MMA governor calls for courageous cuts at third Maldives Finance Forum

The third Maldives Finance Forum was opened with the Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) Dr Azeema Adam calling upon stakeholders to take more courage in reducing government expenditure.

“There needs to be a change particularly with regards to disorganised subsidies, and revenue needs to be increased,” Dr Azeema was reported to have told attendees.

“But that is not something the government alone could do. It should be done together by many.”

Azeema’s comments echoed the findings of the MMA’s 2013 macroeconomic report, which warned that further “slippages” in revenue or spending would undermine medium-term debt sustainability,with adverse effects on exchange rate and prices.

The third Maldives Finance Forum took place today at Bandos Island Resort, focusing on the issue of international financial and capital markets, and financial literacy.

Organised by the Maldives Pensions Administration Office (MPAO), the event sought to bring together leaders from the political, academic, financial, and social sectors to share ideas for the further development of the Maldivian financial sector.

Also speaking at today’s forum were Head of Official Institutions at Schroders Gavin Ralston, Global head of the JP Morgan’s Islamic Finance practice Dr Hussain Hassan, Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed, and leading figures from the Maldivian business community.

Among the forum’s stated objectives the identification of legal and regulatory impediments to development, the promotion of financial literacy among the public, and awareness raising of the potential of the country’s pension fund.

The pension fund – overseen by the Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA) – is currently in need of diversification, CMDA CEO Fathimath Shafeega recently told Minivan News

“As you know the pension system in Maldives has assumed that there will be a developed capital market. The development of the capital market has not kept pace with the pension development,” she explained .

Beginning in March this year, the government more than doubled the monthly pension – with head of the Cabinet’s Economic Council Ahmed Adeeb stating that “innovative” investment would prevent the need to divert funds from within the current budget.

The CMDA’s quarterly report last week for the first time featured details of the country’s nascent Islamic Capital Markets, indicating the rapid growth of Shariah-based financial products in the country in recent years.

Shafeega expressed confidence that the Maldives was well positioned to become an international centre of both Islamic and non-Islamic finance in future years – the evolution of both these areas was discussed by touched Mr Ralston and Dr Hassan, respectively, at Bandos today.

Today’s speech from the economic development minister discussed issues faced in attracting foreign investment and finance – something the current government has made a priority, organising a landmark foreign investment forum in Singapore last month.

The ensuing panel discussion at today’s forum concerned accessing global financial markets and securing foreign investments.

During the recent investment forum in Singapore, President Abdulla Yameen announced his intention to create “a resilient, diversified high income economy in the next decade.”

The government was committed to exploring “openings for increasing foreign investment flows to non-traditional sectors to lift Maldives beyond the image of a picturesque postcard,” said Yameen.

The current economy relies on the tourism industry for an estimated 80 percent of GDP.


Red Crescent pioneers ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ programme

The Maldivian Red Crescent yesterday evening concluded a week-long youth training camp designed to encourage young people to take a greater leadership role in society.

“In Maldives, the youth, those youngsters brimming with energy and enthusiasm at the age of 18 – 35 years take up at least 33 percent of the population,” said Secretary General of Maldivian Red Crescent Mr Abdul Razak Ibrahim.

“While this high percentage can be seen as a wealth, it poses certain challenges for the Maldivian society in terms of social services delivery, employment, urbanization and other developments directly related to youth.”

This week’s camp pioneered the International Federation of Red Crescent’s (IFRC) ‘Youth As Agents of Behavioural Change’ (YABC) programme in the Maldives, bringing 30 young people from across the atolls to Bandos Island Resort in order to develop skills that can benefit local communities.

The programme was borne from the IFRC’s strategy of focusing on non-violence, diversity, non-discrimination, mutual understanding and dialogue explained Razak.

Participants in the programme were taught how to cope with peer pressure and how to handle stressful situations with empathy and compassion.

Those trained will now be expected to return to their communities, and their respective Red Crescent branches, to pass on their new skills as peer educators.

During his speech yesterday, the secretary general highlighted the problems that unemployment, drugs, and family breakdown were having on society – and on the youth in particular.

Around 40 percent of young women, and 20 percent of young men are out of work in the country, while 46 percent of drug users in the country were aged between 16 and 25, he noted.

“Though this may not be the most becoming sentiments to express in an occasion where I have to be optimistic, I do have grave concerns for the youth of Maldives,” said Razak.

“Further, there are very few avenues and forums where youth can be involved in decision making, especially within the atolls. This is one reason why I have hopes for this 7-day training programme of YABC educators which I expect will help to catalyze youth to think more deeply in their decision making,” he added.

Yesterday’s closing ceremony included demonstrations of the skills developed from the camp’s participants, as well as individual accounts of the week’s training.

“The last seven days have been absolutely electrifying for all of us and have helped us a lot in knowing ourselves better and in finding inner peace,” explained camper Mariyam Maaha Madheeh.

“The YABC has helped in various ways and has helped us to do better and do be better. It has been a huge eye-opener and has taught us how we can bring the change the world needs,” she added.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister of State for Education Mr Adam Shareef Umar.

The current government’s youth policies have focused on discussion of a ‘Youth city’ in Hulhumalé, while the Home Ministry has organised its own police-run youth camps.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has also posited the idea of mandatory government service for school leavers in order to instill discipline into the nation’s young people.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent movement was first introduced to the people of the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami which displace around 10 percent of the population.

After helping local communities overcome the disaster, the Maldives’ own branch of the organisation was established in 2009 and has since established 10 branches across the atolls.

The Maldives Red Crescent’s Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015 encompasses disaster management, health and social care, youth, and institutional development as the main strategic directions for the coming years.


All Party talks to continue at Bandos May 31-June1

Convenor of the All Party talks, Ahmed Mujthaba, confirmed at a press conference this morning that party representatives would attend a three-day retreat at Bandos Island Resort from Thursday, to try and reach a consensus on the six-point agenda.

The India-sponsored roadmap talks were put forward to try and break the political deadlock following the controversial ousting of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on February 7.

Despite stalling several times due to disagreements over the subject and order of the agenda, challenges from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) over the legality of the MDP’s representation, and the higher profile of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the circumstances surrounding the change of power, the roadmap talks have continued.

The six items on the agenda on the agenda are, in order:

  1. Discussion on how to solve the problem of public disturbances carried out in the country;
  2. Discussion on assessing the state budget situation;
  3. Discussion on identifying reforms needed for institutions and independent posts;
  4. Discussion on assessing the laws to be amends and new laws to be enacted;
  5. Discussion on amendments to the constitution;
  6. Discussion on determining a date for a presidential election.

The next round of talks had been scheduled at Bandos – a resort owned by Vice President Waheed Deen – to allow the parties to focus on the issues without the distractions of a normal working day, Mujthaba said.

MDP representative at the talks, former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa, said she felt the atmosphere was now conducive towards productive discussion, and said the MDP was trying to get the leaders of all the parties assembled on the final day – “there might be something to sign,” she suggested.

“I think the Commonwealth’s insistence on changing the composition of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) has driven home to the government the seriousness of of these talks,” she added.

The original objective of the talks, as put forward by President Mohamed Waheed, was to “restore peace and harmony in the country”, Dr Zulfa noted. “Disruption of peace and harmony was not something that just fell out of the sky. At least a third of the country are upset about the rights that have been taken away from them.”

Deputy Leader and Spokesperson of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef was not responding at time of press, while Vice President of the PPM Umar Naseer was in Singapore.

UN Mediator Pierre Yves Monett, who is assisting Mujthaba with the talks, also attended the press conference this morning. Mujthaba noted that Monett had been provided with interpreters as the talks would be conducted in Dhivehi.


Waheed Deen nominated as Vice President

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has nominated philanthropist and owner of Bandos Island Resort Mohamed Waheed Deen as his Vice President.

Parliament approval is required to make the appointment official.

“I have looked around and decided that Deen is the best choice who can work with me closely,” Dr Waheed said. “There may be better qualified people but I want to work with someone close to me and with whom I have full confidence in. I delighted that Mr Deen has agreed to work with me.”

Deen said he had been educated at the state’s expense and that this was an opportunity for him to repay the favor to the nation.

“In 1969, at the age of 16, I was sentenced to jail on charges of a coup. That day I decided to show that I am not a conspirator to a coup. And [decided] to serve the nation,” he said.

He said that he would work sincerely to fulfill the duties tasked to him by President Waheed, and  support his efforts to develop the nation.

“My reason for accepting is that as a person who has been working all these years in different government posts, as well as a businessmen and human rights council member, it is time to serve the nation,” he said.

“When the nation is going in this direction – violence and destruction, innocent people losing their jobs – including Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). I do not want to see that. I want to see everybody treated equally. That is why I accept the post – because I believe the President [Waheed] and I have similar ideas, and that it is possible for me to work with him. As the President reiterated, we would like MDP to join the cabinet. I think there are great leaders among them. I hope to serve the nation and not a party.”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s party has challenged the legitimacy of the new government, following Nasheed’s resignation allegedly “under duress” on February 7.

Asked for his response to these allegations, Deen responded that it would be “very difficult to make decision [on the government’s legitimacy] 10 minutes after being nominated, as I am not yet the Vice President. I will be the Vice President when the Majlis (Parliament) accepts me, so that is a question I cannot answer.”

Dr Waheed said he would forward Deen’s name for a parliament vote tomorrow morning: “I hope parliament would approve him as the Vice President.”

The President said that he would work closely with the new VP, making a reference to Nasheed’s resignation  as a “bitter result” of not working like that.

Dr Waheed also said that he will support an independent investigation into the reasons surrounding the resignation of his predecessor, adding that he is awaiting legal advice on how to proceed from the newly-appointed Attorney General and opposition-linked lawyer Aishath Azima Shakoor.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Dr Waheed also announced that he was developing a “roadmap” that he would propose to all parties “towards reaching peaceful resolution of the issues we are facing today.”

Dr Waheed also reiterated his desire for the MDP to participate in the cabinet, stating that he was “willing to restructure the cabinet” to accommodate the MDP if required.

The MDP has so far refused to participate in a national unity government as proposed by Dr Waheed, challenging its legitimacy and observing that the majority of the new cabinet appointments are key supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the country for 30 years. Only two of the new appointments (the tourism and and health portfolios) have previously undeclared political affiliations.

In today’s press conference Dr Waheed insisted that he had reserved the decision to nominate the Vice President himself, despite pressure from opposition parties.

Deen’s Background

Deen is well known for his philanthropic works and is praised as “the founding father of local government in the Maldives” for spearheading efforts to introduce local governance through elected councils, before resigning as Atolls Minister in August, 2008.

Following the council elections, Deen established The Institute of Local Governance and Development, a private initiative to support the decentralisation process and promote good governance by providing training programmes, consultation and information to councilors.

Deen continues to support various non government organisations.

Last year, Deen joined in line with several tourism magnates to endorse the Nasheed’s economic reform program criticised by the then-opposition.

The government’s economic reform programme was necessary because “we do not want to keep the gap between rich and poor in this country anymore,” Deen asserted.

“What is the main reason a country becomes impoverished?” he asked. “I believe that one of the main reasons is refusal to tell the people the truth by many successive governments, many kings, until we have come to this point.”

In the Maldives’ long history, Deen continued, the public were indoctrinated to not criticise the government and given to understand that “only a particular group, from a particular family, could rule.”

Deen speculated that “the biggest challenge” the government’s economic reform agenda would face will be “changing people’s mentality.”

“This is the biggest problem facing our country today: [one side says] ‘everything is going right’ [while the other says] ‘nothing is going right,’” he explained. “So we have to educate our people, especially the councils.”

Deen also cautioned against unprincipled opposition to the government: “We could stay angry, hateful and disapproving and say ‘go on, run the government’ but sadly – remember this well – any harm this government suffers, the people will suffer many times over.”

Meanwhile, leader of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Hassan Saeed has been appointed as the Special Advisor to the President , a post he held during Nasheed’s administration before resigning on the 100th day.

Saeed was the former Attorney General during Gayoom’s administration, and was the first person to file complaints against Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in 2005, the detention of whom led to protests and ultimately the dramatic events of last week.


Culinary exhibition aims to boost Maldivian chefs to world stage

At 2:30pm, the stage was set.

Two judges with mark sheets in hand made the rounds. Outside, three stations created for live cooking, were used each turn by three chefs from those who signed up for the live cooking demonstration.

Abdul Alim, who moments earlier had been manning the hotplate in the main restaurant, was sautéing a beef steak for his dish ‘sealed beef & roasted vegetable in paprika sauce.’

Meanwhile, a beaming Ali Abdul Rahman turns to a second batch for the live cooking demonstration.

“This is a rare chance for me – I’ve always wanted to participate in a culinary exhibition,” said the chef of 12 years of experience, 11 of which have been spent at Bandos Island Resort and Spa, the scene of the staff cooking competition held this week.

Rahman’s dish was ‘chicken with vegetable pad thai’, chosen as he wanted “a different taste, from a different country.”

Minutes later, Ali was all work, as he set about preparing a pad thai in 45 minutes. But later it would be chef Jayantha Amarasiri would walk away with the gold medal for his ‘beef fantasy’, a delicious prune and cheese-stuffed beef roulade, Cajun marinated beef steak with stir fried meatballs accompanied by mashed potato wrapped in spinach and a vegetable kebab.

Open to all staff at the resort, it was the second such annual exhibition held at Bandos. A range of categories including live cooking, dress the cake, authentic cuisine, vegetable and fruit carving gave the 27 participating chefs the chance to show off their skills.

“We want to motivate our chefs, and improve their culinary skills,” explained Ismail Shareef, Food and Beverage Director of Bandos Island Resort.

With special emphasis on encouraging the chefs to do well at competitions, Bandos recently participated in the Singapore Expo.

“This is also in preparation of Hotel Asia week that will be held later this year”, Ismail said.

The two judges presiding at the event were Chef Tyrell Wasalathathrie, executive chef at Water’s Edge in Colombo, and Chef Ishaq Salih, Executive Chef at the Royal Island Resort.

Name your cake

Inside the orchid room where all the pre-prepared items like the cold desserts and appetisers were laid out, ‘dressing the cake’ was in full swing.

Judge Tyrell wandered by and asked participant Wasantha Kumara – who was putting pink marzipan strips on his cake – what its name was.

“You should have a name for your cakes, by the time you finish them,” he said to the participants.

“It’s ‘pinkie bed’” piped in Abdulla Faiz – and sure enough, his cake was rectangular in size, with a pink drape over it, and even a pink head board. You couldn’t decide if it enticed you to eat it, or sleep in it.

Abdulla, an old hand on the exhibition circuit, had won a bronze in the Singapore Expo this year in a team event.

His work was fast and neat, and it was not much of a surprise when a couple of hours later, the first prize sign was displayed next to ‘pinkie bed’.

Bread presented for judging at the Bandos event
Bread presented for judging at the Bandos event

Honing Maldivian talent

The judges took each dish to task after the live cooking demonstration.

“You had a lovely marination going on, but the meat is so over-cooked that that one can’t taste it anymore,” said Judge Ishaq after a quick taste of a beef slice.

Judge Tyrell cut marks for sloppy presentation on some dessert dishes.

“They had enough time to do this, so the visuals should be balanced and neater than this,” he said, pointing to a sauce that was slanting to one side of the dish, next to a strategically-placed slice of cheese cake.

Ali Didi, an 18 year veteran of the field, said tips from the judges were invaluable for improving.

Like others, Ali also has a passion for participating in culinary exhibitions. He has won a silver and bronze in hot cooking on two separate occasions at the Hotel Asia exhibition.

The management of Bandos has plans to give more opportunities for Ali and his colleagues to indulge in this passion.

“Next year we’d like to expand this to holding an inter-resort culinary exhibition,” says Ismail. He says he looks forward to a day when more Maldivians will participate in international culinary exhibitions.

That day seems not far off, suggests Bandos proprietor Mohamed Waheed Deen: “with the right support Maldivians can achieve great heights in the culinary field.”


Comment: We need help to make the medicine go down

Extract from a speech given by President Mohamed Nasheed to the Maldives Donors Conference 2010.

We have come here today from many different parts of the world. Some of you are based in the Maldives. Some of you have visited many times. For others, it may be your first visit to our country. We are a diverse collection of people.

Some of you are from government, some from multilateral institutions, some from grant giving organisations. Although we are many different people, we are brought together by a common goal: We all want to see a peaceful Maldives, and we all want to see a prosperous Maldives.

And so, I welcome you here as friends. And I hope we can work together towards our common vision. The Maldives has made considerable progress over the past eighteen months. This administration was voted in because people wanted political change. There is much work to do.


The separation of powers enshrined under the new constitution has been respected. Last year, we held this country’s first democratic parliamentary elections, which were judged free and fair by international observers.
We now have a Majlis that is democratically elected, doing away with the old system where 20 per cent of MPs were appointed by the President.

The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature. I have made no secret of my concerns over the capacity of the judiciary to dispense justice. Nevertheless, we respect its independence and I hope that with training and capacity support, the judiciary will grow into a respected institution.

This administration respects fundamental rights and liberties. People are now free to join political parties, and participation in politics is very high. Over 80 per cent of the voting public took part in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Almost 10 per cent of the population has joined the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party; and a further 10 per cent of people have signed up for the main opposition [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party]. Free, open and competitive politics is now part and parcel of people’s daily lives.


Press freedom also goes from strength to strength. We have dozens of newspapers, TV and radio stations, websites and blogs all free to report and comment as they see fit. Newspapers frequently criticise the government; in fact many newspapers lean heavily towards opposition parties.

We don’t mind criticism; indeed we welcome it. I would, however, call on certain sections of the media to be more responsible. Journalists should be mindful of the consequences of their actions. It is not OK to spread rumours or unsubstantiated allegations against anyone, whether they are in government or opposition.

To be honest, I don’t really care what people say about me. But in a small society, false allegations can be very hurtful. So I appeal to the media to act responsibly. And I ask journalists to try, to the best of their abilities, to report the truth. Of course, humans will always make mistakes. When the media makes a mistake, people who have been wronged should be allowed redress.

At the same time, we don’t want defamation laws to create a chilling effect on press freedom. For these reasons, this administration has decriminalised defamation, so journalists no longer have to fear jail for anything they write.

And with the help of the press freedom watchdog, Article 19, we have submitted a new broadcasting bill to the Majlis. The broadcasting bill will improve the integrity and independence of the broadcast media, and I urge all MPs to support it.

Last year the Maldives climbed 53 places in Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom index. We are now ranked six places behind France for freedom of the press. This is a remarkable improvement.

But I do not want to sound complacent. Earlier this month, a gang of youths threatened and attacked journalists from DhiTV and Haveeru newspaper. This was a disgraceful attack on the press. The police swiftly arrested the suspects.

But let me be absolutely explicit about this; let me make this crystal clear: I don’t care whether you are a gangster, or whether you are a senior politician controlling the gangsters. If you attack, or orchestrate attacks on the media, this government will take appropriate legal action to protect the media.

Despite some setbacks, freedoms are improving. We still have much work to do. But I can say with conviction, that Maldivians enjoy more freedom today than at any other point in history. That, I believe, is something in which we can be proud.

Economic liberation

Through political change, we have managed to emancipate people, so they can play a full and active role in society. And just as people need liberty to progress, we believe business also needs freedom to prosper. We are therefore implementing reforms to liberate the economy.

Our economic reforms involve three crucial parts:

Firstly, we are committed to financial prudence and long-term stability. We have scrapped the reckless policies of the past, which saw money printed to finance a growing budget deficit. Instead, we are working with international multilateral organisations, to ensure we do not spend more than we can afford. And we are reducing our budget deficit to sensible and sustainable levels.

The second plank of our economic reforms is a far-reaching policy of privatisation and public-private partnerships. We do not believe that the state can, or should, play the role of business. Privately run firms tend to be more efficient, more profitable and provide better customer service and job satisfaction. We are therefore offering private parties the chance to invest in a wide range of state run enterprises.

The third part of our economic reforms involves cutting red tape and reducing government bureaucracy. In the past, the government offered people jobs not because there was work that needed doing. The government offered people jobs as bribes; to get their allegiance to a repressive regime. Almost 10 per cent of the population works for the government – a staggering amount.

And there are more civil servants than there is work to be done. Many government employees are under worked; chained to demoralising jobs. Our administration will therefore dramatically reduce the number of civil servants. But we must provide loans for outgoing civil servants, to help them set up businesses or acquire new skills.

We make these changes because we believe in the rights of the individual, over the regulation of government. We implement these reforms because we believe in the dynamism of the market, over the indecision of the state. We make this shift because we believe in business over bureaucracy. I believe that a free economy is the path to success in the Maldives.

Economic Crisis

Of course, we face many challenges. When we came into office, we inherited an economy in crisis. In the years leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, the former regime went on a spending spree that almost bankrupted the country. Our administration inherited a huge national debt from the former regime.

We took over a budget where 70 per cent of government revenue is spent on civil servant’s salaries. We were bequeathed millions of dollars of unpaid bills. And we inherited this situation, just as the global economy faltered.

According to World Bank statistics, the Maldives faced the worst economic situation of any country undergoing democratic transition, since records began in 1956. It has not been an easy 18 months, and we continue to face serious budgetary shortfalls.

As I mentioned earlier, we are embarking on major fiscal and economic reforms, overseen by the IMF. These reforms will see the size of government radically reduced. And reforms will enhance the government’s tax revenues. When fully implemented, the changes will ensure fiscal responsibility and macro economic stability.

Some reforms will be painful and costly. And the economy is still vulnerable. We are not out of the woods yet. We still require significant budgetary and developmental help, to see us through this transitional phase.

We must not falter. We must swallow the bitter economic medicine, to ensure our long-term health. But we need your help. We need your spoonful of sugar, to help the medicine go down. We need the assistance to foster people’s confidence in the changes we are bringing during this turbulent transitional stage of our budding democracy.

Violent opposition

Already, we see the warning signs. There are elements in the opposition determined to block progress in the Majlis. And some opposition figures are flirting with violence in the streets.

This weekend, some members of the main opposition party, the DRP, have been doing their best to get arrested. They are starting fistfights and goading the police to arrest them. Why do they behave in this fashion? Well, it may have something to do with this conference.

I must stress that most members of the opposition are sensible and respectable politicians. But the DRP, I fear, is in danger of being hijacked by radical elements, that the new party president appears incapable of controlling. These radicals call for revolution – disregarding the democratic mandate the electorate gave our administration.

DRP radicals are trying to obstruct this conference from being a success. They are hurting the Maldivian people, just to score a cheap political point.

I understand that the Maldives is in the infant stages of democracy. But it’s time that certain politicians left the nursery, and learnt to grow up.

There are also vested interests in the country trying to prevent economic reform. Many people made huge profits from the closed and corrupt economy of the past. They are trying to prevent a clean, open and transparent economy from being created.

The Auditor-General has compiled evidence implicating senior members of the former regime in corruption and embezzlement of state funds. The opposition is now trying to remove the Auditor-General – even though it was Former President Gayoom who appointed him.

I am under tremendous pressure to act against members of the former regime, who stand accused of corruption and human rights abuses. But I am loath to take this action. If we took action against everyone implicated in corruption and torture, we would end up arresting most of the opposition.

I do not believe that arresting the opposition, is the best way to build a healthy democracy. But you can understand the pressure I am under, during this period of democratic consolidation.

There are also religious extremists attempting to undermine the core values of our democracy.

On the issue of extremism, allow me to go back four or five years ago. Back then, the ruling regime did not allow political parties, and opposing voices were brutally crushed. The only avenue for dissent was underground religious groups.

When the MDP was formed, first in exile and then in the Maldives, a lot of people left these underground groups and joined the opposition. Organised political activity helped to keep fundamentalism in check. As society has opened up, the remnants of the underground, extremist movement have legitimately come into the open. These groups have moved quickly to fill a large space in civil society.

Dealing with fundamentalism

I am often criticised by liberal Maldivians because I refuse to censor religious groups. I am criticised because I won’t crack down on the fundamentalists.

But my point is this: the ends do not justify the means. You cannot arrest and imprison people just because you disagree with their views. Moreover, the battle between liberalism and fundamentalism is a battle of ideas.

Liberally-minded Maldivians must organise, and reclaim civil society if they want to win this battle of ideas. People with broader viewpoints must become more active, to create a tolerant society.

A few nights back, 32 young people came to see me. They were furious about the rise in extremism. To my mind, these are just the sort of people who need to reclaim civil society, if they want to foster a more open-minded society.

We must defeat the rejectionists, who hanker for a return to authoritarian rule. We must overcome the vested interests that want to stymie economic progress. And we must win the battle of ideas against extremists who want to replace democracy with theocracy.

I believe we will not win by going for a crack-down, or a witch-hunt or mass arrests. To my mind, violence only begets violence. Instead, for democracy to flourish, the government must show that people’s lives are improving. We must be able to say, that things will get a little better. We must be able to highlight a brighter future. We must use hope, to overcome fear.

Helping Maldivians

I believe the Maldives is becoming a better and fairer place. Aside from political and economic reforms, we have been able to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable people in society.

We’ve introduced an old age pension for over 65s, to free elderly citizens from the bondage of begging for basic needs.

We’ve started universal health insurance, so every Maldivian can work freely without having to fear the cost of falling sick.

And we’re developing a national ferry network, so people, goods and services can move around the country cheaply and quickly.

But we need help to ensure our economic reforms are successful. We ask for assistance to help the government fulfil its modest election pledges. And we need you to support our vibrant democracy, to safeguard hard-won freedoms.

Climate change

Climate change is real, it is happening and it is getting worse. I know many people are bitterly disappointed with the Copenhagen Accord. The Accord, in its current format, falls well short of a planet saving deal. But it does provide a foundation on which we can build.

Time is of the essence. Sadly, we are falling behind. Climate deniers seem to have gained the upper hand, and vested interests are using leaked emails, and minor errors in the IPCCC reports, to undermine the case for action.

The talk now is of waiting another two years, for Cancun and then South Africa, and perhaps then we’ll have a deal. But we cannot wait for ever.

The scale of our challenge is immense. To solve the climate crisis, the world needs to go carbon neutral by mid-century. This is why the Maldives is pushing ahead with its carbon neutral goal.

We want to break the link between carbon and development. We want to show that carbon neutral development is not just possible; it is profitable.


In the Maldives, we know how costly fossil fuels can be. Fossil fuels damage the environment and the economy. On some islands, people pay over 80 US cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. This is obscenely expensive. High prices dampen demand for energy, which in turn hinders economic growth.

The Maldives cannot develop, unless we have a plentiful supply of cheap energy. And the Maldives cannot survive, unless we persuade the world to abandon carbon.

For both these reasons, renewable energy and carbon neutral development makes sense. There is so much at stake for the Maldives. The threats to our democracy, our economy and our environment are real and deadly.

We are walking on a razor’s edge. But I remain optimistic. With your help, we can consolidate democracy. With your support, we can maintain economic stability. With your assistance, we can help ensure the long-term survival of this country and this planet.