The Maldives has garnered interest in oil exploration during an investment forum in Singapore.
Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr. Mohamed Shainee, told Minivan News at least one investor will be visiting the Maldives in the coming weeks to present their company profile and discuss the project further.
Over 160 companies and nearly 200 representatives from 16 countries were present at the first overseas investor forum organised by the Maldives.
Speaking at the event on Friday, Shainee assured potential investors that there was no room to refute the presence of oil in the Maldives based on seismic testing by Royal Dutch Shell.
“Those studies were carried out 25 to 27 years ago, with limited technology capable of investigating under sea. However, now we have better technology that is more capable of more exploration,” he said.
Oil has been found in both Sri Lanka and India and therefore there is a high possibility that it will be found in Maldives too, he added.
Lying just a meter above sea level, the Maldives is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.
Crude oil will diversify and stabilise the economy, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said. At present, the Maldives heavily relies on tourism, which supports an estimated 70 – 80 percent of its GDP.
However, some have argued that economic benefits will not outweigh the possible environmental repercussions.
“When you take up the issues of drilling, we are concerned about the oil container tanks with unrefined fuel passing through,” concluded Executive Director of local NGO Bluepeace Ali Rilwan. “We can’t afford to go into that dirty energy.”
With this in mind, Rilwan asked, “can we avoid a disaster in the Maldives? The Maldives is a tiny island and this can have a very negative impact, the tanks are a worrying thing.”
In addition to oil exploration, the government is seeking investment in establishing a port in northern Ihavandhippolhu Atoll, land reclamation and maritime seaport in Hulhumalé, expansion of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) and the relocation and expansion of the central port to Thilafushi Island.
The projects for which the government was seeking investors were “designed to position Maldives to take advantage of its strategic location as a hub and gateway for commerce, innovation and creativity, linking rest of the globe with South Asia,” President Yameen said in his keynote address.
“To address investment climate and to facilitate mega investments with attractive incentive packages, a Special Economic Zone Bill will be tabled in the parliament soon. Additionally, the Foreign Investment Act and Companies Act are being revised to cater the ever increasing needs of the modern foreign investors,” he added.
Meanwhile, a Singaporean court is currently overseeing the arbitration process between the Maldives government and Indian infrastructure giant GMR in which the company has claimed US$ 1.4 billion for the abrupt termination of a concession agreement to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).