Honourable Speaker of the Majlis, honourable members of the People’s Majlis,
Assalam alaikum warahmathullahi wabarakaath,
Honourable MPs, I would like to assure you that even today, I am fulfilling the responsibilities of the presidency in line with the Maldives’ constitution and laws. I take this opportunity to assure you that I will continue to do so in the future.
In the past year, we successfully celebrated the Maldives’ Golden Jubilee of Independence.
One of my government’s top priorities is to establish justice in the Maldives.
We have achieved many goals laid out in the five-year strategic action plan by the Attorney General’s Office to strengthen the criminal and civil justice systems. We are taking prompt action to ensure that the judiciary enjoys the trust and respect of the public. Justice cab only be established when everyone is treated equally, without discrimination.
Some parties are expressing concern over penalties issued through the criminal justice system for the arrests conducted outside the boundaries of the law and in violation of court orders. Such actions only weaken the rule of law and destroy social boundaries. This is not acceptable.
Our foremost priority is to increase economic prosperity and to establish social harmony. In this context, last year saw was one that saw many development projects being carried out in different parts of the country. It was a year that brought comfort to the Maldivian people’s lives. It also saw strong economic measures. By the grace of God, 2016 will see more useful development projects carried out across the Maldives.
This year, the flats under construction at the former Arabiyya School grounds and the Gaakoshi will reach completion and hopefully people will be able to move in.
The 704 housing units under construction in Hulhumalé under our housing policy will be completed during this year. Construction on some 1200 luxury and mid-market flats by the private sector has already begun.
Construction will begin on the 10,120 housing units panned for the Hulhumalé Youth City.
Some 1500 flats being built on Chinese EXIM bank loans will be completed next year. I hope to see 13,524 flats completed within the next two years.
Because of our efforts to introduce Maldivian fisheries products to new markets, and to maintain the MSC certification of our skipjack tuna fishery, we have now increased our export markets to 14. In addition to European markets, we are also seeing an increase in exports to America.
We have introduced an insurance scheme in collaboration with Allied Insurance to provide financial assistance to farmers for damages caused by natural events.
Our most important achievement in the education sector in 2015 was declaring pre-school education as part of the formal education system and introducing pre-school education in public schools. We are undertaking an effort to ensure that all students who finish grade 10 receive two years of free education, until they reach 18 years of age. With this policy, the Maldives will become the first country in the region to provide 14 years of free schooling.
As part of the effort to promote Arabic Islamic education in the Maldives, 48 Maldivian schools now teach the Arabic language. We have improved teacher’s pay under a new pay structure for teachers. By the end of 2015, all teachers were trained up to diploma level, and in this year, we will commence a 10-year project to train teachers up to degree level.
The most important goal of the education sector is to ensure that no child is left behind, and that every child is engaged in some level or tier of education until the child reaches 18 years of age or becomes ready to face the challenges of the job market.
The WHO has declared the Maldives a Malaria free country and last year, we have received the acknowledgement in writing. This is a major health sector success for Maldives. Some 6,000 people received specialist care afforded to all atolls of the Maldives through NSPA and Aasandha. STO has established pharmacies in all inhabited islands and medicine is being issued free of charge through Aasandha. These are major achievements for the health sector.
We have set up a mechanism through the social protection mechanism for long-term care for those who have cancer, kidney and heart diseases. In this manner, 23 people have had kidney transplants, and five people have undergone liver transplants and 31 hospitals outside of Maldives have been contracted to provide the services of the “Unlimited Aasandha” to cater for patients requiring medical procedures that are unavailable in Maldives.
A high quality Cath lab and super specialist kidney centre will also be established in IGMH this year. The kidney centre will treat urinary and kidney complications and provide kidney transplant services.
We have established a council called the Council for Economic Empowerment of Women, comprising of experts to identify the challenges and opportunities for the economic empowerment of women.
We are gathering statistics to asses the prevalence of domestic violence, the reasons for, types and forms of such violence. We are taking the necessary steps to prevent violence accordingly.
The fuel that drives Maldivian productivity is our youth. Hence, we are doing a lot to empower the youth. We have conducted various training programmes last year to provide young people with employment opportunities. Through the Employment Registry Database, we are continuing to provide young people with jobs and information about jobs.
In the past year, we have issued loans worth MVR7.7million (US$500,000) to some 13 parties to encourage young fisher people, and to assist with the building of fishing boats, obtain engines and buy modern facilities.
We have also issued loans totalling MVR5.7million in two phases to encourage youth interest in agriculture.
We have allocated MVR25.5million in a scheme titled Get Set for some 34 businesses to encourage youth entrepreneurship. These loans will be issued this year. We have announced a loan scheme of MVR30million, Faseyha Madhadhu, with ADB assistance. Proposals are being assessed now. We aim to introduce a second round of Get Set, worth MVR40million, for young people interested in doing business.
The other major aim of my government is to establish peace and order in the Maldives. We have achieved successes in reducing crime. Theft declined by 22 percent, a 12 percent decline in muggings, 12 percent decline in assault, 21 percent decrease in the proportion of repeat offenders, and an 8 percent decline in children engaging in criminal activity.
We will establish two new water plants in Malé to ensure uninterrupted safe drinking water supplies. Under the pledge to provide safe drinking water for all pledge, the government in 2015 established water systems in 10 islands, and work will proceed on 37 more islands this year.
In 2015, we established sewerage systems in 10 islands, and began work on 22 more islands, and began design work for 42 more systems. Shore protection projects are underway on 13 islands at present, and similar projects will begin on 12 more islands this year.
We completed nine harbours in 2015, and dredged and repaired harbours in nine more. We have signed contracts to build 51 additional harbour projects and work is proceeding at different stages.
We have reclaimed land on seven islands to increase their landmass and are undertaking projects to protect those areas. We have signed contracts to reclaim land in three more islands.
We have signed contracts for road construction on 20 islands, and work is underway on 8 islands. The government will provide more facilities to the Maldives Road Development Corporation next March. This year, the construction of the main road in Laamu Atoll will be completed and will be in use this year.
The atolls of the Maldives will be separated into seven regions for the provision of high quality public transport services and permanent services will be in place by mid 2016.
Economic growth for 2015 was estimated at 4.8 percent, while the growth rate is predicted to be 6.4 percent this year. Compared to November 2014, the inflation rate stood at 1.5 percent in November of 2015.
By November’s end in 2015 the official Maldivian reserve stood at US$567million. The reserve is expected to grow to US$644million by the end of 2016. We established a deposit insurance scheme last year to ensure the stability of the Maldivian financial system and to protect the rights of depositors especially those who deposit small amounts.
Last year saw the minimum reserve requirement of banks reduced from 20 percent to 10 percent. This was done to provide the banks with more cash to lend to the public.
We have made great strides last year in the tourism sector. Last year, 1.23 million tourists visited the Maldives and 1000 new beds were introduced into the market. Additionally, money has been paid to buy a ‘Hopper Dredger’ to reclaim large lagoons for resort development and to speed up land reclamation projects. We hope that the dredger will be delivered by the end of this year.
The unrelenting effort by a group of Maldivians to damage and harm the tourism industry has adversely affected Maldivian tourism, despite the government’s effort to develop the sector. The People’s Majlis last year passed a bill to bring an end to such efforts. However, since the Attorney General had noted several legal issues in the bill and the bill has been sent back to the Majlis for further review.
The government is now forced to spend time and resources to improve the perception of the Maldives in the world and to communicate clearly the facts to counter the efforts by some parties to defame the country and enforce sanctions.
We introduced a loan scheme for small and medium sized businesses. Some MVR23 million was dispersed to 96 businesses last year as soft loans. Of this 40 percent was allocated for young female entrepreneurs.
This year, the Attorney General will begin recovering state assets from those identified in reports by the Anti-corruption Commission and the Auditor General’s Office, as having carried out acts of corruption, embezzlement or being negligent towards state finances and property.
The foremost aim of Maldivian foreign policy is to maintain the Maldives’ independence, protect the security of this region and the country’s sovereignty, as well as strengthen ties with friendly nations. Moreover, our aim is to maintain the respect other countries have for the Maldives and to work towards solving issues by collaborative diplomatic engagement, instead of opening doors for foreign countries to interfere in our domestic affairs. Maldivian foreign policy is also aimed at promoting international human rights standards and to ensure that the Maldives is a country that abides by such standards. In this regard, we will shoulder the obligations associated with the international human rights conventions and treaties the Maldives has acceded to.
By the grace of God, Maldives has achieved noteworthy successes in the foreign policy field.
Last year, the Maldives signed a number of agreements that will benefits us in various sectors. In this regard, we have signed and begun to implement various agreements made with India, China, Japan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Palestine. We have also signed an agreement with the UN on a five-year plan for development aid.
Our most important goal is to ensure that the Maldivian people respect our constitutions and laws, to ensure low crime rates and to protect our society from the menace of drug addiction, and to forever maintain the Maldives as a unique country with its own identity in a manner that earns respect from other countries. We are taking action to achieve these goals. I would like to say that I am fully confident that I will receive support and cooperation from you, honourable members, in this effort.
May God almighty give us the strength to remain unwaveringly in the belief of Islam! May our efforts to develop our country be blessed! May peace and stability forever remain in this country! Amen!