting longterm efficiency but often sparking internal debate and political discord.

Historically, IMF interventions have drawn controversy on a global stage. Programs implemented in Greece (2010-2018), Argentina (2018), and Sri Lanka (2022) serve as examples. Faced with varying economic crises, these nations received IMF aid accompanied by a mix of austerity, market reform, and currency adjustments. While potentially securing fiscal stability, these measures frequently brought economic hardship to their populations.

An IMF bailout provides a potential financial safety net when an economy falters, but it is accompanied by reforms with complex social and political consequences. For the Maldives, or any nation considering this path, understanding the cost – and the controversy – that follows IMF intervention is critical.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 33 Government & Economy

Beyond the Beaches: How the Maldives Can Tap

Into Its Rich Cultural Heritage

While its natural splendour rightfully dominates its image, the Maldives possesses a cultural heritage less visible beneath its veneer of luxury and honeymoon bliss. Yet, it’s worth remembering that even paradise has a history. Unearthing and weaving this heritage into the nation’s billion-dollar tourism industry requires both sensitivity and a savvy understanding of travellers’ evolving desires.

The Maldives’ heritage is primarily one of seafaring and Islamic tradition. Ancient mosques with intricate coral-stone carvings, like the Hukuru Miskiy on Malé, hint at centuries of craftsmanship. Beyond built heritage lies a trove of intangible culture: boatbuilding techniques passed down generations, the rhythmic beat of Boduberu drumming, and folktales filled with jinns and sea spirits.

The key lies in experience. Resorts could collaborate with local communities for storytelling sessions under starry skies or offer workshops on traditional sail-making. Boutique guesthouses on inhabited islands could curate heritage walks, showcasing not just grand structures, but everyday life shaped by the sea.

Integrating heritage also requires rethinking tourism marketing. The Maldives has masterfully marketed its natural beauty for

decades, and adding a layer of culture demands more nuanced storytelling. This could attract a discerning traveller interested in a more authentic experience.

Of course, challenges exist. Historic sites often lack extensive interpretation, and balancing the tourism industry’s needs with the preservation of delicate cultural practices is essential. Some aspects of heritage, like the pre-Islamic Buddhist remnants, may be contentious within the predominantly Muslim nation.

However, the potential rewards are significant. Heritage tourism fosters deeper understanding between cultures, empowers local communities, and can diversify the Maldives’ offerings beyond its pristine beaches. Done thoughtfully, it’s a win-win – tourists gain a richer experience, and Maldivians gain a renewed appreciation for their own roots.

As climate change casts a shadow over the Maldives, its heritage becomes even more precious. It’s a reminder of resilience and the deep connection to these islands, a connection mere luxury resorts cannot replace. Perhaps it’s time for the nation to realise that its billiondollar industry could be enriched by celebrating the very legacy that makes the Maldives unique.

34 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Tourism Growth Outpaces Local Workforce in Maldives, Study Finds

A new study has revealed a projected critical imbalance in the local-to-expatriate employment ratio within the Maldives tourism industry. The report, utilizing 2022 Census data and industry growth forecasts, anticipates a ratio of approximately 30:70 (local to expatriate) by 2027. This is attributed to both demographic challenges within the Maldivian workforce and the sector’s continued expansion.

According to the 2022 Census, 22,244 Maldivians are currently employed in the tourism industry. The National Skills Development Corporation forecasts industry growth between 25% to 35%, creating 14,461 to 20,245 new jobs in the next five years. However, demographic projections suggest only 2,439 new Maldivian entrants will join the tourism workforce during this period.

Consequently, the 2027 employment demand within the tourism sector is estimated to reach 78,087. Given the limited increase in the local workforce, this creates a substantial gap of approximately 55,404 positions likely to be filled by expatriates.

The research highlights a need for policy adjustments and targeted initiatives to encourage greater local participation in the tourism sector. Recommendations include enhanced vocational training, scholarships, flexible work arrangements, digital job platforms, and integrating hospitality knowledge into school curricula. The study’s authors emphasize the importance of addressing this imbalance to ensure the sustainable growth of this vital industry within the Maldivian economy.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 35 Tourism & Aviation

Maldives Snags Four World Travel Awards at Arabian Travel Market 2024

The Maldives has clinched four prestigious awards at the World Travel Awards, held within the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024 at the Dubai World Trade Center. The Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/Visit Maldives) proudly announced that the Maldives won four categories within the Indian Ocean segment.

The categories were:

• Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination 2024

• Indian Ocean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination 2024

• Indian Ocean’s Leading Green Destination 2024

• Indian Ocean’s Leading Dive Destination 2024

While accepting the award, Minister of Tourism Ibrahim Faisal stated that the Maldives’ vision extends beyond luxury.

“We recognise the importance of balancing economic growth and environmental responsibility. Sustainability is not just a buzzword for us; it is a core principle that guides our development,” he said.

Established in 1993, the World Travel Awards is a beacon of excellence in travel and tourism, recognising and rewarding outstanding achievements across various facets of the industry.

High-level representatives from the Maldives attended the awards ceremony, including the Minister of Tourism Ibrahim Faisal, Chairperson of the MMPRC Board Ayesha Nurain Janah, MMPRC CEO & MD Fathmath Thaufeeq and Advisor to the President on Tourism Development Mohamed Khaleel.

Since introducing the Indian Ocean category in the World Travel Awards in 2003, the Maldives has consistently demonstrated remarkable success. The Maldives has clinched the Leading Destination title 17 times, Leading Honeymoon Destination 6 times, and Leading Dive Destination an impressive nine times. Notably, 2024 marks the Maldives’ debut as a Green Destination.

MMPRC, in collaboration with 123 travel and tourism establishments and 253 representatives, is currently showcasing the ‘Sunny Side of Life’ at the Arabian Travel Market 2024. From 6th to 9th May 2024 at the Dubai World Trade Center, this prestigious event is a cornerstone platform for the global travel and tourism community.

With its theme, “Transforming Travel Through Entrepreneurship,” ATM 2024 aims to empower industry professionals to harness the power of innovation and drive sustainable growth within the sector.

Visitors to the Maldives stand at ATM 2024 can expect an immersive experience featuring insightful media interviews, breathtaking 360-degree videos showcasing the Maldives’ natural beauty, and captivating cultural performances.

The “Maldives Media Meet” press conference will provide leading media representatives with the latest destination updates, further enhancing the Maldives’ presence at the fair.

36 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Hanimaadhoo International Airport Expands Operations with New Apron

Hanimaadhoo International Airport has inaugurated a new apron, enhancing its operational capacity. The apron was completed independently of the ongoing airport development project, which is funded by a loan from India’s Exim Bank and includes a new runway and modern terminal.

The Regional Airports Company Limited (RACL), which manages the airport, has shifted operations from the old apron to the newly constructed facility. The new runway received its inaugural flight from national carrier Maldivian on Sunday morning.

RACL Managing Director Ahmed Mubeen explained that the apron was a strategic addition initiated by President Mohammed Muizzu to

boost revenue generation. According to RACL, the 42,000-square-foot apron will be promoted as a jet parking facility, accommodating up to six jets simultaneously. Upon completion of the larger development project, the apron will function as an isolation bay.

The ongoing Hanimaadhoo airport development project aims to enable the airport to handle larger aircraft such as A320s and Boeing 737s, increase passenger capacity to 1.3 million annually, and provide fuel storage facilities.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 37 Tourism & Aviation

Zamani Islands: Sowing Seeds of Sustainability in Paradise

Zamani Islands emerges as the leading force in Maldivian hospitality, set to reformulate luxury with a conscience. As Zamani Islands prepares to become the region’s inaugural resort to harness 100% renewable energy, guiding this bold venture are the minds of Ashish Rakheja and AEON Integrated Building Consultants, revered for their mastery in MEP design and sustainability.

Together, they orchestrate a symphony of eco-conscious architecture and futuristic technology, crafting not just a resort but a harmonious coexistence of luxury and environmental conservation.

Digital Twining and Passive Design Strategies

AEON’s involvement is key in moulding Zamani Island’s ecological impact. The scope of work assigned to AEON for Zamani Islands includes

delineating sustainability objectives to steer the course of sustainable design. The use of Digital Twining, a forward-thinking approach, allows for the creation of virtual replicas of buildings, enabling real-time monitoring and optimisation. Smart building management systems and IoT devices are employed to monitor and control energy usage in real time.

Integrating Renewable Energy into MEP Design

AEON has outlined a strategy to integrate solar energy into the Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) design of buildings on the islands. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will take centre stage, with rooftop solar panels and Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) being key components. These technologies aim to maximise solar energy utilisation across the resort.

In addition to solar power, AEON’s plan includes implementing energy storage systems to ensure a consistent power supply, even during periods of low renewable energy generation. Smart grid infrastructure and energy management systems will enable efficient monitoring and adjustment of energy consumption in real time. Moreover, energy-efficient MEP systems and advanced lighting controls will further enhance the resort’s energy efficiency and sustainability.

38 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Addressing Unique Challenges of Island Projects

Zamani Islands face distinct challenges in MEP design and sustainability due to isolation, resource limitations, and environmental vulnerabilities. To address these, AEON has prioritised local materials and skills development, employs corrosion-resistant and weather-resistant designs, and integrates energy storage solutions for reliable power. Additionally, innovative water-efficient systems and waste-reduction techniques are implemented alongside efficient transportation planning and modular construction.

Zamani Islands navigates challenges like limited resources, harsh environmental conditions, and logistical intricacies typical of island projects. Strategies include prioritising local materials and skills development, deploying weather-resistant designs, and ensuring energy reliability through storage solutions. Water scarcity is addressed with efficient systems and purification methods, while waste management emphasises reduction and recycling. Efficient transportation planning and modular construction streamline logistical operations. Moreover, environmental assessments, conservation efforts, and resilient construction practices are employed to mitigate ecosystem impact and adapt to climate change.

Coordinating Stakeholders for Seamless Integration

To ensure the seamless integration of MEP systems and sustainability features at Zamani Islands, AEON emphasises effective collaboration with stakeholders like architects and contractors throughout the project lifecycle. They conduct frequent meetings involving various parties, including architects, clients, and renewable energy experts, to maintain continuous workflow and facilitate integration.

Ensuring Compliance with Regulations and Standards

All the design disciplines of Zamani Islands are aligned to follow international design codes and standards, including sustainability. Every design discipline is required to identify and use applicable codes (both local and international) pertaining to the respective disciplines. For sustainability, the project should be aligned with recognised international sustainability standards such as LBC (Living Building Challenge), WELL, and EDGE. These lay down the foundation for applying sustainable principles and strategies in the design, construction and operations of the project. Adhering to these standards enhances credibility and aligns the project with global best practices.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 39 Tourism & Aviation
40 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Optimising Water Usage and Conservation

The main source of water for this project is seawater, which will be treated through a desalination plant for further use. Sitting in the middle of the ocean, water is plenty but costly and energy-intensive due to its treatment. Therefore, applying water conservation strategies will help the project in reducing the volume of water to be treated and associated environmental impacts & costs. Hence, water-reducing strategies, including low flow fixtures and 100% treatment of wastewater generated from the project, are undertaken such that it is treated and reused in the project for meeting non-potable and nontouch water demands such as irrigation and toilet flushing.

Supporting Sustainable Practices Post-Construction

To support Zamani Islands in adopting sustainable practices post-construction, AEON plans to implement educational outreach and engagement initiatives, including user awareness programs aimed at residents, staff, and guests to promote the benefits and proper use of renewable energy, fostering a culture of energy conservation and sustainability. Additionally, AEON proposes to establish a monitoring system to track the performance of renewable energy systems and MEP components, enabling continuous improvement by identifying areas for enhancement and optimising energy efficiency based on real-time data.

Environment, Sustainability, and Green Building Certifications

For Zamani Islands, certifications related to environmental sustainability are being considered in alignment with project goals and

local regulations. Notable certifications like EDGE, which focuses on resource efficiency, WELL, and prioritising occupant health and wellbeing, and the Living Building Challenge, which emphasises regenerative design principles, are being explored.

Amit Majumder and Dmitry Bourtov, the founders and curators of Atoll Estates, elaborate on the strategic rationale behind their choice of AEON as the MEP design and sustainability consultants for Zamani Islands:

“Our decision to enlist AEON as the MEP design and sustainability consultants for Zamani Islands embodies a deliberate strategy rooted in their unmatched expertise and steadfast dedication to pioneering sustainable solutions. AEON’s established track record in delivering innovative MEP designs perfectly aligns with our vision for Zamani Islands as a global leader in luxury hospitality and environmental conservation. Their comprehensive approach to sustainability, seamlessly integrated with MEP systems, ensures that our development not only meets but surpasses the highest standards of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. This collaboration with AEON signifies more than just a professional engagement; it signifies a harmonious fusion of shared values and a collective commitment to establishing new benchmarks in sustainable tourism in the Maldives and beyond.”

For more information, please visit the website or visit their Instagram at @atollestates or email

Corporate Maldives | May 24 41 Tourism & Aviation

VIA Celebrates 58 Years of Contribution to the Maldives

On 12th March 2024, the Maldives’ main international airport, Velana International Airport (VIA), commemorated its 58th anniversary. Since the airport’s launch in 1960, VIA has evolved from a small airfield to a modern international airport and has played a vital role in the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy.

To fully understand the impact of VIA on the Maldives economy, let’s take a look at the history of the airport and the contributions it has made to date.

The Birth of Hulhule Airport

Following the boom of tourism in the 1970’s, an international standard airport became imperative for the Maldives. However, the story of Hulhule Airport began 10 years earlier in 1960, five years before the Maldives independence from the British.

At the time, Maldives was renegotiating the December 1956 agreement with the British government to lease Gan Island and 110 acres in Hithadhoo in Addu atoll, and establish an airport base for the exclusive use of the British Royal Air Force (RAF).

During these renegotiations, the British government offered to develop an additional airstrip, and the airport was finalised to be constructed on Hulhule Island.

The runway, which was constructed of slotted steel sheets measuring 75 ft × 3,000 ft, welcomed its inaugural aircraft, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Bristol Freighter, NZ5906, in 1960. Two years later, on 10 April 1962, Air Ceylon’s Avro 748 marked the airport’s first commercial flight, heralding a new era of connectivity for the Maldives.

42 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Maintaining Economic Vitality

Reflecting on VIA’s evolution since its inception in 1960, it is clear that Velana International Airport (VIA) is a key contributor to the Maldives’ economy, particularly evident during the shocks felt by the economy during COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

As such, there is consensus on the importance of maintaining and modernizing VIA to attract global travelers and sustain economic momentum. The World Bank’s recent report highlights that the completion of the planned new terminal at VIA could potentially elevate the country’s economic development from 4.9% to 5.2 %.

The 20-Year Master Plan For VIA

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s 20-year master plan for VIA includes expansions to the passenger and cargo terminals, fuel farm, and domestic terminal.

With an increased built-up area of more than 78,000 square meters, the international passenger terminal building will reportedly have the capacity to accommodate up to 7.5 million passengers annually.

The new terminal addresses space constraints faced by the existing terminal and will feature facilities such as aero-boarding bridges and modern baggage handling systems. Additionally, the terminal – which is expected to be operational by the end of 2024 – will house a diverse range of F&B outlets, retail spaces, lounges, and other services.

VIA is also investing in upgrading its runway infrastructure to accommodate larger aircraft, including the A380. The new code-F runway, with dimensions of 3400 meters in length and 60 meters in width, is currently in operation.

To meet the increasing demand for aviation fuel, VIA has expanded its fuel storage capacity with the construction of a new fuel farm. Covering approximately 37,000 square meters, this new facility is three times the size of the previous fuel farm and can store up to 45 million litres of Jet A1 fuel, along with diesel and petrol reserves. Additionally, a new fuel hydrant system, spanning 8.4 kilometers, has been installed to streamline the refueling process for aircraft, improving safety and reducing service time for airlines.

Furthermore, President Muizzu aims to bolster VIA’s cargo handling capabilities, with plans to expand the new cargo terminal from handling 100,000 metric tons by 2025 to 300,000 metric tons by 2050.

The Master Plan also includes the development of a Maintenance, Repairs, and Overhauls facility, aimed at expanding VIA’s service offerings and enhancing the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations.

Improvements to the Domestic Terminal are also on the horizon, with plans to increase its capacity from serving 300 passengers per hour to 2000 passengers per hour. Additionally, the terminal will undergo expansion, including the establishment of eight departure gates, to accommodate the growing volume of domestic air travel and enhance passenger experience.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 43 Tourism & Aviation

Trans Maldivian Airways, the First Airline in Asia

Endorsed by De Havilland Canada

44 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Tourism & Aviation

Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), renowned as the World’s Largest Seaplane Operator, has received an endorsement certificate from De Havilland Canada. The endorsement acknowledges TMA’s Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility as a DHC-endorsed Service Center.

De Havilland CEO Brian Chafe presented the esteemed certification to Trans Maldivian Airways CEO Mr A.U.M Fawzy at a formal endorsement ceremony held at TMA’s hangar at Velana International Airport on 5th May 2024.

De Havilland owners Sherry Brydson and Robert McDonald, senior management, and representatives from both companies were in attendance.

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (DHC) is a Canadian aircraft company that has developed various aircraft models since its establishment, including the iconic Dash 8. Other models the company manufactures comprise the DHC-6 Twin Otter and the DHC-515 Firefighter.

Reflecting on TMA’s three-decade-long journey with the Twin Otter Aircraft, CEO Mr Fawzy highlighted the vital connection between TMA’s success and the durability and versatility offered by the aircraft.

He also reiterated TMA’s unwavering commitment to serving as the global brand ambassador for the Twin Otter aircraft and expressed heartfelt gratitude to De Havilland for their enduring support.

De Havilland Group CEO Brian Chafe admired the extensive scale of Twin Otter operations in the Maldives. He highlighted the remarkable

frequency of flights during peak hours, with take-offs and landings occurring nearly every minute. TMA completed 2 million flight cycles on Twin Otters, a feat unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Mrs. Sherry Brydson and Mr. Robert McDonald echoed these sentiments, emphasising Twin Otters’ seamless integration into the Maldivian tourism industry and their significant contribution.

Trans Maldivian Airways houses the largest MRO facility for Twin Otter Aircraft globally, facilitating Major Maintenance within the Maldives. Services offered include complete aircraft re-life, entire wing re-life, re-wiring, avionics and cockpit upgrades, cabin modifications, refurbished interiors, and interior standardisation.

With over 30 years of expertise in servicing various Twin Otter aircraft models, TMA boasts a dedicated team of over 300 highly qualified aircraft maintenance personnel, focusing on nurturing local talent.

Since its inception in 1993, TMA has revolutionised the Maldivian tourism industry by introducing Twin-Otter seaplanes, evolving into the world’s leading seaplane operator with a remarkable fleet of 65 DHC-6 Twin-Otters. The introduction of seaplanes has bridged significant transportation gaps in the country, becoming an indispensable component of the Maldives experience.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 45
Tourism & Aviation

India-Maldives Developers Conclave


Construction Sector


46 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Transport & Construction

The India-Maldives Developers Conclave, organized by the High Commission of India in Male’, was held last night with over 100 heads and representatives from the construction industry, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and banks from both nations in attendance.

The event aimed to strengthen ties between Indian and Maldivian companies within the construction sector, recognising the growing demand for infrastructure development in the Maldives.

With the construction sector witnessing rapid expansion in the Maldives, the conclave served as a platform to address the increasing need for new housing, warehousing, and resort developments.

In his welcoming remarks, the High Commissioner underscored India’s economic growth as a significant opportunity for neighbouring countries, emphasizing the ambitious infrastructure development program outlined by the Maldivian government. He expressed optimism that Indian businesses

and their Maldivian partners would capitalize on these opportunities to mutual benefit.

The conclave featured three panel discussions which covered topics such as challenges in sourcing and supplies, the competitive advantage of Indian companies in the Maldives, the integration of advanced technology for ecofriendly and efficient project execution, and strategies to address logistical challenges.

A presentation by the Shipping Corporation of India highlighted the benefits of direct shipping services between India and the Maldives, advocating for the diversification of trade to foster stronger bilateral linkages. Panelists also stressed the necessity of establishing a convenient direct payment settlement mechanism between the two countries, aimed at reducing dependence on the US dollar.

The event concluded with business-to-business discussions, facilitating direct engagement between Indian and Maldivian companies and laying the groundwork for future collaborations.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 47
Transport & Construction

Maldives Updates Energy Roadmap, Prioritizing Sustainable Transition

48 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Environment & Sustainability

The Maldives has taken a significant step towards its sustainable energy goals, hosting a stakeholder consultation workshop to revise its energy roadmap. This endeavour, led by the Ministry of Climate Change, Environment, and Energy in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), aligns with the nation’s pledge to achieve 33% renewable energy integration by 2028, initially announced at COP28.

The workshop brought together energy sector experts to address key challenges and opportunities in the Maldives’ pursuit of a just energy transition. H.E. Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of Climate Change, Environment, and Energy, opened the workshop, stating, “The Energy Road Map will serve as a guide to help the Maldives shift its energy sector and broaden the scope of its key economic activities.”

Dr. Sujata Gupta, Director of Energy at ADB, delivered a keynote address, followed by the official launch of the ASSURE project (Accelerating Sustainable System Development Using Renewable Energy). This initiative supports the Maldives’ sustainability goals. Minister Ibrahim and Mr. Jaimes Kolantharaj, Senior Energy Specialist at ADB, jointly presided over the launch ceremony.

Workshop discussions spanned topics such as solarization targets, promoting social benefits from the energy transition, strategies for renewables integration, and mobilizing private sector involvement. A panel discussion focused on uniting the country behind national energy objectives.

Dr. Muaviyath Mohamed, Minister of State for Climate Change, Environment, and Energy, offered closing remarks, reiterating the government’s dedication to a sustainable energy future. The outcomes of this workshop will significantly shape the Maldives’ updated energy roadmap, guiding the nation toward a cleaner and more resilient energy system.

“The Energy Road Map will serve as a guide to help the Maldives shift its energy sector and broaden the scope of its key economic activities.”

H.E. Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of Climate Change, Environment, and Energy

Corporate Maldives | May 24 49 Environment & Sustainability

An Island Nation’s Hunger: Can the Maldives Cultivate Food Security in a Sea of Challenges?

50 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Environment & Sustainability

Nestled amidst turquoise waters, the Maldives archipelago evokes images of paradise. Yet, beneath the idyllic surface lies a vulnerability –a dependence on imported food that threatens the nation’s security. With over 90% of its plate coming from abroad, the Maldives is precariously perched on the shoulders of global food chains.

This dependence is a recipe for trouble. Disruptions like the recent pandemic or geopolitical tensions can send shockwaves through import flows, triggering food shortages. The holy month of Ramadan further exposes this fragility. As demand for food items like vegetable and fruit prices skyrocket, it leaves low-income families particularly exposed.

Limited Land, Limitless Potential?

The challenge stems from geography. The Maldives is a scattered necklace of islands, with a meagre 2% of the landmass. Traditional agriculture struggles in this sandy terrain. However, innovation offers a lifeline. Hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil, could be a game-changer.

Imagine rows of lush vegetables thriving not in fields but in climate-controlled greenhouses. Hydroponics uses minimal water and allows for vertical farming, maximizing yields in a limited space. This technology offers the Maldives the potential to become not just a consumer but a producer of its own food.

From Seedlings to Sustainability

The Maldivian government is taking notice. Pilot projects are sprouting up, testing the viability of hydroponics. Initial results are promising.

But the road to self-sufficiency is long. Initial costs can be high, and technical expertise is scarce. Integrating hydroponics into the existing food system requires careful planning and infrastructure development. Moreover, ensuring access to affordable energy sources is crucial for powering these high-tech farms.

Beyond Hydroponics: A MultiPronged Approach

Hydroponics is a crucial piece of the puzzle, but not the only one. The Maldives needs a multipronged approach to ensure food security. This includes:

Diversifying Agriculture: Encouraging the cultivation of drought-resistant crops suitable for the Maldivian climate can reduce reliance on imports.

Strengthening Local Fisheries: Sustainable fishing practices can ensure a steady supply of protein while protecting marine ecosystems.

Investing in Storage Facilities: Building proper storage infrastructure can help buffer against price fluctuations and prevent food spoilage.

A Community Effort

Ultimately, food security is a national endeavour. Public education campaigns can raise awareness about the importance of supporting local farmers and reducing food waste. Encouraging homegrown initiatives like rooftop gardens can further bolster domestic food production.

The Maldives’ fight for food security is a microcosm of a global challenge. Climate change, population growth, and resource scarcity threaten food security worldwide. The island nation’s success or failure could offer valuable lessons for other vulnerable regions.

Can a nation of scattered islands defy the odds and cultivate a secure future for its plates? The answer lies in embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and nurturing a commitment to self-sufficiency. Only then can the Maldives truly savor the fruits of its independence, not just politically, but on the dinner table as well.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 51 Environment & Sustainability
Corporate Maldives | May 24 People

Dr. Mariyam Shakeela is a successful entrepreneur and a powerful voice for women’s empowerment in the Maldives. Her leadership has been instrumental in shaping the SIMDI Group into the diverse conglomerate it is today. In this interview, Dr. Shakeela shares her strategies for aligning SIMDI’s various divisions towards a common vision. She offers valuable insights on gender diversity in the Maldivian corporate sector and the importance of sustainability, drawing from her background in environment and energy. Finally, Dr. Shakeela provides inspiring advice for young entrepreneurs, especially women, on overcoming challenges and achieving success.

SIMDI Group has evolved significantly since its inception. Can you share some key milestones that have shaped the company’s journey to becoming a diverse conglomerate?

SIMDI Group has become a very diversified entity that deals with world-renowned products. In that regard, SIMDI has secured and maintained exclusive distributorship agreements with some of the world’s top companies. Over the years, SIMDI has also extended its service portfolio into the education, medical, mental health, wellness, agriculture, lifestyle, interior design, and hospitality and leisure industries. SIMDI Group has always been a market leader and will always strive to remain so.

SIMDI came into being in 2001 but has a history of knowledge, experiences, and expertise dating back to 1972. SIMDI represents 200 world-renowned brands and 15,000 products

and services in categories such as alcoholic beverages, fast-moving consumer goods, office automation, resort ware, machinery, and appliances. Its service portfolio extends into education, medical, mental health, wellness, agriculture, lifestyle, interior design, and hospitality and leisure.

As a leader, how do you ensure the diverse arms of SIMDI Group, from resorts to your luxury airline, work cohesively towards a common vision?

To ensure that the diverse arms of SIMDI company work cohesively towards a common vision, first and foremost our MD, GM, Chairman, and all executive team members make sure that we clearly communicate SIMDI’s vision, mission, and values to all employees across different arms of the company.

In fact, during the orientation of new staff, each and every one of them go through an orientation program that covers SIMDI’s corporate structure, its subsidiaries, partners, and affiliated institutions together with SIMDI’s core values, vision, mission, and the do’s and don’ts. A handbook that clearly states all the necessary information that a staff needs to know is also given to each and every one of them.

Refresher programs are also conducted to update on any changes and stress on the importance of our values and expectations. This process ensures that everyone in the organization is aware of and understands the overall SIMDI vision, mission, and values, along with divisional objectives and targets. Constant monitoring and evaluation processes go on to ensure that goals and objectives specific to each division/department are well aligned with the overall vision of SIMDI.

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We give the highest priority to collaboration and teamwork and work together towards common objectives, and this is constantly encouraged among different departments and arms of SIMDI. Training and development opportunities are extended to workforces across SIMDI to enhance their skills and knowledge and ensure that their work is aligned with current trends and demands. Our workforce is quite a global workforce, and so the SIMDI corporate environment is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. That means we pay special attention to promoting diversity and inclusion, and this has created within us an environment where employees from different backgrounds feel valued and respected, irrespective of where they are from and what positions they hold within the organization.

Our executives, department heads and all of us adhere to the simple principle of leading by example, to walk the talk and demonstrate the values and behaviors that is expected from our employees and thus show commitment to the common vision of SIMDI through our actions.

Whatever success any of SIMDI related establishment celebrates, all of us together as a unified body, recognize and celebrate the success taking pride in the achievements. That strategy boosts morale and strengthens the sense of unity among employees.

We pay special attention to keeping open lines of communication across different arms of the company and regularly communicate updates, progress, and challenges that they face to ensure understanding, transparency, and alignment.

These well thought out strategies ensure that we, as a group, work cohesively towards our common vision, and I strongly believe that it will lead to greater success and synergy across all aspects of our business.

How do you view the current state of gender diversity in the corporate sector in the Maldives, and what steps do you believe are necessary to improve it?

You don’t need me to stress that the quest for Gender diversity in the corporate sector of Maldives remains a challenge. It is a known fact that the Maldives is a country that does not lack laws pertaining to gender equality. Our constitution itself prevents discrimination. Maldives has also undertaken gender-sensitized international commitments and translated them into national laws and policies. It has also created institutional mechanisms to implement them to promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. The Gender Equality Act, which promotes equality and women’s rights, came into effect in 2016 but is lagging in implementation. The Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) 20222026, which has been formulated to try and speed up the implementation of laws and regulations, is also not being properly implemented. I believe our government recognizes the importance of embracing gender diversity and tries to create a conducive environment. But we fall on our back foot when it comes to implementation. Maldives is also taking some very transformative steps, such as the groundbreaking initiative“Gender Equality Seal,’ to be awarded to those government agencies, private businesses, and companies that actively promote activities to remove gender-based obstacles. Hopefully, that will drive the corporate sector to bring the necessary institutional modification towards gender diversity so that we are able to create a culture where equality thrives.

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I believe a huge part of the answer to achieving gender diversity also lies with females themselves. Females are over 50% of the population, and we females, as parents and educators, are responsible for nurturing the other 50%, who are boys, and have a very important role to play in bringing about the necessary mind shift that is required to eliminate the gender bias. If we raise males from a young age to respect, understand, and accept the value females bring into the economic equation and raise females not to view themselves as insufficient or lacking in certain areas, we will be able to achieve a gender-sensitive country. Quite often, in my work, I have come across many women who view themselves as incapable or have no confidence to deal with Male-dominated work environments despite their qualifications. I have come across women who do not know how to value their femaleness and unique strength all because of socially prescribed ideas and views. Women themselves need to harness courage to fight the stifling gender bias that afflicts them and begin to appreciate their uniqueness, their femininity and reshape their own perception of how they view themselves. I feel that women need to be taught to fight for their rights and not to give up on their dreams, no matter how many challenges come their way. Women should refuse to allow something outside their control to define them, to rule over them, and dictate to them what a woman should be and what a woman is capable of.

With your background in environment and energy, how do you integrate sustainable practices into the operations of SIMDI Group’s businesses?

This is an area that is still developing, and we have not completely reached our targets for sustainable practices. Nevertheless, we are taking energy-efficient measures such as investing in energy-efficient technologies, using renewable energy sources, using LED lights and energyefficient appliances, and optimizing cooling systems, etc.

We have yet to be 100% satisfied with water conservation measures and elimination of plastics. It’s an ongoing process. We have started taking water saving measures such as recycling water where possible, and monitoring water usage to reduce water wastage. We have installed water-efficient fixtures, started the elimination of plastic in the organization, introduced aluminum water bottles, and placed water dispensers across SIMDI and outlets. We have also started using reusable bags.

We also make extra effort to work as much as possible with suppliers who follow sustainable practices and engage in environmentally friendly and ethical sourcing methods to ensure we manage our supply chain sustainably and responsibly.

We constantly make employees aware of the necessity to act sustainably through training, promoting awareness campaigns, and encouraging participation in sustainability initiatives. And I am proud to say that our workforce practically shows their sensitivity towards sustainability and the environment. For example, our SRC, through its own initiation, has included in its annual calendar two or three CSR events within greater Male and works with various NGOs to conduct activities such as beach cleaning, etc. Apart from the work our CLUB participates in, SIMDI as a group also engages with the local community through partnerships, sponsorships, and outreach programs to address social and environmental issues and contribute to local sustainable development goals.

Although we are not 100% there when it comes to Recycling and Waste Management, we will be working on proper waste management practices by setting up recycling programs and ensure proper disposal of waste materials.

By maintaining and implementing these sustainable practices, Simdi Company can reduce its carbon footprint, contribute to achieving sustainable development goals, and create a positive impact on the environment and society.

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With your involvement in various organizations focused on women’s empowerment, how do you leverage your corporate role to advocate for these causes?

In any organization, there is so much unconscious bias that, irrespective of policies and programs to bring about gender equity, it continues to manifest itself through behaviors of both sexes, such as stereotyping, Microaggressions, and Tokenism. At SIMDI, we do our best to avoid such negativities and make sure that equal opportunities exist for both males and females and that females are not overlooked for promotions or challenging assignments. We avoid using double standards in judging males and females and avoid getting trapped in implicit bias, such as assuming that qualities associated with males make better leaders.

To create a conducive environment for all working at SIMDI, we try and establish, gender inclusive policies, and continuously improve on them. We put extra effort into establishing and maintaining a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion.

We encourage and support women in their rise to decision-making positions. We will continue to strengthen employee education in terms of gender equality issues, raise awareness, and promote understanding among employees through workshops. Seminars, and openly discussing topics such as unconscious bias and gender stereotypes. We at SIMDI believe that by taking these steps, SIMDI can leverage an individual’s passion for gender equality and advocate for these causes both within the organization and in the broader community.

Looking ahead, what are your strategic goals for SIMDI Group in the next five years?

My vision and the vision of the executive committee in SIMDI is for SIMDI to focus on areas that can drive growth, sustainability,

and competitiveness in the evolving business landscape. In that regard, our strategic goals at SIMDI are to keep up with emerging technologies and often fluid trends and offer products and services that appeal to and match circumstantial needs. Given that, we aim to embrace digital transformation, invest in digital technologies, streamline operations, enhance customer experience, and create new revenue streams. We also hope to develop a digital strategy that leverages data analytics, AI, IoT, and cloud computing to drive innovation and efficiency.

We are also in the process of identifying new market opportunities locally and internationally, to develop strategic partnerships or collaborations for easy access to markets, distribution channels and technologies so that we can diversify revenue streams and reduce dependency on a single market.

One of the most important strategic goals for us is also to enhance and implement sustainability practices across our operations to reduce environmental impact, optimize resources, and enhance brand reputation. We are working on setting sustainability goals related to carbon footprint reduction, waste management, and community engagement.

We will also be focusing on investing in talent development, on upskilling, reskilling, and retaining top talent to drive innovation and growth. We would also be developing strategies to cultivate a culture of learning, encourage diversity and inclusion to attract and retain a varied workforce, and continuously re-evaluate the strategy.

Among our strategic goals is improving customer engagement. SIMDI would make every effort to strengthen the customer centric approach, and understand customer needs, their preferences, and get feedback to drive product/service enhancements, to personalize marketing efforts, improve customer satisfaction, and drive loyalty.

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Hopefully, it will not be too long before a future SIMDI invests in innovation and R&D. It will establish an innovation lab or center to encourage creativity, experimentation, and the development of new products or services. We will also invest in research and development to stay ahead of market trends, anticipate customer needs, and drive product innovation.

SIMDI would also continue to push approaches to strengthen corporate governance and ensure transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior across all levels of the organization. SIMDI would continue to establish and strengthen clear policies and procedures to mitigate risks, comply with regulations, and uphold corporate values.

I strongly believe that these strategic goals will support and help the growth of SIMDI Group of Companies to leverage its diverse portfolio of brands and products to capture new opportunities and new markets, navigate future innovations, stay competitive, and achieve sustainable growth in a rapidly changing business environment.

Finally, what advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs, especially women, aspiring to succeed in the business world?

There is so much to say regarding this question, as this stems from my research and experience in diverse fields and is applicable to all women, whether they are entrepreneurs or aspiring to make their mark. I would try to answer as precisely and concisely as possible. I think it is important for all female entrepreneurs who aspire to succeed in the business world to first embark on their journey with awareness of the negativities around them, such as gender bias, stereotyping, etc., and accept them as a challenge, but as a challenge that they can work around.

Women as women or as female entrepreneurs need to be prepared to intelligently fight back against socially prescribed norms, be resilient and determined not to succumb to societal pressure and consciously begin to view their femineity as a strength rather than a weakness or view themselves as being less able. They need

to exercise self-control, believe in their self-worth, not get negatively affected by uncomfortable situations, and courageously face incidents without hesitating to speak out or make their voices heard.

I have come across instances, at the beginning of my work, where I had to speak ten times louder than the men to be heard half as often. I have come across attempts by some to ignore females to shut them off or attempt to make them feel insignificant and more like decorative pieces at meetings. But when they stood firmly in resisting the attitudes and showed that they were not fazed by attempts to belittle, they got the respect that was due. So, women should dauntlessly let their voices be heard, their ideas shared, and boundaries pushed with confidence.

It is a fact that if women lack belief in their own self and their capabilities, their self-esteem will suffer, resulting not only in a sense of insignificance but also helplessness, inadequacy, and even hopelessness. With this kind of attitude, women are defeated even before they begin.

Another piece of advice I have to give is to stop viewing men as enemies or as oppositional forces and start viewing males as their partners and learn to pair their respective unique skills to reach perfect solutions and success. Men are not the real enemy but fellow victims whose thoughts, roles, and responsibilities are molded by society and culture. Therefore, women must transform many aspects of their behavior, attitudes, and social relations. Women also must try not to allow stress to overtake them and allow that to become an issue in their lives.

The way I see the world, I feel that it is important for women to always remember that the primary barrier for women to achieve success is often within women themselves. Their greatest enemy and strongest ally also lie within themselves. Women must realize that they do possess the ability to break down stereotypes, surpass expectations, and forge their own paths to success. Women need to recognize their value, embrace their strengths, and reject limitations imposed by societal norms.

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Strategic Incentives: The Key to Success in the Corporate World

58 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Human Resources

While financial incentives hold significant sway, their effectiveness depends heavily on the design and context of their implementation. Evidence suggests that incentives tied to specific, measurable performance goals tend to be the most effective in driving desired behaviours.

Extensive research highlights the significant impact of financial incentives on employee performance and behaviour within corporations. Studies demonstrate that strategically designed programs involving bonuses, profit-sharing, and targeted rewards can lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and improved employee retention.

Profit-sharing schemes, in particular, have been associated with heightened productivity and profitability. When employees feel a direct stake in the company’s success, they are more likely to exhibit greater engagement and a commitment to achieving organizational goals.

Research also points to the potential of financial incentives to promote healthier lifestyle choices among employees. Offering incentives such as paid fitness memberships or rebates on health

insurance premiums can translate into healthier employees, less absenteeism, and higher overall productivity.

While financial incentives hold significant sway, their effectiveness depends heavily on the design and context of their implementation. Evidence suggests that incentives tied to specific, measurable performance goals tend to be the most effective in driving desired behaviours.

Companies looking to optimize employee performance and engagement stand to benefit from the insights provided by this research. By understanding the link between incentives, motivation, and productivity, businesses can create strategically aligned reward systems that foster a driven and successful workforce.

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Human Resources

The Evolving Role of HR: From Compliance to Connection

In the shifting landscape of the modern workplace, the role of Human Resources (HR) departments is under intense scrutiny. The question lingers: should HR function as an internal policing unit focused on enforcing rules and regulations, or should it embody its name and become a genuine resource for employees, fostering growth and well-being?

The Traditional Policing Model

Historically, HR departments often prioritized compliance with labour laws, handling payroll and benefits administration, and serving as a

buffer between employees and management. This approach was heavily influenced by the need to protect companies from legal risks and maintain order within the workplace.

Critics of this traditional model argue that it creates an adversarial relationship between HR and employees. When HR is perceived primarily as an extension of management, employees may hesitate to voice concerns, file grievances, or seek support for fear of retaliation or negative career consequences. This can lead to a toxic work environment marked by suppressed dissent and unresolved issues.

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The Case for Human-Centered HR

In recent years, there has been a growing movement advocating for a more humancentred approach to HR. This model emphasizes the importance of building trust, empathy, and open communication within an organization. Proponents of this shift argue that when HR focuses on employee well-being, development, and engagement, it leads to a more productive, innovative, and loyal workforce.

A human-centred HR department might invest in:

Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Providing training and resources to help employees and managers address disputes constructively, promoting a culture of understanding.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives: Championing efforts to create a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected, and have opportunities for advancement.

Mental Health Support: Partnering with mental health professionals to offer resources, counseling, and reduce stigma around seeking help.

Leadership Development: Emphasizing coaching, mentorship, and training programs to cultivate emotionally intelligent, inclusive leaders at all levels.

Challenges and Opportunities

The transformation of HR from a policing unit to a true human resource is not without its challenges. It may require substantial investments in training, restructuring, and cultural change within organizations. Additionally, HR professionals will

need to navigate the delicate balance between serving company interests and advocating for employees.

However, the potential benefits are significant. Studies have shown that companies with strong employee engagement and well-being tend to outperform their competitors in terms of profitability, customer satisfaction, and innovation.

Investing in People: HR’s New Imperative

The role of HR is at a crossroads. While compliance and risk mitigation will always be essential functions, the demands of the modern workplace call for a more empathetic and holistic approach. By prioritizing the wellbeing, development, and voices of employees, HR departments can unlock the full potential of their organizations and create workplaces where everyone feels valued, supported, and inspired to contribute their best.

Beyond Compliance: Traditionally, HR focused on rules and risk mitigation, potentially harming trust with employees.

Prioritizing People: The new HR model champions employee well-being, fostering open communication, engagement, and development within the company.

Challenges & Benefits: This shift requires investment but ultimately leads to increased productivity, innovation, and overall company success.

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The Power of Culture: How Workplace Values Shape

Maldivian Businesses

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In the Maldives, where tourism intertwines with island living, financial success alone doesn’t guarantee a thriving business. The true key to longevity lies in company culture – the foundation of values, beliefs, and behaviours that guide an organisation. A strong, positive culture has the power to transform Maldivian businesses, driving everything from employee satisfaction to customer loyalty.

A positive and supportive company culture becomes a powerful magnet in a nation with skilled worker shortages. Top talent seeks out workplaces where they are valued, respected, and given opportunities to grow. A strong culture creates a sense of belonging, boosts morale and helps retain the best employees. The Maldivian emphasis on hospitality and ‘sunny-side’ living naturally translates into expectations of excellent service.

Companies with cultures that prioritise customer needs, where employees feel empowered to make guests happy, tend to generate repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. The dynamic Maldivian economic landscape, with its dependence on tourism and sensitivity to global trends, demands adaptability. A culture that encourages open communication, problemsolving, and calculated risk-taking allows businesses to pivot and innovate in response to challenges and opportunities.

The traditional Maldivian way of life emphasises close-knit communities. Workplaces that foster a sense of belonging, where collaboration and team spirit are celebrated, mirror this cultural value and often see greater employee engagement. The Maldives is a melting pot of nationalities, particularly in tourism-focused businesses. A company culture that embraces

diversity, promotes inclusivity, and values the unique contributions of all employees creates a harmonious and productive environment.

With its stunning natural beauty and relaxed pace, the Maldives offers a lifestyle that many seek to balance with work commitments. Companies that demonstrate an understanding of the importance of well-being, offering flexibility where possible, tend to have more loyal and dedicated employees.

As a nation acutely aware of environmental fragility, businesses aligned with sustainable practices earn greater public trust. Company cultures that promote eco-consciousness, waste reduction, and support for local communities resonate with Maldivian values and attract environmentally-minded customers and employees.

Building a strong company culture takes intention and effort. Maldivian business leaders should begin by identifying the core beliefs that will drive the company’s mission. Leaders play a crucial role in embodying those values, inspiring their teams. Values need to be clearly articulated, visible, and reinforced throughout the organisation. When making recruitment decisions, prioritise values alignment to build a cohesive team. Finally, it’s vital to recognise and reward employees who exemplify the company’s values, boosting morale and reinforcing desired behaviours.

A great company culture is more than just a feelgood factor. It’s a strategic asset that translates into higher employee engagement, enhanced customer experiences, and the adaptability needed to navigate a uniquely beautiful and dynamic business environment.

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Key Reasons Behind Maldives’ Dollar Shortage

64 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Banking & Finance
Amidst Tourism

Despite a strong resurgence in tourism, with tourist arrivals exceeding previous years, the Maldives is facing a persistent shortage of US dollars. This scarcity has wide-ranging impacts on the nation’s economy, affecting businesses, importers, and ordinary citizens. Several factors are contributing to this complex issue.

Factors Contributing to the Dollar Shortage

The relocation of numerous Maldivian travel agents to Dubai and other foreign hubs due to tax disadvantages at home has resulted in a significant portion of tourism revenue remaining outside of the Maldives. This limits the inflow of much-needed foreign currency, leading to a strain on the nation’s dollar reserves. Additionally, the burden of substantial government debt, much of which must be repaid in US dollars, creates further demand for the currency, exacerbating the shortage. While tourist arrivals are increasing, two trends are contributing to lower green-tax collection (a tax levied on tourists). Firstly, there’s been a noticeable rise in arrivals to local islands, where visitor expenditures tend to be lower compared to luxury resorts. Secondly, the shorter average stay of 7.9 days also reduces overall tax revenue, even with the surge in visitor numbers.

Consequences of the Dollar Shortage

The dollar shortage, coupled with official exchange rate restrictions, has fueled the growth of an unregulated black market. Businesses

may resort to this market to access dollars, often at inflated rates. This further weakens the official exchange rate and worsens the scarcity. The global economic landscape also plays a role. Rising oil prices and supply chain disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict increase the costs of imported goods. This contributes to higher demand for dollars in the Maldives, putting additional pressure on the currency.

The Path Forward

The Maldives government faces a challenge in balancing its tourism strategy, managing its debt obligations, and safeguarding its foreign currency reserves. Policies encouraging greater economic participation by local businesses within the tourism sector could potentially increase dollar inflows. Revisiting tax structures and incentivizing longer tourist stays, possibly through tiered pricing models, may also prove beneficial. Collaboration with global tourism bodies to manage market expectations about currency fluctuation could aid in stabilizing the economic environment. Addressing the root causes of the dollar shortage is crucial for the Maldives’ economic stability and prosperity. By carefully examining these factors and implementing sound economic policies, the nation can work towards creating a more sustainable and prosperous future.

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Cash Flow or Foreign Policy: Root of Maldives’ Economic Woes Debated

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu asserted that the Maldives was on the brink of economic collapse when he assumed office. He maintains that immediate, potentially politically unpopular, actions were necessary to stabilize the situation. The President cites the support of both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as validation of his administration’s economic strategy and expresses optimism that continuing on this path will lead to the full recovery of the Maldivian economy.

However, former Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer offers a contrasting assessment. He argues that the nation’s current economic difficulties stem primarily from mismanagement of cash flow rather than a fundamentally unstable economy. Ameer insists that the previous government had formulated a sound plan for overcoming financial challenges and that the current administration’s approach to foreign policy is hindering access to external aid.

Ameer contends that unless foreign aid can be secured to support this year’s budget, the Maldivian government, investors, and the private sector will face increasing hardship. He urges the current administration to revisit the fiscal reforms proposed by its predecessors to alleviate mounting financial pressure.

The two figures differ significantly in their evaluations of the economic situation facing the Maldives. President Muizzu believes the country was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before his administration intervened. The former Finance Minister believes the economy had a solid foundation but is now suffering due to mismanagement of government finances. It is worth noting that Ameer lays partial blame on the government’s foreign policy for difficulties in securing international assistance.

Despite their divergent opinions on the root cause of the Maldives’ economic woes, both figures agree that decisive actions are vital to ensuring the nation’s economic well-being. Whether the solution lies primarily in the current administration’s policies, as President Muizzu argues, or in a return to the strategies of the previous government, as proposed by former Finance Minister Ameer, remains a point of intense debate. The path the Maldives takes will have significant implications for its future economic prosperity.

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Maldives Development Bank to Launch This Year

Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed has announced that the Maldives will establish a Development Bank this year. The bank’s focus will be providing long-term loans and financial assistance to support economic development projects.

Development banks offer loans, grants, and technical expertise to government agencies, private businesses, and organizations operating in sectors like infrastructure, agriculture, education, healthcare, and renewable energy.

Minister Saeed’s announcement came during a rally in Hoarafushi as part of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s tour of northern provinces.

Minister Saeed emphasized that the President recognizes the limitations of the existing banking system in facilitating desired development goals, and the Development Bank will address these needs. “I assure the President that a development bank will be established within this year,” Minister Saeed stated.

Minister Saeed highlighted that the bank will support the government’s key objective of expanding housing finance options: it will facilitate loans and funds for development and serve as an intermediary to expedite housing initiatives. Such initiatives include the introduction of soft loans at 5% interest and the establishment of a “housing trust fund.”

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Invest in Women: Accelerating Progress in the Maldives

Beneath the turquoise waters and white sand beaches synonymous with the Maldives lies a complex story of women’s evolving role in the workforce and business landscape. In recent years, the Maldives has made significant strides in women’s education and empowerment. Yet, ingrained societal norms and structural barriers continue to hinder their full economic potential. This International Women’s Day, with its theme of “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” the Maldives provides a compelling case study of challenges and opportunities on the path to true gender equality.

Progress and the Persisting Gap

The Maldives boasts one of the highest female literacy rates in South Asia. More women are graduating from universities and entering the workforce than ever before. However, this increased education hasn’t translated into equal job opportunities. Women are disproportionately concentrated in lower-paying sectors like tourism and remain underrepresented in leadership positions across both public and private sectors.

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Traditional gender roles persist, with women shouldering the bulk of domestic and caregiving responsibilities. This double burden limits their ability to pursue careers, participate in entrepreneurship, and contribute fully to the economy. A 2021 study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that Maldivian women spend an average of four hours per day on unpaid care work, compared to just two hours for men.

Entrepreneurial Spirit with Limited Mobility

Many Maldivian women have turned to entrepreneurship, particularly in home-based businesses, as a way to balance work and family demands. While this sector provides some degree of flexibility, it often traps women in informal businesses with limited growth potential. Access to finance, skills training, and market linkages remain significant barriers for female entrepreneurs.

A Supportive Policy Landscape, Slowly Evolving

Despite challenges, there are promising signs of progress. The government has enacted policies aimed at promoting gender equality, including a Gender Action Plan and a recent Flex Work Policy. Notably, the government offers women six months of paid maternity leave, a significant support system that allows them to re-enter the workforce with greater ease. Civil society organizations are actively advocating for

women’s rights and providing support to female entrepreneurs. More companies are recognizing the value of gender-diverse workforces.

Investing in Women: A Catalyst for Sustainable Development

The path forward in the Maldives demands a multi-faceted approach. Investing in girls’ education must remain a priority, along with reforms to address workplace discrimination. The provision of affordable childcare services is crucial to enable women to fully participate in the workforce. Supporting women-led businesses through access to funding and mentorship is essential for creating a more robust and inclusive economy.

Importantly, shifting cultural mindsets around gender roles is vital. Engaging men and boys in conversations about gender equality and shared household responsibilities is necessary to create lasting change.

Investing in women in the Maldives is not just about fairness; it’s about sound economic strategy. Studies consistently show a strong correlation between gender equality and a nation’s overall development. By harnessing the full potential of its women, the Maldives stands to reap the benefits of a more inclusive, dynamic, and resilient society. This International Women’s Day, the call to invest in women resonates strongly with the Maldivian journey toward a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

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The Maldives: A Nation Holding Back Half its Talent

70 Corporate Maldives | May 24
Women in Business

The Maldives may be renowned for its pristine beaches and luxurious resorts, but a troubling reality lurks beneath the surface: a severe lack of women in leadership positions. The recent parliamentary elections saw a mere three female MPs elected, highlighting a deep-rooted gender imbalance with far-reaching consequences, not just for equality, but for the nation’s economic future. The nation’s cabinet tells a similar story – out of 22 Ministers, a paltry three are female.

Studies have consistently shown that greater female participation in politics and business leadership positively correlates with economic growth. Women legislators tend to prioritize issues like healthcare, education, and social welfare – investments that ultimately boost a nation’s human capital and productivity. Moreover, diverse representation within policymaking bodies helps to counter corruption and fosters more responsible fiscal management.

The Maldives, with an economy heavily reliant on tourism, has a particular interest in promoting gender inclusive policies. A diverse leadership body sends a positive signal to potential visitors and international investors, projecting an image of an open, modern society. Femalefriendly workplaces, supported by appropriate legislation that only female policymakers may truly understand and champion, also play a key role in attracting and retaining a talented workforce.

The underrepresentation of women at the top tables, therefore, represents a serious missed opportunity for the Maldives. It hampers the

nation’s ability to unlock its full economic potential and undermines its credibility as a progressive, tourist-friendly destination.

So, what’s to be done? The Maldives is no stranger to efforts aimed at achieving greater female participation. Quotas in local councils have yielded encouraging results; perhaps it’s time to consider a similar approach for the parliament. However, while quotas can help open doors, changing mindsets is equally important and more challenging.

Civil society organizations, particularly those headed by women, have a critical role to play in raising awareness of gender imbalances and championing women’s inclusion in politics. Schools must also play their part by actively encouraging girls’ leadership potential and dismantling stereotypes about public roles.

It’s time the policymakers in Malé realized that neglecting the voices and perspectives of half their population is a self-inflicted wound. It undermines not just women’s empowerment, but also the overall well-being of the nation. True progress towards becoming a modern, equitable democracy cannot happen while women are sidelined.

While the shimmering islands may attract those seeking paradise, let it not be said that it’s a paradise enjoyed only by half. The Maldives, if it is to live up to its image as an idyllic haven, must work with urgency to ensure its halls of power truly reflect the vibrant and diverse tapestry of its people.

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New Logo Launched for Home-Based Food Producers in the Maldives

72 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Small & Medium Enterprises

The new logo aims to increase public confidence in the safety of home-produced food items by indicating adherence to Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) standards. Speaking at the event, First Lady Sajida Mohamed emphasized the potential of this initiative to empower home-based businesses, particularly those run by women. She also advocated for the swift passage of the Food Security Bill 2021, which is currently before Parliament.

The Business Centre Corporation (BCC) has unveiled a new logo designed specifically for home-based food producers and sellers in the Maldives. First Lady Sajida Mohamed officially launched the logo during a ceremony at the Islamic Centre.

The new logo aims to increase public confidence in the safety of home-produced food items by indicating adherence to Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) standards. Speaking at the event, First Lady Sajida Mohamed emphasized the potential of this initiative to empower homebased businesses, particularly those run by women. She also advocated for the swift passage of the Food Security Bill 2021, which is currently before Parliament.

To use the logo, home-based food producers must apply through the MFDA’s Live portal and register with a designated BCC portal. A BCC official clarified that the logo is intended for non-perishable food items such as thelli fairy, rihaakuru, and masmirus. While the MFDA will not conduct site inspections prior to granting approval, they will address any issues that may arise.

Although the use of the logo is currently optional, the BCC underscored its importance as a symbol of quality and safety assurance for consumers.

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Small & Medium Enterprises

The Double Helix of AI: Promise and Peril in a Data-Driven Future

74 Corporate Maldives | May 24
Technology & Innovation

Artificial intelligence (AI), once the stuff of science fiction, is now firmly integrated into everyday life. From the algorithms tailoring our social media feeds to the facial recognition software unlocking our phones, AI promises a future overflowing with innovation. Leaders in the field see AI as a tool to tackle climate change, revolutionize healthcare, and personalize education. However, the reality of AI paints a more complex picture, highlighting ethical concerns, economic anxieties, and its potential for misuse.

AI’s Grand Visions for the Maldives

In the Maldives, a nation acutely vulnerable to climate change, AI holds exciting potential. Researchers envision AI-powered systems that optimize energy grids, predict sea level rise patterns, and develop resilient coastal infrastructure. Additionally, AI could revolutionize healthcare in the remote islands, enabling remote diagnoses and treatment plans, as well as analyzing vast datasets to identify disease trends.

The Dark Side of the Algorithm

Despite its potential benefits, AI’s current applications raise concerns. The spread of misinformation fueled by AI algorithms threatens to erode public trust, particularly in a politically polarized environment such as Maldives. Moreover, the tourism-dependent economy of the Maldives is highly susceptible to the displacement of workers by automation. Hotels and resorts may increasingly turn to AI-driven services, potentially displacing a significant percentage of the country’s workforce.

The Automation Revolution and the Future of Work in the Maldives

The automation of jobs powered by AI threatens to upend the Maldivian labour market. While the government may choose to promote retraining programs to equip displaced workers with new skills, these programs often lack the capacity and resources to adequately address the challenge. This disruption to the traditional work culture will require a rethinking of social safety nets and potentially even the exploration of concepts like universal basic income (UBI).

UBI, a government-guaranteed income for all citizens, could provide a lifeline for workers displaced by automation. While still a nascent idea in the Maldives, it could play a crucial role in mitigating the economic fallout of AI and automation while allowing people to focus on upskilling, retraining, or entrepreneurship.

AI’s Ethical Crossroads in the Maldives

The promise of AI remains undeniable, but its path is fraught with risks and challenges. Policymakers, corporations, and researchers must collaborate to ensure AI development prioritizes ethical considerations, social wellbeing, and a just transition for the workforce. Only by proactively addressing these concerns and investing in a robust social safety net can the Maldives reap the rewards of AI without sacrificing the welfare of its citizens.

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Technology & Innovation
76 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Technology & Innovation
Customs Unveils Cutting-Edge Automation for Air Cargo

Minister of Cities, Local Governments and Public Works, Adam Shareef, commended the project, stating that the PEACE cable system is a positive development for the Maldives. Chief Operating Officer of Ooredoo Maldives, Hussain Niyaz, and Kulhudhuffushi City Mayor, Mohamed Athif, also highlighted the significance of the project. The cable landing opens up the potential for Kulhudhuffushi to emerge as a key digital hub, offering benefits to the region.

Ooredoo Maldives has announced the official landing of the PEACE cable system in Kulhudhuffushi City, establishing a direct connection between the Maldivian city and Singapore. The cable system is scheduled to begin operating by the third quarter of 2024. This new direct link is expected to facilitate the ongoing digital transformation of the Maldives.

This project positions the northern Maldives as a strategic gateway for digital connectivity between East and West. Ooredoo anticipates the enhanced infrastructure will attract hyperscalers and managed services, creating new jobs and fueling overall growth within the nation’s digital economy.

Minister of Cities, Local Governments and Public Works, Adam Shareef, commended the project, stating that the PEACE cable system is a positive development for the Maldives. Chief Operating Officer of Ooredoo Maldives, Hussain Niyaz, and Kulhudhuffushi City Mayor, Mohamed Athif, also highlighted the significance of the project. The cable landing opens up the potential for Kulhudhuffushi to emerge as a key digital hub, offering benefits to the region.

When completed, the extensive PEACE cable system will span over 25,000 km, connecting populations across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Importantly, this will provide direct routes between Singapore and France, along with a connection between Singapore and Africa.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 77 Technology & Innovation

Surveillance in the Maldivian Economic Zone: A Balancing

Act Between Security and Prosperity

The Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a vast swath of the Indian Ocean, is a region of both economic potential and security concerns. In a move to strengthen its surveillance capabilities, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has recently unveiled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. These are the Bayraktar TB2 drones intended for patrol and surveillance missions.

The Bayraktar TB2: A New Tool for EEZ Surveillance

Inaugurated at the MNDF Air Corps base in Noonu Maafaru, the Bayraktar TB2 drones have garnered international attention for their combat-proven capability in conflict zones like Ukraine. Known for their reliability and relative affordability, these drones are in high demand, currently

employed by the militaries of 31 countries. Their deployment in the Maldives signals a significant enhancement in surveillance technology.

The Promise of Surveillance

The integration of drones into the Maldivian security apparatus aims to address several key concerns. Protecting the Maldives’ tuna fisheries, vital to the national economy, is a primary goal. Drones equipped with advanced sensors and cameras can aid in identifying and intercepting vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Additionally, these drones can provide valuable real-time monitoring of maritime traffic, enhancing the ability to detect and respond to threats like piracy and smuggling. Furthermore, environmental monitoring is another potential application, as well as using drones to track ocean currents and pollution levels and support marine conservation efforts.

78 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Technology & Innovation

The Price of Vigilance

While the advantages of drone surveillance are compelling, it’s essential to consider the costs and potential drawbacks. Acquiring, operating, and maintaining sophisticated drone systems can place a financial burden on the budget. The use of surveillance technologies, particularly those with advanced sensor capabilities, raises questions about privacy and the potential for overreach by authorities. Striking a balance between security needs and civil liberties will require careful consideration. Moreover, substantial funds invested in surveillance could be diverted towards other pressing needs, such as healthcare, education, or infrastructure development.

Balancing Economic and Geopolitical Concerns

The debate surrounding EEZ surveillance extends beyond immediate implications. It’s crucial to consider the potential impact on foreign investment and shipping. Perceptions of excessive surveillance, especially if coupled with a lack of transparency, could deter investors and shipping companies. Conversely, the Maldives’ enhanced surveillance capabilities could contribute to broader Indian Ocean security initiatives. Collaborating with neighbouring countries could strengthen regional security and address shared threats.

Finding the Right Balance

The Maldivian government faces the ongoing challenge of maximizing the benefits of EEZ surveillance while minimizing potential drawbacks. Targeted investment prioritizing proven and cost-effective technologies, like the Bayraktar TB2, will be critical. Ensuring transparency and accountability in surveillance activities will be essential to protect civil liberties and maintain public trust. Finally, collaborating with regional and international partners will optimize surveillance capabilities and intelligence sharing, addressing threats that often transcend borders.

The effective surveillance of the Maldives’ EEZ, bolstered by new drone technologies, is not just a matter of security but a cornerstone of its economic future. The ability to protect its marine resources, ensure maritime safety, and foster a conducive environment for investment will be crucial in navigating the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 79 Technology & Innovation
80 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Trade, Fuel & Shipping MPL Launches Sea-toAir Cargo Service with Key Partnerships

MPL’s CEO, Mohamed Wajeeh, highlighted the company’s commitment to driving economic growth in the Maldives through initiatives aligned with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s vision. He expressed confidence in the positive economic impact of the newly launched transshipment services.

Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) has inaugurated its new Sea-to-Air Cargo Transshipment service, marking an important milestone for the company. During a signing ceremony held in Meerumaa, MPL secured agreements with Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL), Maldives State Shipping (MSS), and Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines, through its designated Maldivian agent Expedite Maldives, will serve as a cargo partner in the new venture. MSS will act as a carrier partner, while MACL will collaborate with MPL to streamline the Sea-to-Air Cargo Transshipment process.

MPL’s CEO, Mohamed Wajeeh, highlighted the company’s commitment to driving economic growth in the Maldives through initiatives aligned with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s vision. He expressed confidence in the positive economic impact of the newly launched transshipment services.

Turkish Airlines’ Regional Cargo Manager, Bilal Okuch, emphasized the ambition to establish the Maldives as a major regional hub for Seato-Air transshipment, potentially diverting operations from Sri Lanka.

Representatives from both MACL and MSS welcomed the partnership with MPL, anticipating substantial expansion of cargo services and broader economic benefits for the Maldives.

MPL formally launched its Sea-to-Air Cargo Transshipment services on March 15th. This hybrid model, developed in conjunction with MACL and international airlines, aims to streamline commercial operations. A significant advantage of the service is the anticipated increase in flights to various destinations, facilitating expedited exports of goods.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 81 Trade, Fuel & Shipping

Considering the Economic and Strategic Implications of a Major Seaport

82 Corporate Maldives | May 24
Trade, Fuel & Shipping

The Maldives may be on the cusp of a profound transformation. Discussions are afoot regarding the development of a major seaport, a move that has the potential to reshape the nation’s economy and its geopolitical significance within the Indian Ocean.

A Strategic Location

The Maldives occupies a vital position astride some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Thousands of vessels carrying everything from oil to manufactured goods traverse these waters annually. A modern, well-equipped seaport could become a valuable hub for transshipment, refueling, and maintenance services, providing a compelling alternative to existing regional ports.

Economic Diversification

The Maldivian economy has long been heavily dependent on tourism, a sector both lucrative and vulnerable to global shifts. A large seaport would represent a vital step toward economic diversification. Such an undertaking would generate employment opportunities, stimulate ancillary industries, and potentially provide a significant stream of revenue for the government.

The potential benefits for a nation like Maldives are immense. It could potentially secure a sustainable future, not just relying on a single economic pillar.

To Outsource or Not?

The question of who should develop and operate the proposed seaport is a complex one, with increasing political overtones. Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom publicly alleges that the government secretly plans to sell Male’s commercial port to Dubai Ports World once the

proposed Thilafushi port is operational. Yameen insists this would be a significant economic crime, highlighting the nation’s strategic location on vital East-West trade routes.

The government has refuted Yameen’s claims, maintaining there are no plans to privatize the Thilafushi port or outsource its control to a foreign entity.

The alternative is for the Maldivian government to undertake the project itself. It’s a pathway with greater control, but also greater risk and potentially slower execution.

Environmental Considerations

The development of a major seaport in the Maldives would undoubtedly have environmental implications. Dredging, land reclamation, and increased vessel traffic could potentially disrupt marine habitats already vulnerable to climate change. A stringent environmental impact assessment and sustainable design principles are critical.

The Geopolitical Dimension

Amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, the potential of a Maldivian seaport has caught the attention of major powers. Yameen’s accusations add to a complex geopolitical backdrop, where India, China, and the United States have expressed varying degrees of interest. The Maldives will need to tread carefully to maintain its neutrality and avoid becoming a pawn in a larger strategic game.

The question of a seaport for the Maldives is a defining one. Choices made today will echo for decades, determining whether the Maldives will become a maritime power or remain dependent on external actors.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 83 Trade, Fuel & Shipping

Maldives Featured on Global Bunkering Map

The Maldives has been recognized as a strategic bunkering location, securing a position on the popular global map Vitol Bunkers. Bunkering refers to the supply of fuel for ships.

Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed announced the inclusion on social media, sharing screenshots of the new listing. This development comes after the State Trading Organisation (STO) partnered with Swiss-based Dutch company Vitol last month to initiate the International Bunkering Project in Ihavandhippolhu.

The project involves the construction of an international bunkering facility, which will enable ships to dock and refuel directly in

the Maldives. STO Managing Director Shimad Ibrahim anticipates significant economic benefits for the country, including increased foreign currency exchange rates, reserves, and new job opportunities.

Vitol Bunkers is a significant player in the maritime energy sector, providing energy solutions worldwide. The company’s expertise in bunkering fuels and its growing focus on decarbonization solutions align well with the Maldives’ potential as a more sustainable refuelling hub.

84 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Trade, Fuel & Shipping

MPL to Position Maldives as Regional ReExport Hub

Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) has announced a strategic move to begin re-exporting goods imported by sea to neighbouring countries, with an initial focus on the Maldives. This new venture aims to strengthen the company’s revenue and contribute to the nation’s economy.

During a press conference held at the MPL headquarters, CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Wajeeh stated that the government is seeking to diversify its business activities, with reexporting being a key area of interest. He confirmed that MPL has engaged in discussions with relevant authorities, including customs and airport officials, to facilitate the smooth initiation of re-export operations.

“We recognize a growing demand for the redistribution of goods arriving in the Maldives from various nations,” Wajeeh explained. “By strategically utilizing our port infrastructure, we intend to facilitate efficient air cargo transfers to other destinations within the region.”

MPL anticipates a significant increase in revenue through the re-export initiative. Additionally, Wajeeh highlighted the benefit of conducting transactions in US dollars, which will help to address currency exchange issues.

According to Wajeeh, the company has already reached agreements with multiple airlines in preparation for the launch of re-export services.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 85 Trade, Fuel & Shipping
86 Corporate Maldives | May 24 Society & Investment Universal Basic Income: A Safe Harbor for Paradise in the AI Era?

In the wake of the Third Industrial Revolution, driven by the internet and mobile technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to harness big data are propelling us into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution brings extraordinary potential, but also profound economic risks. The idyllic shores of the Maldives belie the looming storm of these transformations; as AI promises to reshape industries worldwide, the Maldives’ dependence on tourism, fishing sectors, and its sizeable workforce in government and private offices –jobs also at high risk of AI-driven displacement – make it particularly vulnerable to job displacement and growing economic inequality. To navigate these turbulent waters, proactive policy changes are essential. Universal Basic Income (UBI) has garnered global interest as a potential solution, and the Maldives may be a compelling case study for its implementation.

Global UBI Experiments: Lessons and Inconsistencies

While no nation has a full-fledged, permanent UBI system, experiments offer valuable insights. Finland’s 2017-2018 UBI trial, targeting unemployed citizens, showed mixed results. Though there were no large-scale work disincentives, neither was there a significant boost in employment. However, participants reported reduced stress, enhanced well-being, and greater trust in social institutions. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) in California also demonstrated positive outcomes. Recipients experienced improved financial stability, reduced income volatility, and, notably, increased full-time employment, challenging the notion that UBI discourages work. These experiments highlight the complex nuances of UBI implementation, demonstrating that outcomes are likely to be context-specific and heavily influenced by how the program is designed and funded.

Corporate Maldives | May 24 87 Society & Investment

The Maldives’ AI Vulnerability

The Maldivian economy’s unique structure makes it particularly susceptible to AI disruptions. AI-powered travel booking platforms, chatbots, and even robotic hotel employees threaten jobs that form the backbone of the tourism-reliant economy. A 2019 McKinsey report estimates that up to 46% of jobs in the accommodation and food service sector globally

are at high risk of automation. Additionally, AIenhanced fishing, including sonar technology and predictive analytics, could displace traditional fishermen, harming a significant source of income for coastal communities. Without proactive measures, the wealth created by AI could concentrate disproportionately with the few who own and control AI technology, exacerbating existing economic disparities in a nation already marked by income inequality.

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Society & Investment

UBI as a Potential Lifeline

A carefully calibrated UBI could offer the Maldives a buffer against these challenges. A steady basic income floor would safeguard Maldivians against extreme poverty caused by job losses, ensuring essential necessities are met. As economist Jason Hickel aptly states, “When people live in a fair, caring society, where everyone has equal access to social goods, they don’t have to spend their time worrying about how to cover their basic needs day to day – they can enjoy the art of living.”

UBI can provide the breathing room for people to pursue entrepreneurship, exploring areas like sustainable tourism, AI-adjacent services, and creative industries potentially less susceptible to immediate automation. When UBI is paired with robust retraining and skill-building programs, it can facilitate the transition of the workforce to in-demand jobs in emerging sectors. Reducing economic desperation stemming from job losses could stem the tide of skilled Maldivians leaving in search of better opportunities abroad.

Addressing Concerns and Designing a Maldivian UBI

Critics rightly raise questions about the cost, work disincentive, and potential inflationary pressure stemming from UBI. These concerns can be addressed through a context-driven

program. A phased-in approach would begin with smaller grants, gradually increasing as the impact of AI becomes clearer, allowing for policy adjustments as needed. Initially focusing UBI on vulnerable populations most impacted by automation and those engaged in traditional Maldivian livelihoods at risk ensures targeted support.

A tourism-focused tax, levied mainly on luxury resorts, offers a potential source of UBI revenue. Such a tax would ensure that the very sector benefiting most from automation contributes towards securing the workforce it potentially displaces.

The Path to a Resilient Future

The Maldives can’t afford to be on the wrong side of the AI revolution. If harnessed properly, UBI could create an economic foundation that fosters innovation, protects its people, and builds a more equitable, resilient future for this island nation. As Martin Luther King Jr. powerfully asserted, “The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” UBI, paired with careful design, data-driven implementation, and a commitment to fairness, could be a vital part of ensuring the Maldives uses this disruptive moment to build the society it seeks to become.

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