The current administration has restored public safety, ensured peace and stability, and launched development projects on an unprecedented scale, President Abdulla Yameen declared Monday morning at this year’s official opening of parliament.
Yameen used his fourth state of the nation address to underscore the government’s achievements in 2016 and to set forth ambitious goals of creating thousands of new jobs and developing regional hospitals and airports.
“When this government’s first three years came to an end, with God’s will, several projects have been successfully completed all across the Maldives, happiness and contentment has been assured for the people, peace and harmony has been established,” he said.
The president is mandated by the constitution to address the People’s Majlis at the beginning of the year’s first session, where he “may present proposals for improving the state of the country.”
As in 2016, opposition lawmakers boycotted the inaugural session, accusing Yameen of authoritarianism and flouting the constitution.
In a televised address delivered at the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé, Yameen announced plans to upgrade the regional hospital in the northern island of Kulhudhufushi to a multi-speciality 150-bed tertiary hospital.
A 100-bed hospital under construction in Addu City will open next year, he added.
Regional airports will be developed on the islands of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll, Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll, Nilandhoo in Faafu atoll, Maavarulu in Gaaf Dhaal atoll and Faresmaathoda in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.
A detailed plan for a transhipment port to be developed as a special economic zone in the northernmost atoll will be completed by April, he continued, after which the government will seek foreign investment for the long-awaited ‘iHavan’ project.
The government expected to collect US$100 million during the past two years as acquisition fees under its flagship SEZ policy, which offers relaxed regulations and tax incentives for investors. However, large foreign investments have not been forthcoming so far.
Last month, Yameen said that Saudi Arabia has drawn up plans for a massive township or an integrated development project in Faafu atoll involving various industries. The project was stalled last year due to political instability in the Maldives, he said.
Yameen said today that creating an environment conducive to foreign investment is “one of the most important tasks of this government”.
Efforts are underway to establish a dispute resolution mechanism, he added, which involves setting up a commercial court and an internationally-recognised arbitration centre.
In the vital tourism sector, Yameen said 25 resorts will be developed in 13 atolls and a city hotel will be built on the island of Kooddoo in Gaaf Alif atoll, increasing the industry’s bed capacity by 5,275.
Infrastructure projects for the atolls meanwhile include establishing renewable energy systems in 83 islands, sewerage systems in 46 islands, garbage disposal in 37 islands, clean water systems in 28 islands, jetty construction in eight islands, shore protection in three islands, and water drainage systems in three islands.
Some 600 housing units will be built on the islands of Komandoo in Shaviyani atoll, Maduvvari in Raa atoll, Eydhafushi in Baa atoll, Hinnavaru and Naifaru in Lhaviyani atoll, Meedhoo and Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaal atoll, and Addu City Feydhoo, Yameen pledged.
Other projects in the pipeline for 2017 include a bait farming project to solve the seasonal problem of bait fish scarcity as well as the production of fish meal in three regions using waste from fish and fish products, which is needed in the nascent mariculture industry.
Refrigeration facilities to store fish will be set up in the southernmost atoll, he said.
A project will meanwhile be launched to locally grow five varieties of imported fruits and vegetables, he said, which would reduce the extreme reliance on imported foodstuff.
The government has also decided to carry out a national programme to “promote Islamic unity and foster religious and national spirit” among the public, he said, which is expected to begin within three months.
As a result of efforts during the past three years to ensure public order and safety, Yameen said the government has managed to alleviate the “dangerous and sinister” situation that prevailed in the country.
Preliminary findings of a study initiated by the president’s office and conducted by the national university suggest that the crime rate has declined significantly since 2014, he said.
He also claimed that an estimated 64,000 jobs have been created for youth as a result of socio-economic policies geared towards increasing productivity.
The Maldives’ per capita income reached US$8,063 in 2016, he noted.
Yameen went on to declare 2016 a successful year for the Maldives in the international arena with “increased respect for the country” and strengthened national interest and sovereignty.
He described the controversial move to quit the Commonwealth last year as “the most difficult decision made in the history of Maldivian foreign policy.”
2016’s achievements highlighted in the presidential address,