President Yameen seeks joint venture investments from Saudi Arabia

President Yameen seeks joint venture investments from Saudi Arabia
July 27 21:40 2015

President Abdulla Yameen briefed a visiting delegation from Saudi Arabia this morning on investment opportunities in the Maldives and invited joint venture investments from the kingdom.

According to the president’s office, President Yameen told the delegation that the Maldives is “open for joint venture investments.”

“Highlighting the difficulties faced in travelling between Maldives and Saudi Arabia, the President noted the importance of establishing better transportation between the two countries,” the president’s office said.

The invitation for Saudi investment comes after the ratification of controversial amendments to the constitution last week that authorises foreigners who invest more than US$1 billion in a project to own freeholds in the Maldives. President Yameen has said that the unprecedented changes will “speed up the pace” of realising the current administration’s goal of “transforming the economy” through diversification and large-scale projects.

Yameen also said in his Independence Day address last night that investment from multi-national corporations and “strategic alliances in business” will “safeguard the country from any future attempts at compromising our sovereignty.”

The Saudi officials were among several dignitaries who arrived in the Maldives this week to attend an official function held last night to celebrate the golden jubilee of independence. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Srisena was the chief guest at the ceremony.

The Sri Lankan delegation departed this morning.

President Yameen also had separate meetings today with the Indian minister of health and family welfare Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda and the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Saber H Chowdhury.

In his meeting with the IPU chief, President Yameen “noted the importance of broadening the parliament’s role in overcoming the challenges faced in the country today,” the president’s office said.

The Indian health minister meanwhile visited the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) today with his Maldivian counterpart, health minister Iruthisham Adam.

Nadda told the press after the visit that the Indian government wished to assist in the development of the Maldives’ health sector. India will donate an MRI machine and assist in building a diagnostic centre at the government-run tertiary hospital, he said.

Iruthisham told reporters that preparations are underway for signing bilateral agreements with India related to health sector development. Discussions are also taking place on bringing in Indian doctors and facilitating training opportunities for Maldivian students in India, she said.

Vice President Ahmed Adeeb meanwhile met with Shen Yueyue, vice chairwoman of the National People’s Congress of China, this morning. The special envoy of Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Hulhumalé with housing minister Dr Mohamed Muiz and observed Chinese-funded housing projects.

Saudi-Maldives relations

A joint communique issued during President Yameen’s state visit to Saudi Arabia in March stated that the two sides agreed to increase “their commercial exchange while expanding and enhancing investment between the two countries and extending invitations to their respective private sectors to explore the available investment opportunities in both countries.”

“The Saudi Fund for Development will continue to finance the development projects in the Republic of Maldives and will consider participating in the expansion of Malé airport and beach preservation in Hulhumalé,” it added.

The Saudi government subsequently provided a US$20 million grant for budget support in May.

In May, Saudia Arabia’s Al Khozoma Management Company announced that it was conducting a feasibility study to develop a Sharia-compliant resort in the Maldives.

“It is an Islamic country and fits our philosophy. Also, it’s a preferred destination for Arab and GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] markets, so it makes sense,” the group’s hospitality division vice president Hussein Ali Hatata told Hotelier Middle East.

According to the March 2015 quarterly report by the tourism ministry, tourist arrivals from the Middle East increased by 46.7 percent in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period last year.

Some 4,120 holidaymakers from the Middle East visited the Maldives this year, representing a market share of 3.7 percent.