Local trade authorities must do more to simplify foreign investment procedures in the country as they attempt to increase income of dollar revenue, the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) has claimed.
Ahmed Adheeb, an MNCCI member and Chief Operating Officer of the Millennium Capital Management (MCM) investment group, said he believed the country was failing to follow in the footsteps of markets like Sri Lanka by establishing a board of investment to help foreign companies navigate the complexities of local business culture.
“In order for the Maldives to build investor confidence I believe that firstly we need a board of investment like they have in Sri Lanka,” he said. “The Maldives has many different ministries that must be navigated to get licenses [to operate businesses]. We need a one-stop shop [for foreign business] if we are to bring international investors into different areas.”
Adheeb’s comments were made after members of the MNCCI recently met with their Pakistani counterparts in Male’ to discuss business and investment opportunities across the Maldives. Although no specific areas of interest for local investment were raised as yet during the meetings, Adheeb claimed that recommendations were made regarding potential opportunities for putting money into smaller and medium size tourism developments like guesthouses and safari boats.
The MNCCI said that it also acknowledged requests from the Pakistani representatives to host a single country forum here in Maldives to promote bringing certain food and pharmaceutical products to local markets.
With growing fears over the lack US dollars currently being circulated in the Maldives, generating additional foreign currency revenues has been identified as a key part of the government’s economic stabilisation strategy.
While calling for simplified investment procedures for businesses coming to the Maldives, Adheeb claimed that he hoped to see protection measures for local small and medium enterprises in the country. One such example was in potentially setting caps on the minimum size of investments that could be made by foreign parties in the country.
“We should try to ensure that we are not endangering existing local small and medium enterprises,” he added.
However, amidst ongoing attempts by the government to try and devalue the rufiya to try and stabilise the Maldivian economy – under pressure from bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee claimed that recent financial uncertainties has not significantly impacted potential foreign investment in the Maldives.
“Generally the interest is still there. In the development of Hanimaadhoo for example we have seen 19 groups expressing interest in the project. Ten of these [parties] were foreign investors,” he said.
Razee claimed that he did not believe that recent financial upheaval in the country including fears over a shortage of US dollars finding their way into the local economy had not led to cases of “specific hesitation” from enterprises looking to invest in the country.
“Obviously [the country’s finances] are something investors will be looking into, but we believe this is not a significant setback as a result,” he added.
Razee said that the government had expressed interest in working with foreign business to develop national agriculture and aquaculture, as well as transport infrastructure.
President Mohamed Nasheed had stated last year that private sector investment was expected to bring US$1 billion to the local economy between 2010 and 2013.
However, aside from issues of financial stability, a former Australian Supreme Court Justice who spent several weeks in the Maldives this year analysing the functioning and impartiality of the country’s judiciary said that he believed legal reform had a key impact on economic performance.
After reporting that the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – designed to serve as a legal watchdog – was compromising its accountability and obstructing the creation of an independent judiciary, Murray Kellam claimed that an impartial judicial system was a key factor in encouraging foreign investment.
Kellam said that Singapore was a perfect example of the long-term financial transformations possible with focused and impartial legal reform.
“[Singapore] understood the value of a civil system that is incorruptible and competent. They spent a lot of money on their judiciary and Transparency International now rates their civil legal system as one of the best in the world,” he told Minivan News in March this year.
“Singapore realised that one of the best ways to attract investment was to have a system whereby international investors knew they would get a fair go in domestic courts. If you look at the circumstances in other parts of the world where investors have no confidence in the judiciary, that deters investment and takes it offshore. They’ll go somewhere else.”