Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Finance Minister Ameer Ibrahim said they were confident the government can deliver on the pledges of its manifesto after eight agreements were signed at the Maldives Partnership Forum 2019.
The huge multilateral gathering was held at Kurumba Resort, a resort island 15 minutes from Malé. The theme of the forum was “Investing in a Resilient and Sustainable Maldives”.
After the two-day forum, which ended on Tuesday, Shahid said: “We have got the assurance that we can fulfil all the pledges of our manifesto within the next five years. Public confidence in this government depends on our [delivering on these pledges].”
It was the largest multilateral gathering of its kind to be held for a decade, with a total of 125 participants from 62 delegations taking part in the event, representing 35 countries and 27 international organisations. Over a two-day period, 113 bilateral meetings were also held on the sidelines of the forum.
Two MoUs were signed with the Saudi Fund for Development, each worth over US$25 million, in the areas of affordable housing and fisheries.
An MoU was also signed between Bangladesh and the Maldives on fisheries and pelagic (involving the upper layers of the open sea) fishing.
An agreement was signed with the Asian Development Bank for $10 million. This grant consists of $5 million of free financial aid and a low-interest loan for $5 million.
A $5.6 million agreement was signed with the European Union on strengthening cooperation on climate change with the Maldives.
A development objective grant agreement for $11 million was signed with the US to boost democracy and governance.
An agreement was also signed with the Japanese government for a non-project grant aid of $4.5 million, under Japan’s Economic and Social Development Programme.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Vice President Faisal Naseem and cabinet ministers attended the opening session on Monday.
“We cannot fulfil the promise of Jazeera Rajje (Island Nation) on our own accord,” Solih said during his opening address on Monday morning, urging international partners to help the Maldives reach its full potential.
Five plenary sessions were held during the event, which provided a platform to share with the world the development agenda of the Solih administration and promote investment opportunities.
The finance minister kicked-off the first session with a macroeconomic and fiscal overview, as well as planned policy reforms to boost investor confidence.
This was followed by a presentation on the National Development Plan and spatial mapping by Minister of Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam.
The rest of the forum focused on three main areas: the “blue economy” (the ocean or “blue” resources), enhancing social outcomes, and governance and justice.
Discussions on the blue economy focused on “addressing inclusivity and sustainability in economic development”.
Diversifying the Maldivian economy beyond the Two Ts: tourism and tuna, empowering women across all sectors, climate resilience and the importance of digital connectivity in a geographically dispersed nation were among the main topics discussed.
Vice President Faisal Naseem spoke extensively about the need to invest more in youth and women. He said that women’s empowerment “should be at the very core of our policy priorities [because] a development agenda that neglects half the population is a dead end.”
Naseem’s speech was followed by a plenary session titled “Enhancing Social Outcomes”. After a presentation from Minister of Education Dr Aishath Ali, panellists of the third session discussed key policy interventions and proposals relating to healthcare, education and housing.
“Many of our social problems are caused because of a lack of opportunities for youth to harness their creativity,” Yumna Maumoon, minister of arts, culture and heritage, said.
Ahmed Mahloof, minister of youth, sports and community empowerment, echoed her thoughts, explaining that there was an undeniable link between a shortage of opportunities and antisocial behaviour among youth, such as gang violence and radicalisation.
The last day of the forum began with a plenary session on “Governance and Justice”, with a presentation by State Attorney Uza Maziya Abdul Sattar. In her talk she discussed corruption, judicial reform and strengthening local governance.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Ahmed Zahir said: “Islamic values can contribute to our quest for good governance and justice.”
Also among the panellists was Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed, who assured audience members that the government is committed to transforming the Maldives Police Service “into a more democracy-oriented organisation”.
During the last session, Tourism Minister Ali Waheed and representatives of Soneva Fushi Resort gave a presentation on the Namoona Baa Atoll project – a private sector partnership to make the Maldives plastic free.
In the discussions that followed, the finance minister stressed the importance of private sector investment for debt sustainability and other challenges faced by the country.
In the closing session, Ameer thanked all current and prospective development partners.
Targeted investment in education, health and housing has seen unprecedented development in the Maldives, he said.
He reiterated the importance of not compromising the country’s rich natural biodiversity for development and that “profit seeking and sustainability goals can align”.
Speaking to reporters at the close of the two-day event, the foreign minister said he was certain that “we have recovered the trust of foreign parties which had been lost over the years”.
“[It] has proved that the international community has accepted the vision of Jazeera Raajje,” Shahid said.