Economic Minister: Much remains to be achieved economically

Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Fayyaz)

Much remains to be achieved to develop the Maldivian economy, states Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail.

He made the remark during the second edition of the EU-Maldives business roundtable talks held Thursday - three years after the first edition of the talks in 2019.

Fayyaz said that when the talks were first held back in 2019, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration had just assumed office, and had just started with a comprehensive economic agenda promised to the Maldivian people, unaware of the impending Covid-pandemic.

“Three years later we are having this dialogue today, in very different times of domestic as well as global economic standing. However, I would like to believe, and I’m sure we can attest to this, in Maldives, we have a tradition of overcoming new challenges, adapting to evolving circumstances, and seizing new opportunities as they come along,” he said.

Fayyaz said that it is on this premise that the Maldivian administration is moving ahead post-Covid.

“With quick steps for pandemic containment, early vaccination programs and early opening of our borders for international travel, we managed to turn around the economic downturn relatively quickly, with signs of recovery as early as late 2020,” he said.

Fayyaz spoke about the various economic sectors in Maldives including the country’s main economic driver – the tourism sector.

“Reflecting the strong recovery momentum, our economic output is expected to grow by a robust 12 percent in 2022. We are also expecting to reach 1.6 million tourist arrivals by the end of the year,” he said.

Fayyaz acknowledged that despite the move towards economic diversification, tourism will continue to play a key role in the Maldivian economy.

The 1.6 million arrivals target is just short of the record 1.7 million arrivals Maldives welcomed pre-pandemic, in 2019.

Speaking about fisheries exports – Maldives sole merchandized export – Fayyaz noted that tuna fisheries in Maldives is the most sustainable in the world.

Maldivian fishermen use pole and line, ensuring maximum sustainable yields and zero bycatch.

Noting the rise in demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable consumerism in the EU – one of Maldives’ key export markets, Fayyaz asked for support to establish a mechanism for duty-free or duty-reduced access for Maldivian fisheries products.

“We seek your support in establishing a mechanism for duty-free or duty-reduced access to EU for our fisheries products and also in pursing targeted promotional campaigns for our fish products. With growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable consumerism in the EU, it is our hope that we can work on these initiatives to further expand our trading volumes and market share,” he said.

Fayyaz thanked EU for its support to Maldives, and expressed confidence in stronger cooperation in the coming years.

“I am confident that the EU and Maldives will continue to firm up and strive forward in the pursuit of heightened levels of economic cooperation. We look forward to engaging with you to take trade and investment volumes between us to newer and higher levels, and we are keen to hear your ideas and suggestions on how we move ahead in this regard,” he said.

The talks are held by the EU and Maldives’ Economic Ministry to provide information regarding investment opportunities and other business ventures in Maldives.

The talks were attended by Ambassador of the EU to Maldives, Denis Chaibi, and Maldivian Cabinet ministers.