Foreign freeholds will not threaten Indian Ocean security, assures President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has assured the public that authorising foreign ownership of land or freeholds in the Maldives will not threat Indian Ocean security or lead to “enslavement” and shortage of land.

Addressing the nation this afternoon after ratifying amendments to the constitution passed by the parliament yesterday, Yameen insisted that the unprecedented changes will not adversely affect “friendly relations” with South Asian neighbours.

“The Maldivian government has given assurances to the Indian government and our neighbouring countries as well to keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone,” he said.

The Maldives’ foreign policy will not change as a result of authorising freeholds, he added. The freeholds would not pose “any danger to either the Maldivian people or our neighbouring countries.”

The amendments will allow foreigners who invest more than US$1 billion to own plots of land within the project site. At least 70 percent of the project site must also be reclaimed land.

The second amendment to the 2008 constitution was approved yesterday with 70 votes in favour and 14 against. MPs opposed to the move expressed concern over possible Chinese military expansion in the Maldives and lack of time to debate the amendments.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the party supports “free ownership of land and property” in principle, but expressed concern with the amendments facilitating “foreign non-commercial logistical installations in the Maldives.”

Speaking to the press after the president’s remarks, newly appointed vice president Ahmed Adeeb said: “We are not going to sell our lands to any country. We are trying to do business here. We want to bring in many corporate investments. We are not going to sell land to other countries, whether its China or Saudi Arabia. We are not gifting our land to other parties. We want to mobilize investments worth at least US$1 billion.”

Attorney General Mohamed Anil stressed that the government will conduct background checks on investors and review if proposed projects may affect geopolitics.

“No cause for concern” 

Yameen said there is “no cause for Maldivian citizens to be concerned” with the amendments. Land will only be offered for large-scale economic activities, he stressed, and not “for foreigners to settle in those areas.”

The amendments include “safeguards” such as a requirement for the parliament to approve the projects, Yameen said, and investors will not be able to carry out any other work apart from the authorised project.

The state will exercise complete sovereignty over the areas, he continued, which would also be subject to the Maldivian constitution and laws.

“If the Maldivian state’s sovereign authority is not lost, temples can’t be built there, casinos can’t be built there, and illegal activities cannot be carried out,” he said.

Anil meanwhile noted that the amendments state that the total land area of all project sites must not exceed 10 percent of naturally existing land in the Maldives. The projects will also be regulated by laws passed by the People’s Majlis, he added.

Anil said freehold zones were key in the economic transformation of Dubai, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. He also said India has a threshold of US$5 million worth of investment.

“The government is not obliged to engage with investors who come with US$1 billion. Of the proposed projects, we will check how feasible they are, what the biggest investments are. And we will also check who the parties are, what their backgrounds are, for Maldives’ security and protection, if this will affect geopolitics,” he said.

“Economic transformation”

Yameen said the amendments will “speed up the pace” of realising the current administration’s goal of “transforming the economy,” which could not be achieved by continuing with “business as usual.”

The US$1 billion will not be spent entirely on land reclamation, Yameen said, but on infrastructure development such as new “townships,” airports, marinas, and seaports.

Adeeb meanwhile told the press that the amendments were in line with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) economic agenda. It accompanies the government’s flagship special economic zones (SEZ) legislation and the introduction of corporate residence visas.

Responding to allegations that the SEZ legislation had failed, Adeeb said the government has received several SEZ proposals from potential investors, but the government could not accept some as some investors made demands such as complete exclusivity for 25 years.

The government is negotiating “the best deal” for the country and seeking “win-win situations”, Adeeb said, reiterating that one ‘mega project’ could transform the economy.

The government will not allow illegal activities such as weapons smuggling, money laundering, or gambling, he said.

“We do not want to bring in companies with bad reputations to launder money. We are talking about Fortune 500 companies,” he said.

Land reclamation 

Yameen meanwhile sought to allay fears of “running out of land for future generations.”

The government is not planning on offering all the islands and lagoons in the Maldives for sale, he said, adding that the government will only authorise “one or two projects” that would create jobs for youth and increase national wealth.

The Maldives has the capacity to significantly increase its territory by reclaiming land in large shallow lagoons, he said, and the cabinet’s economic council has approved funds for the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) to procure a cutter dredger.

Yameen said 24 million square meters of land could be reclaimed from the lagoon of Laamu Maavah for about US$200 million, 45 million square meters could be reclaimed from the Vaavu Bodumohora lagoon for about US$160 million, and 16 million square meters could be reclaimed from the Thaa Hirilandhoo lagoon for US$50 million.

Once the MTCC dredger arrives next years, Yameen said the government will have the capacity and the financial means to carry out the projects.

There is no danger of running out of land in the next 50 or 100 years, he said.

Population consolidation is also a policy of the current administration, Yameen continued, urging youth from small islands to migrate to the capital.

Once phase two of the Hulhumalé development is complete and the government authorises high-rise buildings to 20 or 25 floors, Yameen said up to 70 percent of Maldivian population could be settled in the Malé region.

Yameen said the constitutional amendments were proposed following long deliberation, research, and consultation with foreign parties and legal experts.

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Amendments raise fear of Chinese military expansion in the Maldives

Proposed constitutional amendments to allow foreign ownership of land in the Maldives will allow China to establish military facilities in the Maldives and destabilise the Indian Ocean, a source within the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

The amendments will allow foreigners who invest in a project worth more than US$1 billion to purchase land, meaning it can facilitate “foreign non-commercial logistical facilities” on such plots.

Since the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) holds a majority in the parliament, the government can allow and regulate military activity on such land through other legislation, the source who wished to remain anonymous said.

In a more carefully worded statement shared with the media, the MDP said: “Being a center right political party, the Maldivian Democratic Party in principle believes in free ownership of land and property. Nevertheless, the amendments can facilitate foreign non-commercial logistical installations in the Maldives.

“The MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Hon. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih speaking on the bill on Tuesday night reiterated MDP’s call to guarantee national security, safeguard stability, peace and security of the Indian Ocean. This therefore forms the MDP position.”

The amendment will be put up for a vote today.

A three-fourths majority or 64 votes is required to amend the constitution. A total of 62 MPs voted to accept the amendment at midnight on Tuesday at an extraordinary parliamentary session. Parliamentary standing orders have been amended to fast-track the process of passing a bill into law.

PPM MPs were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

Majority leader Ahmed Nihan said last night that the amendments will not affect the Maldives’ sovereignty, while MP Ali Arif said no land will be given for military purposes. The ruling party says the amendment would increase economic growth and facilitate sustainable investment in the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen has declared a foreign policy shift to the East last year. Chinese president Xi Jingping was the first head of state since Yameen assumed power and the first Chinese president to visit the Maldives.

During the visit, the Maldives agreed to become a partner in China’s maritime silk route, a trade route from China’s Fujian province to the Mediterranean Sea via South Asia and East Africa.

China is providing grant and loan assistance to the Maldives to build a bridge between the capital and the airport. Chinese companies are involved in airport development and have now been handed islands for resort development.

In January, the MDP alleged the government was making plans to award parts of south central Laamu Atoll to China for a military base. The Chinese embassy promptly dismissed the allegations as “completely false.”

“It is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” read the press release. “China does not maintain any military in any foreign country.”

Several independent and opposition MPs voted against the amendment last night, contending it will allow the government to sell the Maldives off as it gives unprecedented access to foreign parties to operate in the Maldives, especially with the enactment of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act last year.

The SEZ Act gives investors and developers major tax breaks and exemption from regulatory provisions in financial, environmental and labour laws.

At the time, the opposition contended that the SEZ law would pave the way for money laundering and other criminal enterprises, undermine the decentralisation system and authorise a board formed by the president to openly sell off the country without parliamentary oversight.

The government and the MDP are currently negotiating for the release of opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed and other jailed politicians.

The opposition has backed several government proposals including the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed on Tuesday and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency.

President Abdulla Yameen has now appointed the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as the new vice president. His nomination will be approved by the People’s Majlis today.

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With Chinese grants and loans Malé-Hulhulé bridge inches closer to reality

The Chinese government has pledged to provide US$100 million as free grant aid to finance the construction of a US$300million bridge between capital Malé and airport island Hulhulé.

The Chinese and Maldivian governments today signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) related to financing the project and the construction stage.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, finance minister Abdulla Jihad said that the Chinese government will provide a US$170 million loan at an interest rate of two percent. The remaining US$30 million will be spent from the Maldivian state budget.

“This is an important step to make the bridge viable,” Jihad said.

The MoUs were signed following discussions between the cabinet’s economic council and a delegation from the Chinese government about finalising the design and other matters.

The director general of the department of foreign assistance at the Chinese commerce ministry, Wong Yong Puk, signed the MoUs on behalf of China.

Jihad said official agreements on finance will be signed within the next three months.

The economic council has previously said the six-mile bridge will have six lanes and will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhulé, where the airport is located.

According to the housing and infrastructure ministry, the bridge will be completed in two years.

Under the second MoU, the Chinese government agreed to find a contractor for the project and to help the government operate the finished bridge.

During a historic state visit in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the bridge will be called “the China-Maldives friendship bridge” and would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible.

An agreement was meanwhile penned during President Abdulla Yameen’s state visit to China last month for carrying out the ongoing feasibility survey of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

In May, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.

The feasibility study has since been completed and handed over to the Maldivian government.

In a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12, President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.

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Defence minister summoned over Chinese submarine ‘incursion into Maldivian waters’

Defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel has been summoned to parliament to answer whether a Chinese Yuan class 335 submarine entered Maldivian territorial waters between March 31 and May 22.

Eva Abdulla, an MP with the main opposition Maldivan Democratic Party (MDP), submitted the questions to parliament yesterday. Under parliamentary rules, a 14-day notice must be given for minister’s to appear for questioning.

An Indian newspaper India Today reported on June 27 that “China’s deadliest attack submarine” crossed the Arabian Sea and entered Karachi port on May 22.

The submarine is reportedly equipped with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and air-independent propulsion.

“Beijing’s first-ever deployment of a submarine to Pakistan signals a new cat-and-mouse game in the region,” India Today observed.

According to the magazine, Indian navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan told reporters in New Delhi on May 28 that India was “minutely” monitoring Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean and “signalled the start of a new great game over the world’s most important water body.”

China’s rising presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that the rival Asian power is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The questions submitted by Eva ask the minister if the Chinese submarine was granted leave to enter Maldives’ territorial waters and if the security forces are aware if the submarine had entered the Maldives’ territorial waters without prior permission.

The docking of two Chinese submarines in a Sri Lankan port in November last year sparked concerns in New Delhi. The new Sri Lankan government in February pledged to ensure such incidents will not be repeated.

During an official visit to China last month – his second since assuming office in November 2013 – President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.

President Xi Jinping in his historic state visit in September invited the Maldives to “journey with China on the high-speed bullet train to progress and prosperity,” President Yameen said in a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12.

The Maldives has also become one of the first partners in the Chinese ‘Maritime Silk Route’ initiative and a founding member of the Chinese-led new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

In September last year, former President Mohamed Nasheed criticised the decision to join the Silk Route initiative, contending that it would threaten Indian Ocean security.

In January, the Chinese embassy in the Maldives denied Nasheed’s suggestions that the Maldivian government is planning to hand over large parts of Laamu Atoll to China for a military base.

“It is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” the Chinese embassy said.

“China does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.

The opposition leader had alleged that the Maldives was to hand over large parts of the southern atoll to China for a military base on a 99-year lease, in exchange for US$2 billion.

India Today meanwhile noted that China is planning to sell eight Yuan class submarines to Pakistan within the next few years.

“According to a New York-based Council on Foreign Relations report, Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear programme in the world. Its arsenal, built with the help of Chinese technology, stands at between 100 and 120 warheads, compared with China’s 250 and India with between 90 and 100,” the magazine reported.

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Maldives becomes founding member of Asian infrastructure bank

The Maldives signed articles of agreement today to establish the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as one of 57 prospective founding members.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad signed the agreement at a ceremony held this morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The AIIB was created in October to fund Asian energy, transport and infrastructure projects and rival the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Following the signing ceremony, Maldives ambassador to China Mohamed Faisal said the bank will become “an important global financial institution.”

Arif Hilmy, an advisor to the finance minister, will reportedly represent the Maldives on the bank’s board.

Representatives from 50 of the 57 founding members also signed articles of agreement today, which determines each members’ share and contribution to capital.

The UK, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, and Brazil are among AIIB founding members, but Japan and the US are opposed to the bank.

The US had questioned standards at the new institution and tried to dissuade allies from joining.

The bank is due to begin operations later this year with a capital of US$100 billion. With 30.4 percent, China is the largest shareholder, followed by India (15 percent) and Russia (6.5 percent).

China also has effective veto power over the bank’s decisions with its more than 25 percent voting share.

During a recent visit to China, President Abdulla Yameen said Sino-Maldives bilateral relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.

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Sino-Maldives relations at ‘an all-time high,’ says President Yameen

Sin-Maldives bilateral relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year, President Abdulla Yameen has said.

President Xi Jinping in his historic state visit in September invited the Maldives to “journey with China on the high-speed bullet train to progress and prosperity,” President Yameen said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum yesterday.

“This was an invitation that my people accepted wholeheartedly. We needed no second invitation,” he said.

“With our first class tickets, we have taken our seats in the Maldives’ cabin. We are belted up and awaiting the station master’s signal.”

A ‘Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation’ was established following the leadership visits in 2014, Yameen noted, and many agreements were signed on tourism, maritime cooperation, defence, and “a number of ambitious infrastructure development programmes.”

Yameen said China’s role in the Maldives’ economic development is “unmistakable” with Chinese visitors accounting for a third of annual tourism arrivals.

“It is also among the highest value and fastest growing markets, with a staggering 92 percent of visitors coming to our serene shores for the first time,” he added.

The Maldives has also become one of the first partners in the Chinese ‘Maritime Silk Route’ initiative and a founding member of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Yameen continued.

“I have always believed that economics and not politics present us with the pragmatic solutions needed to overcome our current development challenges,” he said.

Yameen said he was elected with a “clear mandate to transform the country’s economic fortunes” by creating jobs for youth, restoring macroeconomic stability, and inspiring investor confidence.

China has meanwhile presented to the Maldives and other South Asian countries a “golden opportunity of infrastructure development” through the Silk Road initiative, the AIIB, and joint economic commissions, he said.

The 21st century is the “Century of Asia,” Yameen said, and no Asian country showcases the industry and potential of Asians more than China.

“Transcending from the outdated geopolitics of suspicion and imperialism, China has presented to the world a clear vision of ‘win-win’ cooperation, based on trust, sincerity and support,” he suggested.

“The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend toward a multipolar world, economic globalisation, cultural diversity and greater IT application, is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of regional cooperation.”

The Maldives and other South Asian countries can be beneficiaries of the the initiative and “can look forward to all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and the realisation of diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development.”

Development projects

Many of the government’s planned ‘mega projects’ are benefiting from Chinese support and assistance, Yameen said, adding that civil works on the construction of a bridge connecting Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé – to be called the “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” – will begin at the end of the year.

He added that “a major portion of the airport development will also bear the hallmark of Chinese cooperation.”

During his ongoing visit, President Yameen met Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on Thursday and signed an agreement on carrying out the feasibility survey for the bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

Other development projects, such as a link road in Laamu atoll and a social housing programme, are also being carried out by “Chinese contractors with Chinese funding.”

“The outlook is bright for the Maldives. Investor confidence in the country is today at an unprecedented and previously unattained level,” he said.

“We are implementing a number of strategic measures to entice major investors to the Maldives, including some of China’s largest overseas contractors and investors. We have recently passed a Special Economic Zones Act, which gives new incentives for large-scale investment projects.”

An investor forum is due to take place later this year in Beijing, Yameen noted, and the government hopes to promote its future development projects “while tapping into the vast trade and investment potential offered to South Asia by the Chinese government.”

“Furthermore, the ongoing dialogue to establish a Free Trade Area with China and expanding the trade benefits that we enjoy with India through the SAFTA mechanism of SAARC will further enhance the investment potential of the Maldives, especially in the trading and shipping sectors,” he said.

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Chinese investment in Maldives tourism ‘expected to rise’

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has said he expects an increase in Chinese investment in Maldives tourism following the lease of a second island for resort development to Chinese companies.

The joint venture -between China’s Guandong Beta Ocean and a Maldivian company – were awarded Vaavu Atoll Kunaavashi this week to develop a five-star luxury resort with some 142 rooms.

“More Chinese investors will follow. There is a lot of interest, from Sri Lankan and Singapore companies as well,” Adeeb told Minivan News today.

The tourism ministry in May also signed an MOU with the state-owned China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to develop Thaa Atoll Kalhufahalafushi as a resort.

Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one third of arrivals in 2014 with a total of 363,626 arrivals. China now represents the single biggest source market for tourists in the Maldives with a 30 percent market share.

On Monday, Adeeb said China’s Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Fukang, had pledged to increase Chinese arrivals to one million. The venture would require extensive infrastructure developments, such as airport developments and building new resorts to increase the total bed capacity of the country, he said.

Mifzal Ahmed, the director of strategy and business development at privately owned airline Mega Maldives, said he hoped “this is the start of a full wave of such investment in the country, and the Government should be congratulated for the role they have played in making these investments happen.”

Mega Maldives pioneered direct flights from Maldives to China in 2009. It operates four to five flights a week from Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

“We have long argued that the demands from the Chinese tourists to the Maldives are at times a little different from the European traveller. Therefore, getting investors who understand the mentality of these tourists is a very good thing,” he added.

Mauroof Zaki, the secretary general of the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), noted the importance of equipping Maldivian staff with the skills to cater to an influx of Chinese tourists.

“We need more language classes on Mandarin or training on food and beverage services to Chinese tourists,” he said.

However, he said he was concerned that Chinese tourists may not be as conscientious as European tourists on labor rights, human rights and the environment.

“When ethical tourists come to the Maldives, it improves the work environment for Maldivian staff, for example, tourists pushed for the equitable distribution of service charge to staff,” he said.

A resort owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said Chinese developers must take care to develop international resorts. “Does the Chinese traveler want to be on an island by themselves? From what I’ve seen, they want to be among others, and do not like to be segregated.”

The Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI) was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The Maldives reached the one million tourist arrival mark in 2013. In 2014, the Maldives welcomed 1.2million arrivals, and the government hopes to see 1.4million arrivals in 2014.

The tourism ministry last week launched the “Visit Maldives Year 2016” campaign. The US$10million will see festivals and trade events, and award free holidays throughout the year. The Maldives has also been designated as the partner host country for the ITB fair in Berlin in 2016.

According to Forbes, Chinese investment in the global hospitality industry has seen a surge in the last two years. The trend started when Chinese Dalian Wanda group announced plans of investing a US$ 1.09 billion luxury hotel in London.

Since then, Chinese companies has announced a US$ 900 million skyscraper in Chicago, a US$ 1.95 billion acquisition of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, and a US$ 399 million hotel in Sydney.

Maldives has become a main attraction for Chinese travelers, with South China Morning Post saying, the country has topped travel lists for Chinese travelers, with the country being promoted in China’s media as an “approved destination” by the Communist Party government.

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China to fund Malé-Hulhulé bridge, says minister

An agreement was penned today during President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to China for carrying out the ongoing feasibility survey of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

The “agreement on the economic and technical cooperation of grant” was signed after a meeting between President Yameen and Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao, according to the president’s office.

Speaking to reporters prior to departing to China last night, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef said “a large portion” of the bridge project will be financed through Chinese free aid and the rest through concessional and commercial loans.

Along with the feasibility report, Shareef said the Chinese government will present options for building the bridge as well as the estimated cost for each option.

The government has previously said the project will cost between US$100 million and US$150 million.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible. The economic council has said the six-mile bridge will have six lanes and will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhule, where the airport is located.

Last month, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.

Shareef said last night that in his meeting with the Chinese vice president, President Yameen will discuss financing for the bridge project, projects in the Maldives under the Chinese maritime ‘Silk Route’ initiative and expediting a US$40 million loan from the Chinese EXIM bank for developing the international airport.

The government has previously said a total of US$600million is needed for the project. Although the economic council first said they will borrow the funds from China and Japan, the fisheries minister in March said Saudi Arabia had assured loan assistance at a low interest rate for airport development.

Shareef is accompanying President Yameen during his visit to China along with economic development minister Mohamed Saeed and representatives from Maldivian businesses. The president departed on Wednesday morning to attend the 3rd China-South Asia Exposition, and the 23rd Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair.

The president is due to deliver a keynote address at the joint opening of the fairs. The fairs will take place from June 12-16.

According to state broadcaster Television Maldives, a symposium was held at the Grand Park Hotel in Kunming today to share information with Chinese investors.

More than 80 companies from the Yunnan province participated in the ‘Invest Maldives Symposium,’ said economic development minister Saeed.

An ‘Invest Maldives’ page was launched on Chinese social media network Weibo during the symposium as part of “promotional efforts” for an investment forum to be held in Beijing, Saeed said.

Businesses in the Yunnan province expressed interest in carrying out renewable energy projects in the Maldives, he added.

Shareef meanwhile said the Chinese government will cover almost all of the expenses for organising the investment forum in October. While sponsors funded the first investment forum held in Singapore last year, Shareef said the government covered some costs.

Following an official state visit to China in August last year, President Yameen said the likelihood of the bridge project being awarded to a Chinese company was “99 percent” and that “a large portion” of the project would be financed through free or concessional aid from China.

In a historic visit the following month, Chinese President Xi Jinpeng said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

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President Yameen departs to China

President Abdulla Yameen departed for China this morning to attend the 3rd China-South Asia Exposition, and the 23rd Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair.

The president was accompanied by president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef, economic development minister Mohamed Saeed, and “numerous company heads representing the Maldivian business community”, according to the president’s office.

Local media reported earlier this week that the president is scheduled to give a keynote speech at the joint opening of the events.

Leaders of the eight SAARC countries and Saudi Arabia will attend the fairs.

President Yameen made an official state visit to China in August last year while Chinese President Xi Jinpeng’s official visit the following month marked the first time a Chinese president visited the Maldives.

The Maldives is meanwhile planning to hold an investment forum in China’s capital Beijing in September.

“Beijing will be a perfect place for Maldivian businesses to promote their businesses and networking,” minister Mohamed Saeed said in a tweet.

President Yameen’s departure comes ahead of a third mass protest planned by the opposition for June 12 over the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition politicians.

 

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