Maldives ‘open for Japanese investment’

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said today that the Maldives is open for Japanese investments, as the east Asian country donated MVR 64 million (US $4m) of “disaster reduction equipment”.

“The Maldives is open for Japanese investment. Be it airport development, or tourist resort development, or transportation sector development, the Japanese investors will have the full guarantee that their investment will be fully protected,” Dunya said.

She was speaking at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today for the signing of the Japanese aid deal.

The foreign ministry had not specified what the equipment consisted of at the time of going to press.

The government said in June last year it was in talks with the Japan Bank to secure a loan of US $200m to help redevelop the country’s main international airport, but this month it said it was looking to the Saudis for the cash.

In her remarks, Dunya expressed appreciation from the Maldives to Japan for nearly four decades of support, which have included providing the sea wall around Malé and constructing primary schools.


Japan donates medical equipment worth MVR26 million

Japan has donated medical equipment worth ¥200 million (MVR 25.94 million) to the Maldives, reports Sun Online.

The donation – said to be part of the ¥100 million (US$840,000) non-project grant aid agreement signed yesterday – was announced at the Ministry of Health today.

Acting Minister of Health Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim accepted the donation from the Japanese International Cooperation System, reported Sun.

Source: Sun Online


Japan gifts 100 million yen to government, Hitachi MVR1 million to water crisis fund

Japan has today gifted the Maldives ¥100,000,000 (US$840,000) in grant aid, while Japanese company Hitachi has pledged MVR1 million (US$64,800) to the ‘Malé Water Crisis fund’.

During an official ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning, Maldives foreign minister Dunya Maumoon and Japanese Ambassador Nobuhito Hobo signed the grant agreement.

Both Hobo and Hitachi Executive Vice President Junzo Najazima also visited President Abdulla Yameen to inform him of the company’s contribution to the relief fund established during this month’s water crisis in the Maldives’ capital.

The President’s Office reported that Junzo was in Malé as part of a team sent to inspect the fire damage to the Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s (MWSC) desalination plants – which left 130,000 people without running water earlier this month.

Hitachi purchased 20 percent of MWSC’s shares in 2010, with its corporate website explaining that it has since played a role in improving the company’s operations. The Maldives government still retains 80 percent of the company.

President Yameen is said to have discussed the recovery efforts with his visitors, which the controversial US$20 million fund is said to be contributing towards.

“President Yameen underscored the ‎‎Government’s commitment to find a total solution to the issue, and to ‎establish a fallback system for future emergencies,” reported the President’s Office today.

After being announced by Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, the fund was criticised by civil society groups as well as the political opposition for a perceived lack of transparency, with the government’s task force stating that the use of the fund had not yet been determined.

Details of a 20,000 tonnes storage facility as well as reimbursement for relief efforts later emerged. 24 hour running water was resumed, and relief efforts halted, last weekend.

The Chinese government as well as private donors from the Maldives and Saudi Arabia have already contributed to the fund, while naval ships from India, China, and Bangladesh delivered fresh water during the crisis.

During his state visit to Japan in April this year, Yameen met with the president of Hitachi, thanking the company for its for its cooperation with the State Trading Organisation and for its interest in energy-related projects in the Maldives.

The Japan International Cooperation (JICA) – Japan’s overseas development assistance, oversaw projects worth US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

Projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.

In May, JICA completed the ‘Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Malé’ with the installation of the last of 740 solar panels which were installed in 12 government buildings under the US$11.1 million (MVR141.5 million) grant aid solar energy project launched in December 2011.

Related to this story

Both Transparency Maldives and MDP call for greater transparency in water crisis fund

Government seeks US$20 million in donations to repair Malé’s desalination plant

Govenment sells 20 percent of MWSC to Hitachi at same price


Maldivians could be among first climate refugees, warns Nasheed

The Maldivian people will be among the world’s first climate change refugees due to sea level rise if global warming is not averted, former President Mohamed Nasheed has warned.

In his keynote address at the ‘International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual conference showcase session on climate change and human rights’ in Tokyo today, the opposition leader stressed that climate change is not an abstract concept to Maldivians but an existential threat.

“The inundation of the Maldives is just a generation away,” he warned.

“When I was elected president, I caused some controversy by saying we would someday have to leave our islands. I was hopeful then that we would be able to change the way our story ends. But I fear it is too late now for the Maldives.”

“The world has lost the window of opportunity to mend its ways. Big emitters have sentenced us. The world temperature will rise, and the seas will rise over our nose.”

Nasheed noted that Maldivians have lived in the Indian Ocean islands “scattered across our distant archipelago, for thousands of years.”

“When our islands succumb to the water, we will leave. We will take with us as much of our culture and customs as we can carry. Our stories, our history, our food; our distinctive language, and its beautiful script,” he said.

“But that will be nothing compared to what we leave behind. We will leave behind our homes. Our streets. Our buildings,” he continued.

“We will leave behind the beautiful Friday Mosque, carved out of coral stone three centuries ago. We will leave behind the trees we grew up with, the sands we played on, the sounds we hear every day. The sea will claim those things, and with it, the soul of a people.”

Nasheed recalled words of wisdom shared by an elderly woman he met on an island.

“‘Mr President we can move a people,’ she said; ‘but where will the sounds go? Where will the colours go? Where will the butterflies go?'”

If Maldivians become climate refugees, Nasheed said the exiled population would face “issues of citizenship, sovereignty, and even reparations.”

“Can you have sovereignty and dignity without land? Can an independent nation exist on foreign soil?” he asked.

“And what restitution, if any, can be made for the damage done to us – damage we warned about, but did not cause? I fear that these questions will be answered one day, not in the abstract, but in a court of law. And I fear that we, the people of the Maldives, will be the star witness.”

In lieu of environmental protection, Nasheed said Maldivians are looking to the international community for legal protection and to “help us prosecute those responsible after the fact, if they will not accept responsibility before it.”

Nasheed welcomed a recent report by the IBA on climate justice, which he said showed “the clear connections between climate change and human rights”.

Cautious optimism

While it may be too late to stop climate change, Nasheed said there was still hope that it could be slowed down by changing the world economy.

Our starting point should be our end goal: a zero-carbon economy. Rather than aiming to limit climate change to within a tolerable level, we should just stop polluting. In the Maldives, we had a plan – approved by the World Bank – to go completely carbon neutral by 2020,” he said.

“On a global level, studies suggest a net-zero emissions economy is possible by 2050 – a timeline that is consistent with preventing the most dangerous climate change.”

While markets have failed to place a price on carbon, Nasheed said the “disruptive brilliance of the tech sector” could be harnessed to “the clean energy ambitions of environmental movement.”

“Six years ago, the ‘App Store’ didn’t exist; last year, it made $10 billion in sales. Today, most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than the Apollo astronauts took to the moon,” he observed.

“These kind of exponential leaps are happening in the energy industry, too. The first hybrid car was launched in 1997; today, more than 9 million have been sold. Since 2008, the price of solar modules has dropped by 80 percent.”

On climate change adaptation, Nasheed observed that coral reefs and mangroves worked as natural defences against the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, suggesting that corals could be genetically modified and strengthened.

Nasheed went on to criticise UN climate negotiations, which he contended “have been been stuck in a rut, with countries hiding behind labels, and few showing leadership.”

“It may be too late to save homelands in Kiribati, or Tuvalu, or the Maldives,” he said.

“It may be too late to save the species which depend on stable temperatures, clean air, or placid seas. But it is not too late to change our ways.”


China pledged assistance for bridge project, says President Yameen

The Chinese government has pledged assistance in building a bridge connecting the capital Malé and Hulhumalé, President Abdulla Yameen told the press last night upon returning from a visit to China.

“[Chinese President Xi Jinping] said let us form an economic council or committee. So we have come after determining representatives from our side on the joint committee,” Yameen told reporters at the airport.

Once the high-level joint commission is set up, Yameen said a feasibility study would be conducted with a team of Chinese engineers due to arrive this year.

The team would study the strength of ocean currents, he explained, which was necessary to determine the “strength of the structure” of the bridge as well as an estimated cost.

“When that is completed, the Chinese government informed us during the meetings that one of the contractors [that have expressed interest] would then begin work,” he said.

“So God willing, we hope work could begin very soon.”

The Chinese ambassador is due to arrive in the Maldives in a few days with a list of Chinese representatives on the joint commission, he revealed.

Yameen also 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.

The Chinese president was meanwhile briefed about other ‘mega projects’ the government plans to commence, Yameen said, adding that “major Chinese contractors” would undertake the projects.

The Chinese government could ensure that loan facilities sought from the Chinese EXIM bank would be provided at a very low interest rate, he explained.

Meetings also took place between the Maldivian delegation and “large Chinese civil works companies,” Yameen noted.

Based on assurances from Xi Jinping, Yameen expressed confidence of receiving significant assistance from the Chinese government for the bridge project.

The Chinese government also provided MVR250 million (US$16 million) as grant aid during the president’s trip.

Diplomatic cooperation

Discussions also focused on “important matters for China in international diplomacy,” Yameen revealed, referring to the the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, which he said was intended to foster economic relations and increase trade between China and Asia-Pacific nations.

“We requested participation in the Silk Road initiative and were immediately welcomed,” he said.

Yameen said he also invited the Chinese president to visit the Maldives for next year’s 50th anniversary of independence and Xi Jinping “promptly” accepted the invitation.

“So we believe [Sino-Maldives] relations are very good and [the Chinese government] was very well-prepared for our visit,” he added.

Yameen said the Maldives would back China in the international arena as the two countries shared “the same principles on a number of issues, especially concerning the Indian Ocean region, human rights and many such matters.”

He stressed, however, that the “main focus” of the discussions was the development projects envisioned by the government.

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, Yameen said Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.

On relations with Japan, Yameen noted that a project for the construction of a new terminal at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) would be jointly undertaken by the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) and two Japanese companies.

“No country has expressed concern so far and I don’t believe they will either,” he said.


President Yameen on economic offensive in Japan

President Abdulla Yameen has held meetings with prominent businessmen, economists, and industrialists during his current state visit to Japan.

Yameen has held meetings with the senior figures at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the Japan International Cooperation (JICA), as well as tourism and business leaders – including the president of the Hitachi company.

The second day of the president’s visit also saw a meeting with Japanese Minister for Internal Affairs Yoshitaka Shindo, with the prospect of a Japanese embassy in the Maldives being discussed.

In his meeting with the JICA governor Hiroshi Watanabe, Yameen discussed means of obtaining funds for various development projects in the Maldives. The president broached the subjects of financial assistance for the Maldives airport development project, as well as a project to be focused on the island of Ihavandhihpolhu.

He further thanked the Senior Vice President of JICA Hidiaki Domicia for the assistance that JICA has extended in the implementation of projects in the Maldives under the aid of the Japanese government.

As the coordinating body of Japan’s overseas development assistance, JICA oversaw projects worth US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

Projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.

During a meeting with Hitachi’s President Toshiaki Higashihara yesterday, Yameen thanked the company for its cooperation with the State Trading Organisation and for its interest in energy-related projects in the Maldives.

Investment opportunities

Yameen also met with leaders of the Japanese tourism industry, including senior officials from travel agencies, travel publications, tour guides, and the media.

After providing information about current tourism development projects in the country, Yameen noted that the Maldives’ global recognition as a high level tourist destination made it one of the most beneficial areas in which foreign businesses can invest.

The president also noted the need for foreign assistance to further develop the tourism sector, reasserting that the current atmosphere in the country is peaceful after some political turbulence at the time of his taking office.

Yameen assured investors that the Maldives is currently in the collective mindset of overcoming differences, maintaining peace, and promoting development.

President Yameen also attended a forum titled ‘Maldives Investment Promotion Forum’ – organised by the Japan External Trade Organisation, and attended by senior businessmen of the country.

Thanking investors for their interest in the country, Yameen provided details of investment opportunities currently available in the Maldives.

According to the President’s Office website, he highlighted that the current government’s intention to introduce numerous incentives for foreign investors in a bid to further strengthen the country’s economy.

Earlier this month, Yameen revealed that legislation will be proposed during the next parliament which will create special economic zones, will he feels will be “likened to cities in Dubai or the Emirates”.

The new laws would enable investors to have “freeholds” in the country and allow investors “to engage in really, really long gestative projects,” he told investors.

“What we would like to confirm for the foreign investors who come to the Maldives is that foreign investors should feel that Maldives is your second home here.”

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous. So have faith and trust in us,” Yameen said.

The president has continued to outline future investment opportunities in the country to Japanese investors this week.

The areas he mentioned include the handling of incidents that arise due to natural disasters, environmental protection, education, health, youth empowerment, sports, agriculture, human resources, security, and infrastructure development.

Together with President Yameen, Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed, and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb also attended the investment promotion forum.


GMR arbitration verdict to take up to two months

The government has confirmed that arbitration proceedings regarding the terminated GMR contract – expected to be concluded this week – may take up to two months to reach a verdict.

President Abdulla Yameen had recently stated that the government had failed to reach an out of court settlement with the Indian infrastructure giant, which is seeking US$1.4billion in compensation after the premature annulment of its 25-year concession agreement.

“But the thing is, the GMR is seeking a huge amount as compensation. This government, however, does not believe that we can – or indeed that we need to – pay such a large amount as compensation,” Yameen stated prior to his departure to Japan earlier this week.

“So their [GMR’s] decision now is to wait until the arbitration case is concluded. So we will carry on after the arbitration case is completed,” he continued.

Yameen revealed his intention to seek further foreign investment in the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), with Japanese, Singaporean, and Middle Eastern investors all being courted.

The president confirmed that the arbitration case had commenced and that both Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim and former Attorney General Azima Shakoor had attended the hearing as witnesses from the state.

“Those from our government who were handling the matter at the time have attended the first session’s hearing and provided the necessary information,” Yameen said.

New facilities

“We are not seeking just one single investor for the airport. This is because development of the airport will be a huge project,” Yameen told the media on before his departure on Sunday (April 13).

“What we are speaking about is a new airport. We want it to be an iconic building with additional runway, an additional terminal and new terminal facilities.”

The Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) has today confirmed that a second runway will form a crucial part of any new development – the need for which has come to the fore again this week as the state of the airport’s runway partly to blame for the bursting of landing aircraft’s tire in December 2011.

United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority found that the burst tire of a landing Emirates flight was partly caused by the accumulation of standing water on the runway.

The reports advised the Maldives Civil Aviation Authority to “ensure that Operators utilising Male’ airport are fully aware of the runway condition until the runway enhancements are finalised”.

Demands for a second runway – not included in the initial agreement – were among the criticisms levelled at the US$500million GMR concession agreement, before the deal was declared void ab initio (‘invalid from the outset’) by the Dr Mohamed Waheed government.

With speculation about excessive foreign influence accompanying the anti-GMR campaign prior to the contract’s termination, President Yameen has assured that overall  management of the airport will stay in the hands of MACL.

New investors

“We are also thinking about making the airport into one that can carry over 5 million passengers. We want the airport to be one that can cater to tourism growth within the next 50 years,” Yameen explained this week.

“Therefore, this is a project worth at least 600 to 800 million dollars. Of the various components of the airport, we are approaching Japan to invest in terminal facilities and a terminal building. So this trip [to Japan] is not one where we are seeking a single party to develop the whole airport.”

He further stated that Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed had held positive discussions with Kuwait over airport development assistance while he had personally met with Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure giant Bin Laden Group, who also expressed interest in the project.

While the Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb are working on a concept design of the airport, the senior management of Singapore’s Changi airport were being mooted as consultants for the development.

Yameen will travel to Singapore later this month to inaugurate the Maldives Investment Forum, a government initiative to showcase ‘high level’ investment opportunities in the country, including the development of INIA.

The president has previously assured foreign investors that future investments will in the Maldives are safe, and will soon be protected by enhanced legislation.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous,” he told potential developers earlier this month.


President Yameen holds talks with Japanese prime minister

During his official visit to Japan, President Abdulla Yameen has met with Emperor Akihito, in addition to holding a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to the President’s Office website, the discussions during Tuesday’s summit meeting included multiple areas where the two countries could cooperate.

The Japanese prime minister hosted a dinner in honour of the Maldivian president, during which Yameen praised Japan as having been the Maldives’ most generous post-independence development partner.

The areas discussed during yesterday’s meeting were said to include environmental sustainability, clean energy, defense, maritime security, fisheries, tourism, infrastructure development, communications, broadcasting, human resource development, youth empowerment, disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation, trade, and investment.

After conclusion of the meeting, Shinzo Abe told the press that the Maldives and Japan shared similar fundamental values of freedom and democracy, and that the two countries had agreed to work together to deal with both regional and global issues.

He further affirmed Japan’s commitment to promote bilateral cooperation in combating climate change, with leaders signing a joint statement at the end of the summit.

In a statement released to media, President Yameen spoke of the close ties between the two countries, and of the mutual extending of aid at times of need.

“Ten years ago, the Maldives was affected by the Asian Tsunami. Japan’s response to our appeals for support and assistance in our recovery efforts was overwhelming.”

“In 2011, Japan was struck by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The Maldivian people, keen on showing their solidarity and support for those in affected areas, donated 700,000 tuna cans to be dispatched to Japan.”

“We were glad that we were of some assistance to Japanese when they were in time of need. To date, the response to that appeal remains a record in the Maldives – a confirmation of the special bonds of friendship between our two peoples,” the statement read.

During his visit, President Yameen has also extended an invitation to the Japanese Prime Minister to conduct an official visit to the Maldives.

On his first day in Tokyo, the President met with Maldivian families and students residing in Japan.

While speaking of the goals he wished to achieve during his visit, the president also remarked that “one of the highest priorities of the government is to transform the political instability among Maldivians into a development outlook”.

The President’s Office website further report Yameen as stating that a country with a politically motivated people would not be able to sustain harmony.

Japan is the biggest bilateral donor to the Maldives, with data from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency showing that the east Asian nation had given over US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

President Yameen was quoted as telling those president at yesterday’s honorary dinner that “it was likely today, there is not a ‎single Maldivian who has not ‎benefitted, both directly and indirectly, from ‎support and assistance ‎by Japan.‎”

Projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.

Japan is also one of the Maldives largest trading partners, importing over US$3million worth of fish from the Indian Ocean nation in 2012.

President Abdulla Yameen was invited to make an official state visit to Japan during December 2013 by Japanese Ambassador to the Maldives Nobuhito Hobo. At the time, Japan gifted 200 million Japanese yen (US$ 1,956,400) in grant aid for medical supplies.


President Yameen ratifies penal code before leaving for Japan

President Abdulla Yameen today ratified the new penal code shortly before departing on an official state visit to Japan.

The People’s Majlis passed the resubmitted code on April 1, which will replace the previous version which has remained unchanged since the 1960s.

The new law will come into force one year after ratification and publication in the government gazette, though local media today reported that Yameen has advised the Attorney General to make a number of changes during the transitional period.

Haveeru also reported that the president ratified the recently passed anti-money laundering bill, as well as amendments to the Religious Unity Act and the Judges Act.