The foundation stones of a new industrial park for small and medium-sized enterprises was laid Wednesday by the tourism and economic development ministers.
Financed from the government budget, the MVR30 million (US$1.9 million) project for a six-storey building in Hulhumalé was jointly undertaken by the state-owned Housing Development Corporation and Business Center Corporation.
“This building will have factories and will become a place that brings about big changes to the IT sector,” Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed was quoted as saying during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Facilities for developing apps and a factory for soft toys and coconut-based products will be established in the building, he added, promising “revolutionary changes” for local SMEs.
According to media reports, the SME park can house 120 small businesses and construction is expected to be completed in June 2018.
The manufacturing sector in the Maldives represents a small proportion of GDP due to the shortage of domestic labour. Aside from tuna canneries and fish-processing plants, traditional industries included boat building, lacemaking and the manufacture of coir, a rope made from dried coconut fibres.
Garment factories, soft drink bottling plants, and small-scale manufacturing enterprises that produce pipes, soap, furniture, and food products were built in the past two decades.
In September, the economic ministry also launched a US$2 million loan scheme with a seven percent interest rate for start-ups and small businesses, offering a maximum of MVR500,000 for sole proprietors and MVR1.5 million as seed money for partnerships or cooperative societies.
The ministry said it will prioritise proposals by women, young entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities, import or export businesses, businesses investing in environmentally friendly products, and businesses based in the outer atolls.
Some 20 percent of the loans will be earmarked for the tourism and transport sectors and 15 percent for construction-related businesses.
Other sectors include fisheries and agriculture, cooperative societies, service-related ventures and waste management.
The loans must be repaid within nine years with a one-year grace period. After a week’s extension, the deadline for applications expired on October 4.
SME Industrial Park will be completed next June IA. A major step forward 2 support SMEs by HEP Yameen. Factory & incubator space 4 startups pic.twitter.com/mJIX543D5I
— Mohamed Saeed (@em_saeed) October 11, 2017
— Economy & Trade (@EconDevMv) October 11, 2017