President reveals vision for foreign investment at Hulhumalé project launch

President Abdulla Yameen inaugurated a project yesterday for the construction of 3,000 housing units in Hulhumalé by a joint venture company, Sealife Global Inc – formed by two Dubai companies with a local partner.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, President Yameen said his administration’s vision was to develop a “youth village” in Hulhumalé with a population of 50,000 people.

“The youth village will not involve only housing [projects]. It will also include other projects related to the youth village such as the creation of light industries to provide job opportunities, as well as arrangements for food and beverages required by modern youth and restaurant facilities for [fast food],” he said.

Yameen said he hoped the government would be able to realise this vision during its five-year term.

During the launch, Yameen also outlined his vision for “freeholds” for foreign investors who will feel the Maldives to be a “second home” in which to conduct long-term projects.

The vision for the youth city meanwhile includes a “technopolis park” as well as entertainment and sports facilities, he said, in addition to facilities for the tourism and fisheries industries.

The government would also prioritise the inclusion of housing projects in Malé and Hulhumalé as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) component when leasing islands for resort development, Yameen said.

Hulhumalé will become “a paradise on earth” for migrants from across the country, he said.

The construction of a bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé would further open up economic opportunities in the reclaimed island city, Yameen said.

In February, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed pledged to complete the bridge project in two years.

Plans of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for the second phase of Hulhumalé development were also being revised to achieve the new administration’s goals, Yameen said, which included providing affordable housing to residents of the capital without adequate shelter.

“Any government upon assuming office will attempt to make the best use of a country’s resources. Everything is subject to change. Charts will change when they are redrawn,” he said.

The 243 flats – ranging from one to four bedroom apartments – to be constructed in the first phase of the new project will be targeted to mid to high-income families, explained Sealife Global’s Managing Director Ahmed Moosa.

The six towers or 10 to 12-storey buildings will include other facilities and services such as a swimming pool and gymnasium, he added. The joint venture company would also construct a 12-storey office complex on the site.

“Adventurous path”

Addressing foreign guests in English, President Yameen said he was pleased to “see you actively engaged in our socio-economic development.”

“I hope this project is going to be rewarding in terms of both profitability as well as catering to the need of the Maldivian people,” he added.

The government was committed to “improving the well-being of Maldivian youth,” he continued, adding that youth were presently deprived of the “opportunity to be gainfully employed and also the opportunity of shelter.”

The government therefore welcomes any project that caters to these “dual needs,” he said.

“We are embarking on a very adventurous path at this point in time,” he said, noting that economic development was essential for maintaining the current environment of peace and stability.

“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,” he said, adding that “a landmark law” will be passed in the next Majlis to strengthen the foreign investment regime.

“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.

Legislation will also be proposed to the next parliament to create special economic zones, he continued, which would be “likened to cities in Dubai or the Emirates” and “the [business] environment we have in Singapore.”

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

Yameen assured foreign investors that “your money is safe with us.”

“So I reach out to proprietors and investors in Dubai, in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar and also the Emirates – please, here you have an island, here you have a country where you can invest and where you can be content with your investments,” he said.

“We are embarking on an era of growth,” he said, adding that 52 percent of the country’s population was comprised of young people.

Yameen noted that Hulhumale’ was a vision of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“He wanted to find breathing space for the overly congested people in Malé. Nobody at that time would have thought that Hulhumalé is going to be the city it is now. There is tremendous opportunity in Maldives and there is tremendous love in us for the Arab-Muslim entrepreneurs. So please come and invest in the Maldives,” he entreated.