President Yameen hails passage of SEZ bill

President Abdulla Yameen has hailed People’s Majlis passage of flagship Special Economic Zone (SEZ) bill as an incentive for multi-million dollar investments in the Maldives.

The bill was passed with six minor amendments at an extended Majlis sitting at 10:54 pm on Wednesday night, with 60 MPs of the 85 member house voting in favor.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had proposed over 180 amendments, but all were rejected.

Speaking to the press today, Yameen said the SEZ bill dispels investor concern over short lease periods and legal protection.

“Investors willing to invest billions of dollars raise questions over land lease periods. If its 33 years, they are not interested in [investing]. This is why major investors lack interest in the Maldives. We cannot even hold discussions with such investors. We have now created the legal environment required to attract major investments. This creates such a framework,” he said.

People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Maseeh has also applauded the passage of the bill as an example of democracy, similar to that of American democracy.

The bill will be ratified after Attorney General Mohamed Anil reviews the bill, Yameen said.

Meanwhile, MDP MPs have contended the SEZ law would pave the way for money laundering and other criminal enterprises, undermine the decentralization system, and authorize a board formed by the president to “openly sell off the country” without parliamentary oversight.

Speaking to the press after the Majlis session, MDP MP Rozaina Adam said the passage of the bill without any consideration to concerns raised by the opposition indicates the return to authoritarian rule.

“We now have a dictatorship here. The People’s Majlis, the presidency and the courts are all under one party,” she said.


The MDP proposed a large majority of the 245 amendments to the SEZ bill. These include revising a provision that allows leasing of land to foreign companies for 99 years to reduce lease periods and adding provisions to require 75 percent of jobs in the SEZs to be reserved for Maldivians.

The MDP also proposed companies with a 49 percent foreign shareholder stake to lease land instead of purchasing land.

It also proposed scrapping Article 74, which allows up to 40 percent of any zone to be tourism-related development with tax and duty exemptions.

Amendments were also forwarded for mandatory consultation with local councils ahead of declaring any region under council jurisdiction as an SEZ.

None of the opposition amendments passed.

The MDP had also proposed to return the bill to a committee for further review, although this proposition failed with 57 of 73 parliamentarians present voting against it.

Former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) previously claimed the SEZ law would facilitate massive corruption and undermine independence, but on Wednesday announced a three-line whip in favor of the bill.

The change in the party’s stance closely follows the state’s cancellation of various business agreements made with the JP leader’s business Villa Enterprises.

On Monday (August 25), the Civil Aviation Authority downgraded Gasim’s Villa International Airport based on the MP’s constituency island of Maamigili to domestic status.

Similarly, on August 14 the government terminated an agreement with Villa Air to develop and manage the regional airport on Gaaf Dhaal Kaadehdhoo, while the fisheries ministry has also decided to reclaim Laamu Atoll Baresdhoo from Villa, stating that the company had not used it for the agreed purpose.

“Castles in the air”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed had dubbed the legislation the ‘Artur Brothers bill’, referring to an infamous pair of Armenians linked with money laundering and drug trafficking who made headlines last year after they were photographed with cabinet ministers.

Nasheed has also dismissed SEZs and the touted mega projects as “castles in the air.”

Referring to the opposition to his administration’s public-private partnership projects on religious and nationalistic grounds – with opposition parties accusing the government of “selling off state assets” – in a speech at an MDP event on August 12, Nasheed argued that the current administration’s economic policies were far worse judging by their terms.

“There could be no bigger deception of the Maldivian people,” he said.

Nasheed also contended that Maldivian law would not be enforced in the SEZs, claiming that gambling would be allowed in the zones.


11 thoughts on “President Yameen hails passage of SEZ bill”

  1. Years of tax free exploitation of our limited resources with very little possibility that the investors will create jobs for locals, what is the attraction of creating SEZ? The investors may bring in initial fees that will serve the govt in the short-term and even then it would not serve the general public will it? We don't have supportive legislation and definitely no enforcement discipline to be able to handle multinational companies not subject to any landly laws and regulations..unless ofcourse the MNCs are really shady drug businesses and money launders. So why is anyone, even those loyal to the Golha clan going along with this?

  2. The country only has a few resources. It will be extremely wise not to fight each other over them.

    The whole of middle east and African nations are in perpetual conflict, precisely because they have wealth, and the opportunistic looters wants the wars, so that they can exploit and plunder the resources, under the cover of helping a party within. This is obvious to everyone.

    All the plunderers need to do in to arm a few activists, and voila, the motion starts.

    When we have so little, why in the hell are we fighting each other?

    God bless us all.

  3. "sez"special economic zones............ in maldives..........GMR issue was seen as a big mistake by yameen on grounds that it would jeopardize the interest of maldives ....... and how can this be better?

  4. I think is very good that the government of the Maldives has comes up with ideas and ventures to start something like the sez bill. It’s a large growing population and new ventures have to appear to deal with employment. The country’s teaching and schooling has later to adapt to the need for eventual workforce if a large multimillion company is interested. One of Singapore’s attractions is skilled labour force. I think your president and his advisers already have been asked by some companies regarding a sez bill. That’s most lightly how it started. But the country has to partly be run as an Oligarchy to be able to have a stable and long term agreements with large companies. As the population mostly is used to that type of governing it’s absolutely the most stable and in the best interest for the people.

  5. Every Maldivian when it comes to any subject you find the whole population are specialized in that that subject, all are economist, Quran specialists and you name it. Basically cut and paste is the real profession, probably don’t even know what the cut and paste is meant for when the cut and paste is done , Now everybody knows taxation and everything is connected to this lousy tax word when it comes to business and commerce. Morons don’t know taxation is not something that gives any positive economic benefits when it comes to the development and growth. In other words taxation in Maldives is simply squeezing the business to pay salaries of useless government payroll and distribution of money to useless unproductive people like old age and disable people.
    Guys the real growth is, how much people are employed and what wages they get and how it effects the life of people.

  6. let us dream if this is sustainable… my answer is no. y got to give hooks and line to citizens . Every story has a end and let us see how this end.. I will start from making tooth picks and handy craft.

  7. The SEZ is sold as some kind of silver bullet which would pull the country out of poverty. Those who believe this tale will be disappointed.

    Development has never come about with money, buildings, boats, cars, motor bikes. The Arab nations with their material opulence which we aspire to so much are even less developed than we are.

    Our country today is akin to a large wrestling match with all citizens fighting in one large heap, climbing over each other to reach the top of the pile. Adding more money to this mess won't improve much.

    Development comes with respect, rule of law, honesty, hard work, education, empathy, kindness, charity - all of which we sorely lack. The best SEZ we have are our kids - raise them with these qualities and we would turn our country around within this one generation.

  8. 33 years not enough..he must be kidding.. lets watch how this is going to effect growth.The short run development will be Bangalization of the Maldivian race within the 99 years time frame.I wonder orginal Dhivehin will exist to live in this land?????????????

  9. SEZ bill and GMR is not same. GMR was given multimillion dollar business with asset value over 200 million with a hand shake .

    GMR had not invested any money . But who ever come under SEZ will not be getting an ongoing multimillion dollars assets for free. People will put thier own money and not the public money.

  10. Yameen’s approach for economic development is just an imagination probably it will never be realized. This is another trick to dupe Maldivian to fantasize for next 30 years the same way Golha has duped Maldivian for 30 years. This small Island nation of geographical mess, uneducated mass, no such infrastructure to cater mega investment and it has no niche market; this guy must be hallucinating or an ignorant or just simply blind folding the gullible people. Or may be simply trying to do something what Anni has initiated; introduce mass tourism, But Anni’s formula was doable and probably the only immediate available option that can bring changes. For now, with ground reality it is Just dreaming of nonexistent paradise, that’s all this about. However, if this guy can do miracles, and you should not lose hope, no one knows what he is capable of doing, so be positive and hope for the best.


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