The embattled Maldivian President, Abdulla Yameen, who is facing intense political opposition both in and out of the country, hopes to win the September 2018 Presidential election using a combination of political belligerence and a strong economic program which is at once development and welfare oriented, writes P.K. Balachandran in DailyFT.
Yameen is holding on to the view that the State of Emergency is a national security necessity on the grounds that there had been an organized attempt to bribe the judiciary into engineering his overthrow “through constitutional means” (to use opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed’s words).
Yameen is also of the view that the Western powers and their allies are doing all they can to bring about a regime change.
To prevent anti-government street agitations, he has taken to the expedient of jailing two Supreme Court judges including the Chief Justice and has continued to detain top opposition leaders even against Supreme Court orders.
However, as the September election approaches, a softening of Yameen is evident. After rejecting foreign mediation, he has now called for UN mediation. But he blames the opposition for the process not starting. According to him, the UN wants the Maldivian parties to start talking prior to UN mediation, but the opposition has been refusing to come for talks. While Yameen wants unconditional talks ,the opposition wants all prisoners released as per the Supreme Court order of February 1, a condition not acceptable to Yameen.
However, Yameen hopes to win the election basically on the strength of his growth and welfare oriented economic performance and plans.
US$ 3.4 billion in FDI Over Five Years
In his landmark speech in parliament earlier this week, Yameen said that the Maldives will be receiving US$ 3.4 billion in foreign investment in the tourist and non-tourist sectors in the next five years. Giving the break up he said that US$ 1.6 billion will be invested in the tourist sector by 40 foreign companies and another US$ 1.8 billion will come to other sector from 50 investments from overseas.
He drew attention to the fact that the economic growth rate had increased from 6.2% in 2016 to 6.9% in 2017. At the end of 2017, the per capita GDP stood at US$ 9,671. National reserves stood at US$ 586.2 million at the end of 2017. This is expected to increase to US$ 600 million this year, Yameen said.
In 2017, tourist arrivals had increased by 8% over the previous year, to total 1.3 million arrivals. More than 76,000 new jobs had already been created for youth as a result of economic expansion.
2018 will see the inauguration of 24 new island resorts. Together with two new Male city-hotels, the number of beds in the country will increase to more than 5,300 , the President said.
Fishing And Farming
A substantial sum of the US$ 160 million loan, given by the Governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, will be utilized to develop the fisheries industry. Mariculture business projects, such as the bait production project worth US$ 11 million launched last year, have been initiated by the Government to expand and diversify the fisheries industry.
Work is underway to create a loan scheme, where up to MVR 6 million will be made available to farmers. “Hopefully, we will decrease the import of such goods by 25% by increasing production to 1,866 tons of produce which will make its way to our markets,” Yameen said.
Roads, Harbors and Airports
Forty-five kms of roads are being constructed in the nine most populated islands in the Maldives. Road construction work will continue in 12 more islands until the end of this year.
The harbors of forty-eight islands have now been completed and the construction of harbors in 30 more islands will be concluded by the end of this year.
Harbor development projects, including dredging projects, are also underway in 31 islands and these have been equipped with harbor entrance lights.
“Thus, over the past five years we have solved the problem of sea transport for 109 out of 187 inhabited islands,” Yameen said.
Work is on to establish airports at H.DhKulhudhuffushi, Sh. Funadhoo, N. Maafaru and G.Dh Maavaarulu to be completed within this year.
Social Welfare Projects
The biggest ever housing project launched by the government this year, to be completed next year, is expected to provide housing to more than 160,000 people.
Yameen said that digital technology will be introduced to support teaching and learning. “By the beginning of the second term for this academic year, all schools will have Wi-Fi and all students from grades 1 to 12 will receive computer tablets. The Maldives will be the first country to educate all its students in this way. Students who graduate from our schools will be technologically literate. As such their odds of succeeding in the work place in the 21st century would be higher,” he said.
The percentage of students in tertiary education has increased from the 19% , four years ago, to 32% ,the President said and added: “The government aims to increase enrolment in tertiary education to 60% by 2022.”
Better Health Facilities
In the past four years, up-to-date water systems have been established in twenty-two islands ,the President said. This year, work is expected to start on establishing such systems in twenty-four more islands.
The price of providing water in the atolls has been reduced and from 1 January 2018 we have equalized the price of water in the atolls with that of Malé. In the past four years, water storage facilities have been established in twenty-nine islands, while 2018 will see the establishment of these systems in an additional eighty-six islands.
The 25-storey ‘Dharumavantha Hospital’ will open this year. Previously unavailable health care services in the Maldives have been introduced over the past three years. The National Cardiac Centre established in 2016 has now enabled 5,300 heart disease patients to receive treatment.
Since November 2013, the government’s renal disease treatment guarantee policy has seen the introduction of dialysis services in six atolls. 44 individuals have also had government funded kidney transplant operations abroad over the past four years.
First Medical College
The first ever medical college in the Maldives will be established this year ,the President said. Students will have the opportunity to do their medical internships at IGMH,allowing them to reside in their motherland with their families.
Over the past four years, sewerage systems have been established in twenty-one islands, while this infrastructure will be further developed in forty-two more islands over the course of this year, the President said.
“Thus, by the end of 2018, 75% of the Maldivian population will have sewerage systems,” he promised.
Drastic Reduction in Crime
The first-ever technical assessment of crime in the country, based on crime statistics for the past nine years, was undertaken in 2017. The findings of this study show that the crime rate has reduced by 35% over the past four years, President Yameen said.
(The featured image at the top shows President Yameen with his followers)