President Mohamed Nasheed has announced the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit will be held next year in the South Province.
During his weekly radio address last Friday on the Voice of Maldives, the president said the summit could take place in both Addu and Fuahmulah Atolls.
President Nasheed acknowledged it would take a lot of work and preparation to hold the summit in Maldives, but said he was “confident a successful summit could be held in the South Province.”
Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuahir, confirmed the summit will be held in the Maldives next year, but said a final date has not been set yet. “We are looking at April 2011.”
He said there would be “huge development” in the Southern Province, noting there was already “road building projects” underway in the islands. He said a new conference centre would be built for the summit, as well as other facilities such as indoor halls.
Zuhair added the development projects for the summit will cost “upward of US$10 million.” He said the money will be partly donated by other SAARC countries and partly sponsored by the Maldivian government.
“It’s the first time a SAARC summit is being held south of the Equator,” Zuhair said, “and it will highlight the Southern Province and give us a very good name.”
Maldives was meant to hold this year’s summit, “but due to economic recession” among other things, it was cancelled and held in Thimphu, Bhutan.
“As a member country, it is also our responsibility [to hold the summit],” he said.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, said holding the summit in the Southern Province “symbolises unity in the country.”
He said “there are quite a lot of people living in the Southern Province and not everything has to be held in Malé.”
He added there is already a lot of infrastructure in the province, so the cost will be feasible for the government.
Maldives was meant to hold this year’s summit, he noted, but it was cancelled due to “some difficulties.”
“It’s a regional thing,” he said, “every [SAARC] country holds the summit.”