Addressing CEOs of Indian Industry at a meeting organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in NewDelhi today, H.E. Mr. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of Maldives invited Indian industry to invest in his country.
He stated that the Maldives strategic location – a stone's throw away from India – made it an ideal location for Indian investment. He highlighted corporate India's long association with his country. The first Indian corporate to open an office in the Maldives was the State Bank of India over 35 years ago. Since then the number of Indian companies in Maldives has grown significantly.
He stated that his country had made rapid strides since then and are no longer classified as an LDC. Maldives has the highest per capita income in South Asia and has met most of its Millennium Development Goals. However, Maldives remains heavily dependent on imports and is very susceptible to external shocks. The economic base of Maldives is very narrow and relies on a few select industries.
To broaden the economic base of the country, Mr. Gayoom's government had decided to open up the economy for foreign investment especially from India. He stated that areas such as fisheries, tourism and hospitality, transport and energy were some of the the focus sectors. He also highlighted the country's goal of becoming a global financial sector hub. He was of the view that Maldives was more suited to be a hub for the services sector rather than manufacturing.
While addressing the participants during the Q&A session, the President stated that the GMR's Male Airport issue was in arbitration and the two parties were seeking an out of court settlement. This, he hoped, would, remove a major irritant in bilateral trade and economic ties.
Addressing the participants, Dr. E M S Natchiappan, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Government of India highlighted two major initiatives taken in respect to the Maldives. The first was the lifting of the ban on the export of stones to the Maldives. Mr. Gayoom welcomed this step as the stones were critical to the construction industry in his country.
The second major initiative highlighted by the Minster was the launching of negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with the Maldives.
Addressing the participants at the meeting, Mr. Ambuj Chaturvedi, Member, FICCI and Executive Director, Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (India) Pvt. Ltd. outlined a five point agenda to enhance theeconomic engagement with the Maldives which included Signing of the BIPPA, Increased exchange of business delegations between the two countries, Sharing of development experiences in the field of health and education and Improved air connectivity between India and the Maldives.
Mr. S C Aggarwal, Senior Managing Committee Member, ASSOCHAM and Chairman and Managing Director, SMC Group highlighted the close relations that the two countries enjoyed. He felt that the two countries had enormous potential in stepping up their engagement in areas such as fisheries, tourism and agriculture among others.
While proposing the Vote of Thanks at the meeting, Mr. Subodh Bhargava, Past President, CII suggested that the two countries explore newer areas of cooperation. This would include the Fisheries, Tourism, IT industry, promoting Maldives as a location for Bollywood movies, creation of bonded warehouses among others. According to Mr. Bhargava, promoting Maldives as a film location would eventually lead to an increase in tourist traffic to the island nation.