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Maldives

MALDIVES

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS MALDIVIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Maldives

Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa

CAPITAL: Malé

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white crescent at the center of a green field which, in turn, is at the center of a red field.

ANTHEM: Gavmii mi ekuverikan matii tibegen kuriime salaam (In National Unity Do We Salute Our Nation).

MONETARY UNIT: The Maldivian rupee, or rufiyaa (mr), is a paper currency of 100 laris. There are notes of ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, and 100 rufiyaa. The dollar circulates freely and is the only currency accepted at some resorts. mr1 = $0.07813 (or $1 = mr12.8) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system has been adopted, but some local units remain in use.

HOLIDAYS: National Day, 7 January; Independence Day, 26 July; Republic Day, 11 November; Fishermen's Day, 10 December. 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi are some of the Muslim religious holidays observed.

TIME: 5 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

The smallest country in Asia, the Republic of Maldives consists of an archipelago of nearly 1,200 coral islands and sand banks in the Indian Ocean, some 200 of which are inhabited. The chain of islands sits astride the equator, s of India and w of Sri Lanka, extending 823 km (511 mi) but occupying an area of just 300 sq km (116 sq mi). The area occupied by Maldives is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Grouped in 26 atolls, with a total coastline of 644 km (400 mi), the northernmost atoll lies some 110 km (70 mi) s of India's Minicoy Atoll, about 480 km (300 mi) se of India's Cape Comorin, and 649 km (400 mi) w of Sri Lanka.

Maldives' capital, Malé, is situated on a 2.5 sq km (1 sq mi) island, the largest in the entire chain, in the Malé Atoll. However, Hulhumale, a manmade island a short distance from Malé, is expected to be expanded to twice the size of Malé by about 2040.

TOPOGRAPHY

The islands vary from tiny banks to real islets. Some of the islands are in process of formation and are constantly increasing in size; others are gradually washing away. The islands are level and extremely low-lying, with elevations rarely exceeding 1.8 m (6 ft) above sea level. Many contain freshwater lagoons.

In 1997, the nation initiated a massive land reclamation project which involved the construction of a manmade island, Hulhumale, a short distance away from Malé. In 2004, the new island was about the same size as Malé; developers hope that by about 2040 Hulhumale will be twice the size of Malé and provide housing for 153,000 people.

The disastrous tsunami that struck Indonesia on 26 December 2004 also impacted Maldives. The tsunami was caused by an underwater earthquake 324 km (180 mi) south of Indonesia's Sumatra island. Waves reaching 6 m (20 ft) were absorbed by Maldives' coral reefs before they could severely damage the atolls. The northernmost and southernmost islands suffered the brunt of the damage. More than 20,000 residents were left without homes in Maldives, and at least 55 were found dead.

CLIMATE

The Maldives' equatorial climate is generally hot and humid, with a mean temperature of about 27°c (81°f). The weather during the northeast monsoon (NovemberMarch) is mild and pleasant; the southwest monsoon (JuneAugust) is violent and very rainy. The northern atolls are subject to more violent storms than those in the south. Annual rainfall in the south averages about 380 cm (150 in); in the north, 250 cm (100 in).

FLORA AND FAUNA

The islands are covered with a dense scrub. The northern and southern islands are more fertile than those in the central group, and the eastern islands generally are more fertile than the western. Coconut, breadfruit, plantain, papaya, mango, and banyan trees flourish. Shrubs and flowers are widespread. Rats, rabbits, and flying foxes are the only indigenous mammals. Birds include ducks, bitterns, crows, curlews, snipes, and various sea birds. Small scorpions, beetles, and land crabs are common. Inland lagoons and coastal reefs contain tropical ocean fish, crustaceans, and turtles; the surrounding waters contain sharks, swordfish, and porpoises.

ENVIRONMENT

Environmental issues in the Maldives include a dwindling freshwater supply and inadequate sewage treatment. Estimates indicated that the nation's water supply may be exhausted in the near future, and population increases have created a sanitation problem that threatens the waters surrounding this island nation. Another significant environmental problem is a rise in sea levels due to global warming. The islands are particularly susceptible to flooding.

The country has invested in several massive land reclamation projects in an attempt to resolve the land and housing shortages. One major project includes the construction of the manmade island, Hulhumale, a short distance from Malé. The project began in 1997 specifically to address the overcrowding of Malé. By 2004, the land area of the new island was nearly the same as that of Malé; land area is expected to double within the next 40 years or so, making housing lands available for a population of about 153,000. Land reclamation projects also have been used to expand the area of Malé, but further additions to the islands land area are not possible due the steep drops in the ocean floor surrounding the coast.

Environmental preservation is complicated by the unique problems of a nation consisting of 1,200 islands spread over 510 miles of the Indian Ocean. Preservation of the desert island ecology, protection of marine life and coral reefs, and coconut tree rehabilitation are additional environmental goals. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included two species of birds, two types of reptiles, and eight species of fish. The hawksbill turtle, green turtle, and blue whale are on the endangered list.

POPULATION

The population of Maldives in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 294,000, which placed it at number 169 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 36% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 106 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.4%. Despite a high fertility rate (5.1 births per woman), population growth is hampered by problems in health care and other areas of social and economic development. The projected population for the year 2025 was 398,000. The population density was 980 per sq km (2,538 per sq mi), concentrated on an island of only about 1.9 sq km (0.75 sq mi).

The UN estimated that 27% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.56%. The capital city, Malé, had a population of 83,000 in that year.

MIGRATION

Inter-island migration is limited to settlement in Malé; between 1967 and 2000, population in the capital rose from one-tenth to nearly one-quarter of the national total. In 1999 and 2005, the net migration rate was zero. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 3,000. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The original inhabitants of the Maldives are thought to have been of south Indian and Arab origin. The people of the northern atolls have, to some extent, intermarried with peoples from western India, Arabia, and North Africa. Inhabitants of the southern islands show stronger physical affinities with the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. Black African slaves imported from Zanzibar and Arabia have intermarried with the Maldivians, and there are also some Caucasian and Malayan elements.

LANGUAGES

The Maldivian language, called Divehi, is similar to the old Sinhala (Elu) of Ceylon. It has contributed the word atoll to international terminology. In recent years, the language has been influenced by Arabic and Urdu. Thaana, developed during the 17th century, is the corresponding script, written from right to left. English is spoken by most government officials, but only by a small number of the Maldivian population.

RELIGIONS

Though there is evidence that the early Maldivians were Buddhists, their conversion to Islam dates from 1153. The 1997 constitution claimed Islam as the official religion. With few exceptions, the people are Sunni Muslims, and both land ownership and citizenship are limited to adherents to this faith. The president, who must be a Sunni Muslim, is also the supreme authority of the tenets of Islam. Non-Muslim foreigners working in or visiting the country are permitted to practice their own religion privately. There are no non-Muslim places of worship. Proselytizing for non-Muslim faiths is prohibited. The government's Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs regulates matters pertaining to religion.

TRANSPORTATION

Malé, the capital, and some other islands have fairly good streets. Most people travel by bicycle or on foot. Interatoll transportation still depends mostly on local sailing boats, called batheli and odi. Although some mechanized boats carry cargo and, occasionally, passengers between Malé and other atolls, interisland transport is mainly by means of dhonis (small boats). Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. As of 2005, the Maldives had a merchant fleet of 16 vessels with 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 57,118 GRT, serving worldwide destinations, and all controlled by Maldives Shipping Ltd., a public enterprise. In 2004, the Maldives had five airports, two of which had paved runways as of 2005. Hulule, Malé's international airport, 2 km (1 mi) away over water from the capital, was completed in 1966. Built with assistance by Sri Lanka under the Colombo Plan, it consists of two islands that were joined together to create a runway. It is served by Singapore Airlines, Air Lanka, various European tourist carriers, and Indian Airlines, the last also operating as Air Maldive on certain flights. Also in 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), 311,100 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the Maldives were probably Dravidian speakers from south India, followed by Indo-European speaking Sinhalese from Ceylon in the 4th and 5th centuries bc. The island chain first became known in the West through the writings of Ptolemy, during the 2nd century ad. The island chain may have been ruled in ancient times by the Chinese; later, its rulers paid an annual tribute to principalities of western India. Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism by Arab traders from east Africa and the Middle East in the middle of the 12th century, and from 1153, an unbroken line of 92 sultans served as local rulers for 800 years until 1953. In 1343, Ibn Battutah, the Arab traveler and historian, visited the islands and served for a time as a qadi.

After their discovery by the Portuguese traveler Dom Lourenço de Alameida in 1507, the Maldives were occupied by the Portuguese and forced to pay a tribute to Goa, the center of Portugal's South Asian holdings. But the Portuguese were driven out in 1573 by Muhammad Thakurufaani al-Azam, who, after becoming sultan, introduced a monetary system, a new script, and a standing militia. In the 17th century, the Dutch, who controlled neighboring Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), made a treaty with the sultanate, which thereafter paid tribute to the rulers of Ceylon and claimed their protection.

The British completed their occupation of Ceylon in 1815 and British responsibility for the protection of the Maldives was formally recorded in 1887. By terms of the compact, the sultan recognized the suzerainty of the British sovereign and disclaimed all rights or intention to enter into any treaty or negotiations with any foreign state except through the (British) ruler of Ceylon. When Ceylon became independent in 1948, a new agreement was signed with the British government, providing for the Maldives to remain under the protection of the British crown, for external affairs to be conducted by or in accordance with the advice of the British government, for Britain to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the islands, and for the sultan to afford such facilities for British forces as were necessary for the defense of the islands or the Commonwealth. No tribute was to be paid by Maldives. New agreements reaffirming these provisions were signed in 1953, 1956, and 1960.

The sultanate, dominated by the Didi family since 1759, was abolished in 1953, and the Maldives was declared a republic. The first president, Amin Didi, ordered the emancipation of women and other reforms that were resented by more conservative elements among the people, and nine months later he was overthrown. His cousins Muhammad Farid Didi and Ibrahim Ali Didi became co-presidents in September 1953, and a month later the National Assembly voted to restore the sultanate. The new sultan, Muhammad Didi, was installed at Malé on 7 March 1954, and Ibrahim Ali Didi, the prime minister, formed a new government.

The government's agreement in 1956 to permit Britain to maintain an air base on Gan Island in the southern Maldives produced a public reaction so strong that Prime Minister Ibrahim was forced to resign in December 1957. Ibrahim Nasir, who succeeded him, asserted that the British base would violate Maldivian neutrality, but when his government sent a representative to Gan to tell the islanders to stop working for the British, the islanders attacked him.

Early in 1959, the people of Addu Atoll, in which Gan Island is located, declared their independence. At the same time, a rebellion broke out in the three southernmost atolls (including Addu). The rebel headmen declared the formation of the United Suvadiva Republic (with a population of 20,000) and demanded recognition from London. The British refused to comply, but the Nasir government made public its suspicions that the coup had been engineered by the British. In the event, government forces crushed the rebels in two of the atolls but made no attempt to interfere on Gan or any of the other seven main islands in the Addu group. By March 1960, the Suvadiva Republic was declared dissolved, and a committee ruling under the sovereign control of the sultan was set up, including among its members Abdallah Afif, leader of the rebellion.

In February 1960, the Maldivian government made a free gift to the British government of the use of Gan Island and other facilities in Addu Atoll for 30 years, and a fresh agreement was drawn up between the governments. In return, the British agreed to assist in bringing about a reconciliation between the Maldivian government and the disaffected inhabitants of the southern islands. But by 1962, resentment had grown against the British owing to their lack of progress in implementing the agreement; in late 1962 a Royal Navy frigate was sent to the capital island of Malé to protect British citizens. Abdallah Afif was evacuated by the British to the Seychelles.

The Sultanate of the Maldive Islands achieved complete independence on 26 July 1965, with the British continuing to retain use of the facilities on Gan in return for the payment of $2,380,000, most to be spent over a period of years for economic development. In March 1968, a referendum resulted in an 81% vote to abolish the sultanate and to reestablish a republic. A new republican constitution came into force on 11 November 1968, establishing the Republic of Maldives, and Nasirthen prime ministerbecame president.

With the British secure in their control of facilities they shared with the United States outside the Maldives in Diego Garcia, 650 km (400 mi) east of Gan, Britain vacated the Gan air base on 31 December 1975, and the UK-Maldivian accord was formally terminated the following year.

Nasir declined re-nomination and was succeeded as president on 11 November 1978 by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was chosen by the Citizens' Majlis (parliament) in June and was confirmed in a popular referendum by a majority of 90% on 28 July. Reelected president by the Majlis in August 1983, Gayoom won confirmation in a national referendum on 30 September with a majority of 95.6%. Gayoom was reelected to a third term in August 1988. He successfully resisted a brief attempt to overthrow him by Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries in November 1988 with the help of an Indian military contingent flown to the Maldives at his request. In addition to the presidency, Gayoom is also minister of defense and minister for national security.

Gayoom was reelected for a fourth term as president in August 1993 and confirmed by popular referendum in September. He was reelected to a fifth term, unopposed, in 1998, and was reelected to a sixth term, again unopposed, in 2003. Gayoom's only principal rival for the presidency came in the 1993 election when his brother-in-law Ilyas Ibrahim ran against him. Ibrahim subsequently was tried in absentia for violation of the constitution, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to more than 15 years banishment from the islands. In June 2004, President Gayoom promised constitutional changes to limit the presidential term of office and to allow political parties to form. In June 2005, parliament voted to allow multiparty politics.

The Maldives has been concerned for two decades about the effects of global warming on the islands. At the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development held in August and September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa, President Gayoom warned that his country could be submerged if a rise in sea levels due to the melting of polar ice caps continued. "A mere one-meter rise would mean the death of a nation," he stated. As world temperatures rise, the effects on the Maldives would include coastal erosion, increasing salinity of fresh water sources, altered tidal ranges and patterns, and the gradual destruction of the coral reefs that form the islands and their breakwaters.

In 2003, the human rights organization Amnesty International accused the Maldives government of political repression and torture. It said arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, and long-term imprisonment of government critics are commonplace. That September, unprecedented antigovernment riots broke out in Malé; Amnesty International blamed the unrest on political repression and human rights abuses. In August 2004, a state of emergency was imposed after a pro-democracy demonstration became violent. Nearly 100 people were jailed.

On 26 December 2004, the Maldives suffered severe damage as a result of a massive tsunami triggered by a powerful underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. Scores of people were killed, and the government said the disaster set back development work by 20 years.

GOVERNMENT

The constitution of the Republic of Maldives that came into force in 1968 (and amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975) was repealed and replaced by a new constitution in 1997. It came into force on 1 January 1998. The Citizens' Majlis (parliament) nominates a single candidate for the presidency, who is confirmed in office thereafter by popular referendum. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet and is constitutionally permitted to have as many vice presidents as he desires. The president serves a five-year term of office.

The unicameral Majlis is a body of 50 members, 42 of whom are directly elected (2 from each of the 20 inhabited atolls and 2 from the capital island of Malé) by universal suffrage of citizens over 21. Eight members are appointed by the president. Members serve five-year terms. The Majlis drafts legislation that becomes law after ratification by the president. The Majlis also nominates the president by secret ballot. The candidate is then approved by referendum of the population.

Elections to the Majlis are held individually and do not necessarily coincide with its sessions. Elections were held in December 1994, December 1999, and January 2005.

POLITICAL PARTIES

There are no organized political parties. While not banned, they are officially discouraged. Candidates for office stand for election as independents and campaign on their family and personal stature.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Maldives is divided administratively into 20 districts, each a discrete atoll headed by a government-appointed verin, or chief, who functions in the manner of a district officer. On each inhabited island a khatib, or headman, also appointed by the government, supervises and carries out the orders of the government under the supervision of the atoll chief. Malé and Hulhulé (the island of the international airport) are geographically in Kaafu Atoll, but are treated as a separate administrative entity.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Justice is meted out according to traditional Islamic law (Shariah) by the high court and lower courts appointed for that purpose by the president, and functioning under the Ministry of Justice. Civil law is also applied but remains subordinate to Shariah. Judges must be Muslims.

On the capital island, Malé, there is a high court which hears a range of cases as a court of first instance and also serves as a court of appeal. Lower courts each deal with a specific area such as theft, property, or family law issues. The 1995 presidential decree gives power to a five-member advisory council appointed by the president to review the high court's decisions. The president also has authority to affirm judgments of the high court, to order a second hearing, or to overturn the court's decision.

On the other islands, there is one all-purpose lower court in which cases are often adjudicated by traditional legal practitioners. Complex cases are referred to the appropriate specialized court in Malé. There are also general courts on the islands.

In criminal cases there is no jury trial. The accused may call witnesses and may be assisted by a lawyer. There are, however, few professionally trained lawyers in Maldives, and the court does not provide a lawyer to an indigent defendant. The judiciary is subject to executive influence. The president may grant pardons and amnesties.

ARMED FORCES

The armed forces of the Maldives consist of a paramilitary national security service and a militia of a few hundred people. Armed boats patrol the territorial waters to protect the local fishing industry. Military expenditures amounted to $34.5 million in 2001, or 8.6% of GDP.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

The Maldives, which joined the United Nations (UN) on 21 September 1965, is a member of ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ICAO, IFC, IMF, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Maldives is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Colombo Plan, G-77, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the 7-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

An active member of the Nonaligned Movement, Maldives has led efforts to declare an Indian Ocean Peace Zone, free of nuclear arms. Sri Lanka has traditionally served as the Maldives' focus in its external affairs. However, this has been broadened in the last few decades as the Maldives entered into diplomatic relations with more countries, and communication and transportation have opened up the outside world.

In environmental cooperation, the Maldives is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea and Climate Change.

ECONOMY

As of 2003, the Maldives remains on the United Nations (UN) list of least developed countries, yet economic progress has been steady. The first tourist resort was opened in 1972. In 1989 the government lifted import quotas and liberalized some sectors of trade. Gross domestic product growth rates averaged about 10% in the 1980s and about 7% in the 1990s. In the 1990s, the peak was 16% (1990) and the low 4% (1993). In 1998 and 1999, real GDP growth reached 9.1% and 8.5%, respectively, but fell to 4.8% in 2000, following a decline of -2.3% in agriculture (including coral and sand mining) and of -0.5% in industry. Growth recovered to 5.7% in 2001.

Fishing, tourism, and shipping are the mainstays of the economy, employing over half of the work force. The tourism industry has become particularly important, accounting for about 20% of GDP, 31% of government revenues, and more than 60% of the country's foreign exchange earnings in 2002. The government is seeking to continue diversifying the economy through further promotion of tourism, processing industries, and garment production. Besides tourism, GDP is composed of distribution, 4.5%; construction, 3%; fisheries, 6%; agriculture, 3%; transportation and communication, 16%; government administration, 12%; and manufacturing and electricity, 8%.

The economy was on an upward surge in 2004, with a GDP growth rate of 8.8% (up from 8.4% in 2003, and 6.5% in 2002). In December 2004, a major tsunami devastated most of the country, killing 100, leaving 12,000 displaced, and causing damages of over $300 million. As a result, economic growth was expected to decrease to 1.0% in 2005. The inflation rate has been fluctuating, but it did not pose a problem to the economy; in 2004 it reached 6.4%.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Maldives's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.3 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 20% of GDP, industry 18%, and services 62%.

LABOR

There were approximately 72,000 members of the Maldives workforce in 2002, one-third of whom were foreign workers. About 20% of the workforce in 1999 was employed in fishing; 15% in industry; 10% in tourism; and 55% in other sectors. The unemployment rate in 2003 was negligible.

Union organization is not prohibited, but the government does not recognize union organization or striking as a right. However, some associations have been formed to address workers' rights.

The minimum working age is 14 (16 for government work) and there were no reports of children working in the formal economic sector in 2001. However, children work in family agricultural and fishing enterprises. There are no specific statutory provisions regarding working hours, the workweek length, or overtime pay. Administrative orders from the president's office have set a seven-hour workday and a five-day workweek. There is no national minimum wage, but wage floors exist for certain kinds of work. Although no statutory provisions are in place, employers offer competitive pay and working conditions. Wages generally provide a family with a decent standard of living.

AGRICULTURE

Only 10% of the land is estimated to be cultivable. Millet, corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, pineapples, sugarcane, almonds, and many kinds of tropical vegetables and fruits are successfully grown, largely in homestead gardens. Coconut palms provide copra and coir, the most important exports after fish. Virtually all rice, a staple food for the population, must be imported. Breadfruit, mangoes, papayas, limes, bananas, pumpkins, watermelon, taro, and chili peppers are also valuable crops. As of 2004, small amounts of corn, millet, and sorghum were cultivated. Production in 2004 included 35,000 tons of coconuts and 30,000 tons of vegetables and melons.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Fodder is insufficient for more than a few head of cattle, but there are many goats and chickens.

FISHING

Fishing is the chief industry (accounting for 11% of GDP), with the main catch being skipjack and yellowfin tuna. About half the annual harvest is frozen, canned, or dried and exported to Thailand, Europe, and Sri Lanka. The Maldivian fisheries sector underwent a major transformation during the 1980s and became increasingly productive through modernization of catch collection and processing methods. Expansion of the canning industry and investment in fisheries diversification is ongoing. The fish catch in 2003 totaled 155,415 tons; exports of fish were valued at $76.4 million that year. Annual per capita consumption of fish and shellfish during 19992001 averaged 187.3 kg/412 lb (live-weight equivalent), greater than that of any other nation. Shell gathering is a relatively important activity in the Maldives, with large quantities of cowries exported for use as ornaments. Several rare shell species are also collected.

FORESTRY

There are no forests as such. Coconut wood, however, is used for building boats and houses. Imports of forest products amounted to $4.2 million in 2004.

MINING

There were no known mineral resources.

ENERGY AND POWER

The Maldives, as of 1 January 2004, had no known reserves of oil or natural gas, nor any crude oil refining capacity, and therefore, must rely upon imports to meet its oil and natural gas needs.

In 2002, imports of refined oil products averaged 5,600 barrels per day, with consumption averaging 4,190 barrels per day, leaving an average of 1,410 barrels per day to be exported.

In 2002, the country's electric power generating capacity came to 0.037 million kW, of which all was dedicated to fossil fuels. Electric output in that year came to 0.133 billion kWh, with consumption in that year placed at 0.124 billion kWh.

INDUSTRY

The manufacturing sector is small and limited by the shortage of domestic labor. Important traditional industries in the Maldives include boat building, the manufacture of coir, a rope made from dried coconut fibers, and lacemaking (handmade pillow lace), introduced by the Dutch in the 17th century. Maldivian lacquer-work and finely woven mats are famous for their quality and design. Coconuts, copra, shells, tortoiseshell, bone dust, red stone, ambergris, and handicrafts are also produced locally as well as exported. All fishing is done by the traditional line and pole method, as the use of nets is illegal. The country's fishing fleet of small, flat-bottomed boats have, however, shifted from using sails and oars to outboard motors. In May 2001, the government ended its monopoly on the export tuna sector, and in 2002 four Maldivian operations were licensed to buy and export fresh tuna. Modern industry is limited to tuna canneries and other fish-processing, several apparel factories, built during the past decade, a soft drink bottling plant, and small scale manufacturing enterprises that produce PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. Tourism has been developing since the first resort was built in 1977. As of November 2000, there were 84 resorts in operation, and in 2001, the Ministry of Tourism introduced cruise tourism.

Manufacturing, together with agriculture, continued to play a decreasing role in the economy, as a result of domestic labor shortage and vanishing agriculture lands. Tourism continued to create capital needed for establishing additional industriesengine repairs, bottling of aerated water, and garment production are some of the latest additions to the Maldives' industrial base.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Mechanized fishing operations have been the focus of research and development efforts since the 1980s, with the help of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

DOMESTIC TRADE

Malé Island is the chief commercial center. Sri Lankan and Indian merchants in Malé act as their own importers, exporters, and wholesalers. The importing of rice and exporting of ambergris are government monopolies. Tourism and its related services are a major portion of the economy. Most shops are open from 8 am to 1:30 pm and from 2:30 to 5 pm, Sunday through Thursday. Banks and government offices are open from 9 am to 1 pm on the same days. Most establishments are closed on Fridays.

FOREIGN TRADE

In 1989, the government initiated an economic reform program that lifted import quotas and opened exports of some commodities to the private sector (until then, exports had been entirely controlled by a state trading organization). In 2000, exports consisted almost exclusively of fish products and apparel. Manufactured

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 113.0 470.8 -357.8
United States 36.5 5.9 30.6
Thailand 18.5 23.9 -5.4
Sri Lanka 15.3 64.7 -49.4
Japan 11.7 10.4 1.3
United Kingdom 11.0 8.3 2.7
Indonesia 4.8 12.4 -7.6
Germany 4.3 6.4 -2.1
Singapore 3.3 117.1 -113.8
China, Hong Kong SAR 2.1 9.6 -7.5
Malaysia 1.0 36.2 -35.2
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account -30.4
     Balance on goods -262.3
         Imports -414.3
         Exports 152.0
     Balance on services 311.1
     Balance on income -37.0
     Current transfers -42.2
Capital Account
Financial Account 56.3
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Maldives 13.5
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets 28.3
     Other investment liabilities 14.4
Net Errors and Omissions 0.3
Reserves and Related Items -26.2
() data not available or not significant.

goods, machinery, fuels, and food are the main imports.

In the late 1970s, Mauritius, Japan, and Pakistan comprised almost 90% of the country's export market. The vast majority of Maldives' commodity exports are fish (53%) and apparel (46%).

In 2004, exports totaled $123 million (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $645 million. Most of the exports went to the United States (26.5%), Thailand (23.5%), Sri Lanka (12.3%), Japan (11.7%), the United Kingdom (9.8%), and Germany (4.9%). Imports primarily came from Singapore (24.9%), Sri Lanka (10.6%), the United Arab Emirates (10.3%), India (10.2%), Malaysia (7.6%), and Bahrain (5.4%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Balance of payments deficits during the first half of the 1980s were caused largely by the international shipping recession, the collapse of world tuna prices, and a brief downturn in tourism caused by the violence in nearby Sri Lanka. The government began an economic reform program in 1989, lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. In recent years, it has encouraged more foreign investment by liberalizing regulations.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Maldives' exports was $88 million while imports totaled $372 million, resulting in a trade deficit of $284 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Maldives had exports of goods totaling $110 million and imports totaling $348 million. The services credit totaled $354 million and debit $109 million.

Exports of goods and services totaled $686 million in 2004, up from $584 million in 2003. Imports grew from $535 million in 2003 to $681 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently positive, but on a downward pathfrom $49 million in 2003 to $6 million in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from -$32 million in 2003 to -$90 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) increased to $204 million in 2004, covering less than four months of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Maldives Monetary Authority, established 1 July 1981, issues currency, advises the government on banking and monetary matters, supervises commercial banks, and manages exchange rates and exchange assets. Other banking services are provided by the Bank of Maldives (created in 1982) and commercial banks with headquarters in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $135.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $271.6 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 6.8%.

There is no securities exchange.

INSURANCE

No recent information was available.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Public enterprises, including the State Trading Organization, the state shipping line, and public utilities, account for nearly half of government revenues; customs and tourist receipts make up most of the rest.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2002 Maldives' central government took in revenues of approximately $224 million and had expenditures of $282 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$58 million. Total external debt was $281 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government

Revenue and Grants 2,940 100.0%
     Tax revenue 1,130.9 38.5%
     Social contributions
     Grants 113.4 3.9%
     Other revenue 1,695.7 57.7%
Expenditures 3,826.5 100.0%
     General public services 935.5 24.4%
     Defense 343.2 9.0%
     Public order and safety 123.4 3.2%
     Economic affairs 645.6 16.9%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 560.6 14.7%
     Health 395.9 10.3%
     Recreational, culture, and religion
     Education 698.5 18.3%
     Social protection 123.8 3.2%
() data not available or not significant. f = forecasted or projected data.

revenues were mr2,940 million and expenditures were mr3,826.5 million. The value of revenues was us$230 million and expenditures us$299 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = mr12.8 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 24.4%; defense, 9.0%; public order and safety, 3.2%; economic affairs, 16.9%; housing and community amenities, 14.7%; health, 10.3%; education, 18.3%; and social protection, 3.2%.

TAXATION

Generally, there is no income or sales tax in the Maldives, although bank profits are subject to a 25% tax. Government revenues are generated by taxes on imports, tourism, lease rentals on resorts, and on earnings by state owned enterprises. License fees are charged for boats and motor vehicles. Uninhabited islands are leased for farming to individuals, who pay annual dues to the government. Over 90% of these absentee landlords reside in Malé, the capital city. As of 2005, 90% of revenues came from import duties and tourism taxes.

Given the growing wealth in the country, the government considered bolstering government development revenues in 2002 by instituting a personal income tax, though concerns remain that enforcement may prove difficult.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Customs duties are a primary source of government revenues and vary depending upon the type of import. A 10% duty is imposed on petrol, kerosene, and diesel oil. A 25% duty is placed on lubricating oils and textiles. Electricity generators are subject to a 20% duty. All imports and exports are subject to a 0.01% stamp duty. The primary importer is the State Trading Organization (STO), which imports 80% of the country's imported staple commodities such as rice, wheat, flour, sugar, and specified medicines. Import duties for luxury items, such as automobiles or goods considered to be environmentally dangerous, are subject to duties that can go as high as 200%.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Assistance has been received from IBRD, WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, the European Union, the Colombo Plan, CARE, and other international agencies, mostly in the form of grants and low-interest loans. In the 1990s, funds from donors averaged over 8% of GDP annually, although in 2000, when, according to UNCTAD, the Maldives received $13.3 million from donors, ODA (Official Development Assistance) was only 2.4% of GDP. Liberalized foreign investment policies have been adopted in recent years in order to attract needed development capital, especially for hotel and resort construction and other businesses related to the tourism industry.

Resort management is currently the main area of investment. Other attractive sectors include accounting services, banking, telecommunications, air transport, and manufacturing. Government projects to develop the island of Hulhumale and use it both as a residential settlement (meant to take the pressure of the overcrowded and neighboring Malé island) and a duty-free zone will likely attract more investments in the area.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The government has implemented a series of development programs to improve and expand fishing and related industries, textile manufacturing, food processing, tourism, communications, and health and education services. In 1986, Malé's new commercial harbor was opened, considerably speeding up cargo handling from 200300 tons to 1,500 tons a day. Also in the late 1980s, Malé's international airport was upgraded in the late 1980s, representing a critical factor in the growth of the country's tourism sector. Effective 1 July 1997, the Companies Act governed the formation, registration, and management of companies doing business in Maldives. Part of the economic thrust has been to lessen the reliance on fishing and to diversify the economy.

Continued expansion of tourism has been particularly targeted in government development plans for the immediate future, along with facilitating a spread of economic activity to outlying island groups. Water taxis and scheduled sea vessel and light aircraft transportation services were developed in the late 1990s for this purpose. The Foreign Investment Services Bureau (FISB), established in August 1986 as a "one-stop service" for investors, was encouraging investment projects in 2002 that were (1) capital intensive; (2) enhance technology transfer; (3)introduce new skills and offer training to local employees; and (4) are environmentally friendly.

The December 2004 tsunami created havoc in the Maldives, and it is expected that around $304 million will be needed to implement a recovery and reconstruction strategy. Tourism will continue to be the main economic driver even in the post-tsunami period, with 600,000 visitors expected to arrive annually.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

The government has focused its spending on social services and preventive health services. There is no organized social welfare system. Assistance is traditionally provided through the extended family. Employees are entitled to medical and maternity leave.

In spite of traditional Islamic restrictions on the role of women, they have increased their participation in public life. Under the terms of the constitution, men and women are considered equal before the law. Women usually receive pay equal to men in similar positions. A Gender Equality Council was created to assist the government in strengthening the role of women in society. However, Islamic law discriminates against women in matters of divorce and inheritance. Women are less able to initiate and obtain a divorce. Few women choose to participate in politics, largely because of tradition and custom. Violence against women and domestic abuse were not widespread problems. Penalties for rape include flogging and banishment. Although children's rights are explicit in law and provisions are in place to protect children from abuse, education is not compulsory. Female children are much more likely to be withdrawn from school than boys.

Human rights violations by the government include arbitrary arrest and detention and infringement of the freedoms of assembly, association, the press, and religion.

HEALTH

As of 2004, there were an estimated 78 physicians, 123 nurses, and 185 midwives per 100,000 people. There is a relatively modern 86-bed hospital in Malé, backed by a 12-bed regional hospital and medical rescue services in the outlying atolls, and the new Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

In 2002 the estimated fertility rate was 5.4. It was estimated that 30% of children under five were underweight. The under five mortality rate has improved greatly during the last decades. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 37.4 and 7.86 per 1,000 people, respectively. Life expectancy was estimated at 64.06 years, as of 2005, and the infant mortality rate was 56.52 per 1,000 live births. Around 96% of the country's children had been vaccinated against measles. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 100 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

Safe water is available to urban dwellers. Four desalination plants were completed by 1988 and a nationwide project is providing sewage systems to the atolls. Approximately 88% of the population had access to safe water and 40% had access to adequate sanitation. Malaria and diarrheal diseases have been drastically reduced. Water-borne disease epidemics have occurred, often caused by contamination of wells.

HOUSING

Some of the houses on Malé are built in imitation of those in Colombo. Most residential units throughout the country have brick walls, some of which are also plastered, and roofs of galvanized metal sheets. The poorest homes are made from thatch and sticks. According to a 2000 housing census, there were about 43,556 residential units nationwide. About 96% were detached dwellings and around 325 were apartments. The average dwelling size is from three to six rooms. About 48% of all dwellings were built from 19902000. Nearly 68% of the population relies on rain water as a primary source of water; 43% of all dwellings have septic tanks. About 84% of households have electric lighting, but firewood and oil are the primary heating and cooking fuels.

EDUCATION

Primary level education is for seven years and secondary education is for five years. Education is compulsory for seven years. There are three streams of Maldivian education: traditional religious schools (makhtabs ), which teach the Koran (Quran), basic arithmetic, and the ability to read and write Divehi; modern Divehi-language primary schools; and modern English-language schools. Primary and secondary schooling is based on the British educational system. Distance educational courses and educational programs on the radio are also provided.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 92% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 51% of age-eligible students. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was about 20:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 15:1.

Maldivians must go abroad for higher education. In the 1990s, the government began making large investments in secondary, vocational, and postsecondary education. Currently the Science Education Center in Malé provides pre-university courses, and the center may evolve into a university. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 96.3%.

As of 2003, public expenditures on education were estimated at 3.7% of GDP, or 11.2% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

A National Library, founded in 1945, is the only nationally funded public library in the country; it contains over 35,000 volumes. Most primary and secondary schools have small libraries; these facilities suffered major damage during the 2004 tsunami and reconstruction and restocking was underway in 2005. There are a few private libraries in the country, including two health libraries: one at the Institute of Health and another at the main hospital in the country. The Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Finance have small libraries as well. A National Museum was founded in 1952 in Malé to conserve and display historical items.

MEDIA

Inter-atoll communication is through a network of high-frequency transceivers; within atolls, communication between islands and with boats is by walkie-talkie. A satellite earth station was installed in 1977 to facilitate external communications. In 2002, there were 28,700 mainline phones and 41,900 mobile phones in use nationwide.

The Voice of Maldives has been transmitting radio broadcasts since 1962 in Divehi and English. Television Maldives is the country's only television station. As of 2005, there were two radio station and one television station, all government owned. In 1999, there were 35,000 radios and 10,00 television sets throughout the country. In 2002, there were 15,000 Internet subscribers.

There are two major daily newspapers, Aafathis (2002 circulation 300) and Haveeru Daily (circulation 4,500). Both papers are published in Divehi and English. As of 2001, there were about 200 other newspapers and periodicals in circulation.

The Penal Code prohibits speech against Islam or the government, though it is said that journalists are more self-confident than in the past and that self-censorship has abated. There are legal prohibitions on the import of foreign publications.

ORGANIZATIONS

Several sport clubs and a Muslim religious organization operate in Malé. The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also in Malé along with the Maldives Traders' Association. The Maldives National Youth Council was formed in 1984 to assist in organizing national programs for youth. Scouting programs are available for youth as well as through the Scout Association of Maldives and the Girl Guides. The Society for Health Education in Malé addresses concerns of health and social welfare.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

The principal industry and leading foreign exchange earner, tourism, was damaged in 2004 when a tsunami hit some of the islands of Maldives. Although there was damage to various hotels and tourism facilities, much of the tourism infrastructure remains intact.

Natural attractions are crystal-clear lagoons and white sand beaches that are ideal for swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Modern, one- and two-story tourist facilities have been built on various otherwise uninhabited islands, mainly in the Malé atoll but also in neighboring atolls. Developed with European, Sri Lankan, and Indian assistance and part ownership, such resorts are confined to these individual islands, thus allowing the conservative Islamic government to profit from the presence of foreign tourists while shielding its citizens from the presence and consumption of alcoholic beverages and other un-Islamic holiday practices of tourists. Maldivian resort workers maintain their homes and families on other islands, and non-Maldiviansoften Sri Lankansare hired to serve the alcohol. Passports are required of all visitors, as are yellow fever vaccination certificates for those arriving from infected areas.

In 2003, there were 563,593 tourist arrivals. Hotel rooms numbered 8,557, with 17,114 beds and an occupancy rate of 77%. The average length of stay was eight nights.

FAMOUS MALDIVIANS

Ibn Battutah (Muhammad bin 'Abdallah bin Battutah, b.Tangier, 130477), the remarkable Arab traveler and geographer, lived in the Maldives for several years, served as a quadi there, and married the daughter of a Maldivian vizier. Sultan Iskandar Ibrahim I, who reigned for nearly 40 years during the 17th century, had the Hukuru Miskit (the principal mosque on Malé Island) built in 1674. Modern-day leaders include Amir Ibrahim Nasir (b.1926) and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (b.1937).

DEPENDENCIES

Maldives has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Forbes, Andrew. Maldives: Kingdom of a Thousand Isles. Leicester, Eng.: Cordee, 2002.

Haq, Khadija. Crisis of Government in South Asia. New York: Mahbub ul Haq Foundation, 1999.

Reynolds, C. H. B. Maldives. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1993.

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Maldives

MALDIVES

Republic of Maldives

Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

A series of 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (a ring-shaped coral reef enclosing a lagoon) located in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has an area of less than 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) and a total coastline of 644 kilometers (400 miles). The islands form a narrow chain 820 kilometers (510 miles) in length and 130 kilometers (81 miles) in width within an area of 90,000 square kilometers (34,749 square miles) of ocean. Of these islands, around 200 are inhabited and 85 are tourist resorts. Comparatively, the area occupied by the Maldives is about 1.7 times the size of Washington, D.C. The capital city island, Malé, is located within Malé atoll, which is in the center of the strip of islands that makes up the Maldives. The Maldives is the smallest country in Asia.

POPULATION.

From a 1980 level of 155,300, the population of the Maldives was estimated at 301,475 in July 2000. With the 2000 population growth rate at 3.06 percent per annum (one of the highest population growth rates in the world), by 2010 the Maldives population is expected to have almost doubled. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 38.96 per 1,000, while the death rate was 8.32 deaths per 1,000. With the continuation of a similar population growth rate, the population of the Maldives will fail to stabilize for at least another 50 years.

More than 200 of the 1,190 islands in the Maldives are inhabited, of which only 5 islands have a population of more than 3,000. The majority have a population of 500 or less. Nonetheless, the country has a very high population density of 916 people per square kilometer. Twenty-six percent of Maldivians live on the overcrowded capital island of Malé, with an average of 10 persons per household compared with a national average of 6.5. The implications of the country's high population growth and density are severe. The traditional construction material, coral, is near its point of full depletion. More importantly, the fresh water held beneath the soil surface is in rapid decline. This means that the Maldives faces the prospect of importing a large percentage of its water needs to support the growing population, unless there are fast developments in desalination services on the islands.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

The Maldives government has followed a policy of free market economy, making it one of the most liberal in the developing world. This has had considerable benefits. The promotion of a favorable economic climate has assisted the economy's inflow of foreign direct investment . This doubled from an annual average inflow of $5 million between 1988 and 1993 to $10 million in 1999. But with the economy's high level of dependence on just 2 economic sectorsfisheries and tourismit is highly susceptible to constant fluctuations on world markets. Total dependence on imports to supply a number of its sectors, such as textile manufactures and tourist supplies, means that the rise and fall of the rufiyaa on international money markets can significantly affect the competitiveness of exports and cost of imports. The simultaneous decline of fisheries exports and influx of tourists in the early 1990s led to a serious deficit in the national balance of payments that required the government to introduce unpopular cuts in public spending.

Compared to the other Maldives, Malé is highly developed. Some of the other islands have benefited from the carry-over effects of the tourism sector, the availability of arable land, or from the collection service for fish catches provided by the government. However, the geographical isolation of a significant number of islands means that their access to the productive sectors of the economy and to social services is very limited. The government has initiated a set of policies to address these disparities and spent 28.7 percent of its 1999 budget on atoll development. This was done in part to take the strain off the high population density in Malé and also to allow more of the outlying population access to the strategic economic situation of the capital. One example is Villingili, a nearby former resort island, which was transformed into a residential island with a commercial harbor. It now supports around 15,000 Maldivians. A similar government policy is to provide infrastructure and facilities to regional centers throughout the atolls to encourage people to move from isolated islands to local commercial focal points and develop the economy in a more unified trajectory.

Although the Maldives has benefited considerably from growth over the past 20 years, there are a number of factors that act as considerable limitations on the continued sustainable development of the economy. For example, the exploitation of coral for construction purposes is at such a level that it is estimated that all of the reefs in the north Malé atoll will be depleted by 2014. National debt has risen considerably, from $13 million in 1979 to $203 million in 1999. Rising population growth and such factors as the rise of tourism and the mechanization of the fishing fleet has meant that imports have risen significantly, especially for such commodities as petroleum products. Consequently, whereas exports only rose from $8 million in 1980 to $64 million in 1999, imports expanded from $29 million to $402 million. Although the total national balance of payments remained at an annual average of $7 million in credit between 1994 and 1999, the serious drain of imported goods limits the potential of reinvestment and development on the islands.

The Maldives Ministry of Planning and National development emphasizes the government's "international reputation for its high-level commitment to environmental protection, demonstrating its readiness to subordinate short-term economic gain to environmental conservation." This progressive policy-orientation entails a number of factors of self-interest ranging from the desire to maintain the country's natural beauty to continue enticing tourists, to the more serious issue of 80 percent of the land elevation being less than 1 meter above sea level. This means that the islands will be even more susceptible to storms and rising sea levels if the projected consequences of the "greenhouse effect" are realized.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

The formation of the Maldives as a political entity is generally dated from the period of conversion to Islam in the 1100s. This makes the Maldives one of the oldest surviving small states in the world. Unlike most other countries in the region, the Maldives was not subject to the overt domination of foreign powers. This is most likely due to the problems of navigating the sea around and within the islands as, without a high level of knowledge of the dangers of the reefs and shallow lagoons, ships would often be smashed or grounded. The Portuguese managed to rule the Maldives for a period of 17 years in the mid-1500s. They were soon thwarted in their dominance by a guerrilla war assisted by the Rajah of Cannanore in what is now India. Various sultans then ruled the Maldives unhindered, until Sultan Muhammad Muenuddin entered into an agreement with the British in 1887. The British, whose empire extended throughout South Asia, made the Maldives a British protectorate in return for the payment of tribute.

After a gradual rise in its level of sovereignty, the Maldives became fully independent of Britain on 26 July 1965. Three years after, a national referendum saw 80 percent of votes cast call for the abolition of the hereditary sultanate in favor of a republic, although the country's status as an Islamic state remained. This included civil law being subject to Sharia (Islamic law) which remained in place by mid-2001. Although the executive position of sultan was abolished, the office of the president wields similarly large powers. (The president is required to be a male Sunni Muslim.) The president is the head of state, the supreme authority defending the national faith of Islam, the chief executive, and commander-in-chief of the military. And not only does he have the power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet of ministers, but he can dismiss them too. Amir Ibrahim Nasir, formerly the prime minister under the sultan, was elected president in 1968. Nasir ruled until the 1978 elections, when he cited poor health and did not stand for office. He instead left for Singapore after the new president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, initiated investigations into Nasir's alleged misappropriation of government revenues.

President Gayoom was re-elected in 1998 for a fifth consecutive 5-year term with the support of 90.9 percent of votes cast. In each election, he ran unopposed presidential candidates are selected by the Citizens' Majlis (parliament) and posed to the people in a simple "for" or "against" referendum. The Majlis itself consists of 48 members, 8 of whom are selected by the president, while voters in the Maldives' 20 administrative atoll districts elect the rest (2 members per district). In November 1988, Tamil mercenaries from Sri Lanka, in collusion with some Maldivian nationals, attempted to overthrow the government. However, President Gayoom appealed to India for military assistance, which swiftly foiled the rebels.

The Maldives electoral system has received criticism for being limited, unfair, and unrepresentative. For example, Freedom House (the U.S. political liberties and civil rights advocacy group) classified the Maldives in 2000 as "Not Free." Amnesty International (a London-based human rights organization) has reported the detention of a number of politically motivated prisoners. Gayoom himself is often cited as authoritarian. In a country profile on the Maldives, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) suggested that Gayoom "has been accused of heading a small heredity elite which holds decisive power and which uses intimidation to discourage political activity." However, the government addresses these criticisms by maintaining that this limited style of democracy provides a stable and consistent form of rule that also acts to protect the basic tenets of the nation's Muslim faith. Maldives' brand of Islam is among the most emancipated of current Islamic states. This is exemplified by the Maldives' comparatively high rating in the Gender-related Development Index.

The Maldives government receives the majority of its revenues through direct taxation and the earnings of state-owned enterprise and property. There is no income tax . Import duties provided 63 percent of government tax revenues in 1997, while various taxes on the lucrative tourism sector accounted for 27 percent of tax revenues. Key non-tax revenue sources are government-owned property, such as resort islands which are leased to tour operators, and the profits from public enterprise, such as the regular collection of fisheries produce, which provided 46 percent of total government revenues in 1997.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

The Maldives transportation infrastructure is very limited. The capital city island, Malé, has 9.6 kilometers (6 miles) of coral highways. Due to their small size and the tiny amount of cars throughout the rest of the islands, the total quantity of roads is not known. There are no railways in the Maldives. Since the tourism boom of the 1970s, the availability and frequency of inter-island transportation has considerably improved. While the cheapest and most common mode of transport used by Maldivians are dhonis (wooden all-purpose water taxis/fishing boats), tourists and the wealthy have the option of using private seaplanes, helicopters, and speedboats. When travelling on an island, the majority of people use bicycles or motorbikes, although there are a limited number of cars and taxis in use on the more populated and larger islands.

When Malé International Airport on Hulhule Island (2.5 miles from Malé) was opened in 1981, it caused a considerable rise in tourist arrivals. While improved air transportation has benefited the tourism sector, international sea cargo remains very important. Malé's port can intake around 200,000 tons of cargo per year and offers shipping services to and from Europe and a large portion of Asia. With its fleet of 7 cargo boats and 1 container vessel, Maldives National Shipping Ltd. handles about 60 percent of the country's imports.

Communications
Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Maldives 21,000 (1999) 1,290 AM 1; FM 1; shortwave 1 35,000 (1999) 1 10,000 (1999) 1 2,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
India 27.7 M (October 2000) 2.93 M (2000) AM 153; FM 91; shortwave 68 116 M 562 63 M 43 4.5 M
Sri Lanka 494,509 (1998) 228,604 (1999) AM 26; FM 45; shortwave 1 3.85 M 21 1.53 M 5 65,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

The parastatals the Maldives Electricity Bureau and the State Electricity Company (STELCO) provide power throughout over 95 percent of the Maldives inhabited islands. Tourist resort islands are required by the government to supply independent energy supplies, this is generally via oil-fuelled generators. However, wood accounts for 55 percent of total domestic energy consumption and is mainly used in households for cooking purposes.

Telecommunications facilities are of an excellent quality in Malé and throughout most of the tourist islands. By 2001, the government had successfully extended the availability of telephones throughout the vast majority of inhabited islands. Telecommunications are provided through a joint venture between the government and the British company, Cable and Wireless. By 1999, there were 8.1 Internet hosts per 100,000 people.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The Republic of Maldives' economic sectors reflect the very small size of the population, a limited infrastructure principally caused by the country's division across hundreds of tiny islands, a low level of skilled labor, and the very limited level of agricultural potential and mineral resources. Consequently there are severe limits on domestic markets and the availability of land on those islands that are inhabited. Nonetheless, the country's situation as a series of small isolated islands works more positively as a strategic trading point, a tourist destination, and as an excellent base for tapping the Indian Ocean's abundant fish stocks.

The Maldives economy consists of 3 main sectors trade, tourism, and fisheries. Although the fisheries sector was historically the primary source of national employment and economic activity, the rise of tourism in the 1970s caused it to become the third most important economic sector by 2001.

AGRICULTURE

Traditional agricultural production in the Maldives is limited by poor soil, a low level of arable land, and a geographically split landmass which disallows large-scale commercial farming. In 1995, only 3,000 hectares of arable land was under permanent crops. There are, however, a number of crops grown for domestic consumption. These include coconuts, bananas, breadfruit, other exotic fruits, betel, chiles, sweet potatoes, and onions.

FISHERIES.

Until the development of the tourist industry, the fisheries sector was the Maldives principle economic activity and source of export earnings. In 2000, the sector employed about 20 percent of the national workforce and acted as the main source of livelihood for a majority of Maldivians. In addition, it is the second largest source of foreign exchange and provides more than 10 percent of GDP. The government established the Maldives Fishing Corporation in 1979 to exploit the country's vast fisheries resource.

The use of fishing nets is illegal, and as a result, the more labor intensive traditional method of fishing by line and pole dominates. Nonetheless, the productivity of the fisheries sector has improved considerably during the 1990s. Although traditional small boats made of coconut wood remain in use, most are used in conjunction with outboard motors. The mechanization of the fishing fleet has been combined with the introduction of Fish Aggregating Devices (which allow the detection of shoals of fish). This meant that the nominal catch of fish in the Maldives expanded from 71,245 metric tons in 1989 to 118,183 tons in 1998. The opening of the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone in the early 1990s meant that more Maldivian vessels were fishing in the sea around the islands. In fact, this zone allowed Maldivian fishermen to tap into a range of around 330 kilometers (200 miles). With the decline of fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, the price of fish on international markets seems likely to continue rising into the 21st century, although the subsequent increased pressure on Indian Ocean fish stocks threatens one of the foundations of the Maldives economy.

INDUSTRY

The Maldives industrial sector is small. Traditional industries are still in place. For example, women collect cowrie shells (the former national currency) for export. They weave the labor-intensive coir rope from coconut husks, which is a very strong, flexible and waterproof rope. Male carpenters build the traditional fishing boats (dhonis) from coconut trees, which can last up to 20 years. However, more modern developments have occurred in the Maldives industrial sector.

CANNING.

The Maldives' primary industry is the canning and processing of fish. In 1998, $19.06 million of canned fish, predominantly tuna, was exported. The development of the Felivaru Tuna Fish Cannery in the early 1990s was a key factor in the modernization of this industry. The export of dried, smoked, and salted fish constituted an additional $9.07 million of exports in 1998. This constitutes a significant enterprise for levels of employment and national income, although it remains a more traditional industry. The canning industry is expected to continue to thrive and replace more traditional fish exports with the opening of the Kooddoo Fisheries Complex, which included large refrigeration facilities.

MANUFACTURING.

The development of manufacturing is limited by the low level of domestic demand, limited skilled labor, and the lack of national resources. This means that many material and labor inputs into domestic goods rely heavily on imports. The economy has diversified into the production of clothing, both for domestic consumption and for export. In 1989, garment exports amounted to $10 million. Because of government initiatives, this had more than doubled to $25 million by 1999.

However, garment factories (some with U.S. investment) rely almost exclusively on the import of materials for the manufacture of their goods. The competitiveness of finished products is reduced due to the costs of passing through multiple tariff boundaries. In an attempt to address this problem, the government has granted duty-free status on the import of fabrics and similar materials essential in the production of clothing and apparel. The government is keen to follow this policy, as it wishes to improve the amount of foreign exchange earnings and, in a similar vein, to create jobs for an ever-expanding and very young population. Other low-level manufactures that have developed in the Maldives through the 1990s are the production of PVC piping, soap, and food products. Between 1989-2000, the average annual growth of the manufacturing sector was 9.4 percent.

SERVICES

TOURISM.

The Maldives' principal assets are its beauty, geographical isolation, and rich marine resources. When an Italian entrepreneur set up some uninhabited islands as resorts for foreign visitors in the early 1970s, the tourism sector began to develop very rapidly. Tourists come to spend time relaxing in one of the Maldives' 85 idyllic resort islands. A key pastime for tourists is diving in the cleanest ocean in the world amongst more than 1,000 species of fish, constituting one of world's most species-rich marine areas.

The influx of tourists to the Maldives has been increasing steadily since the 1970s. In 1993, 241,020 tourists travelled to experience the beauty of the Maldives, and by 1997, this number had risen nearly 50 percent to 365,563. Of these, the vast majority came from Western Europe, Japan, and from nearby countries in South Asia. The increase in tourist arrivals has significantly improved the country's receipts from tourism, which increased from $146 million in 1993 to $286 million in 1997. The recent purchase of resorts by the multinational hotel groups, Hilton and Four Seasons, is a clear indication of the projected growth of the Maldives' tourism sector. Yet the cultural effect of foreign influences has been controlled by the government policy of restricting tourist access to resort islands, unless they specifically apply for permission. Also, no Maldivians have their permanent residence on resort islands. The purpose of this is to maintain the population's apparent cultural unity as based upon the Islamic faith.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

The Maldives is increasingly relying upon imports. This is due to a lack of agricultural production and fossil fuel resources, a growing population and household incomes, and the high influx of tourists since the 1970s who demand certain foodstuffs and luxuries. In 1977, imports totalled $11.1 million, whereas by 1998 they had boomed to $354 million. The Maldives receives its imports from a wide range of countries. The European Union countries supplied $65 million in 1998, of which the 2 largest partners, the UK and the Netherlands, provided $18.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively. In the same year, Singapore

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Maldives
Exports Imports
1975 .003 .007
1980 .008 .029
1985 .023 .053
1990 .052 .138
1995 .050 .268
1998 .076 .354
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

supplied $40.9 million in imports, India $39.3 million, Malaysia $34.9 million, Sri Lanka $30.9 million, the United Arab Emirates $23.8 million, Japan $22.3 million, and the United States $19.1 million.

Maldivian exports totalled $76.2 million in 1998 a considerable growth from a 1977 level of $4.8 million. The main destination was the EU countries, which consumed $20.1 million. The UK was the primary partner here and purchased $14.7 million in Maldivian exports, Germany imported $5.1 million. Exports to the United States totalled $15.7 million, nearby Sri Lanka $13.1 million, Japan $10.9 million, and Thailand $9.8 million.

The Republic of Maldives is an active member of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), whose other members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Of these countries, the Maldives can boast the second highest GDP growth in the 1990s and the highest level of average individual incomes.

MONEY

There is no stock market in the Maldives, although at times some of the larger parastatals issue shares. According to the CIA World Factbook 2001, the national currency has had a fixed exchange rate since 1995 when it was pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of Rf11.77:US$1. This contributed to a low inflation rate of 3 percent in 1998. As a result, the price of consumer goods has remained fairly consistent, and the cost of living is steady. The Maldives Monetary Authority regulates the banking system and the money supply. It also functions as the central bank.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Throughout the 1990s, nearly all of the available measures used to classify sustainable human development indicated that there had been considerable positive progression in the material and social conditions in the

Exchange rates: Maldives
rufiyaa (Rf) per US$1
2001 11.770
2000 11.770
1999 11.770
1998 11.770
1997 11.770
1996 11.770
Note: Currency has had a fixed rate since 1995.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Maldives N/A N/A 650 917 1,247
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
India 222 231 270 331 444
Sri Lanka 382 452 536 590 802
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

lives of Maldivians. The United Nations Development Program has marked the Maldives out as being one of just two countries in the South Asian region to be a medium human development country. Between 1977 and 1995, the life expectancy of the average Maldivian increased by 20 years to 71 years, which is a remarkable level for a developing country.

Despite that, it is estimated by the Maldives Ministry of Planning and National Development that almost 50 percent of children suffer, to different degrees, from stunting and wasting in their physical development. This is due to malnutrition in the more remote and less easily accessible islands. This is mainly caused by limited agricultural potential and the high cost of imports. Consequently, the majority of Maldivians consume a relatively restricted range of foodstuffs, with rice, fish, and coconut being the staples. A 1993 survey found that less than 30 percent of children ate fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, the annual average intake of protein rose from 69 grams (1980-82) to 94.6 grams (1995-97), and over the same period caloric intake improved from 2,194.3 to 2,505.1.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The Maldives is not a member of the International Labor Organisation. Although the national constitution does not explicitly bar the formation of trade unions, they do not exist in the Maldives. This is partly due to the lack of the legal right to stage strikes or engage in collective bargaining processes. Also, most workers are employed outside of the formal sector. In fact, due to the low recognition of workers' rights by the Maldives government, in 1995 the United States temporarily suspended the Maldives' tariff preferences within the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences.

While enrollment at primary schools is very high (98 percent in 1999), secondary school enrollment is only about 50 percent of the relevant age group. This results from having only 2 secondary schools outside of Malé (even though the government spent 17.6 percent of its 1999 budget on education). This not only has the effect of limiting secondary education to the more wealthy tiers of Maldivian society but acts against equal educational opportunities for girls. Girls are considerably more socially restricted in their movement than boys and have fewer employment opportunities. In addition, a recent UNDP survey found that there were only around 250 Maldivians with university degrees. The end result is that professional, skilled, and even semi-skilled workers are lacking in the Maldives. For example, 70 percent of primary and secondary school teachers are foreign workers. The total amount of imported labor grew from 2,000 in 1986 to 18,500 in 1995, which places an additional drain on already sparse foreign exchange reserves .

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

12TH CENTURY. The population adopts the Islamic faith.

1558. The Portuguese colonize the islands (only to be driven out in 1573).

17TH CENTURY. Maldives becomes a protectorate under the Dutch rulers of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

1887. The British officially declared the Maldives a protectorate.

1965. The Maldives become fully independent on 26 July.

1968. A national referendum votes in favor of the abolition of the sultanate in favor of a republic. Amir Ibrahim Nasir is elected president.

1978. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is elected president.

1981. Maldives Monetary Authority is established and Malé International Airport is opened.

1988. Coup attempt by Tamil mercenaries is successfully halted with the aid of Indian forces.

1998. Gayoom is re-elected as president for the fifth consecutive term.

FUTURE TRENDS

In mid-2001, the two most important issues in the continued development of the Maldives are the partly linked factors of population growth and anticipated global environment problems. If projected population growth proves correct (a doubling of late 1990s levels by 2010), there will simply not be enough jobs in the country to employ the country's young people. Slightly less than 50 percent of the population are under 15 years old and the Maldives future will be dominated by the effects of a large proportion of young people entering the labor market, with estimated annual levels of 5,000 new job seekers looking for work. Similarly, population growth exerts considerable strain on already highly depleted reserves of potable water and building materials (particularly coral). Moreover, if pollution in the world's ecosystem continues to have the effect of raising the temperate of global climates thereby increasing sea-levels (a phenomenon know as the "greenhouse effect"), then the majority of the low-level land mass of the Maldives will simply disappear.

On a more positive note, the economy has consistently grown throughout the 1990s, and foreign investment is on the increase. With the decline of stocks of fish in most of the world's other oceans, the Maldives' access to the rich fish reserves of the Indian Ocean means that this industry will remain of significant importance, especially if the modernizing trend in the domestic canning and refrigeration of fish continues. In addition, except for some slight drops in tourism receipts during the financial crises of the late 1990s, the tourism sector is likely to continue to grow as is indicated by the recent investment of multinational hotel groups there.

DEPENDENCIES

Maldives has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amnesty International. Amnesty International: Report 2000. London: Amnesty International, 2000.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Country Profile: The Maldives. <http://news.bbc.co.uk//hi/english/world/south_asia/country_profiles/newsid_11660000/1166511.stm> Accessed May 2001.

Camerapix. Spectrum Guide to the Maldives, Nairobi: Camerapix,1993.

Ciment, J., and I. Ness, The Encyclopaedia of Global Population and Demographics, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999.

De Laroque, T., with R. Ellis. Toni The Maldive Lady: My Story. Singapore: Times Editions, 1999.

Ellis, K. Introduction to the Maldives. Hong Kong: Odyssey, 1991.

The Far East and Australasia 2001. 32nd edition. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

Freedom House. Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties 1999-2000. New York: Freedom House, 2000.

Foreign Investment Services Bureau, Ministry of Trade, Industries and Labor . <http://www.investmaldives.com>. Accessed May 2001.

Food and Agriculture Organisation. FAO Yearbook: Trade: Vol.52, 1998. Rome: FAO, 1999.

. Fishery Statistics: Capture Production: Vol. 86/1, 1998. Rome: FAO, 2000.

. Fishery Statistics: Commodities: Vol. 87, 1998. Rome:FAO, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2000. Washington D.C.: IMF, 2000

Ministry of Planning and National Development, Republic of Maldives. Country Strategy Note: A Strategy for the United Nations Development System in Maldives. (Malé: Republic of Maldives, November 1998). <http://www.mv.undp.org>. Accessed May 2001.

Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Maldives. <http://www.visitmaldives.com>. Accessed May 2001.

United Nations. International Trade Statistics Yearbook, 1998. New York: United Nations, 1999.

United Nations. Statistical Yearbook Forty-Fourth Issue. NewYork: United Nations, 2000.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). World Investment Report 2000: Cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions and Development. Geneva: United Nations, 2000.

United Nations Development Programme. <http://www.undp.org>.Accessed May 2001.

United Nations Development Programme in the Republic of Maldives. <http://www.mv.undp.org>. Accessed May 2001.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Asia-Pacific in Figures, 14th edition. New York: United Nations, February 2001.

Upham, M. Trade Unions of the World. 4th edition. London: Cartermill, 1996.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook. <http:// www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. <http://www.eia.doe .gov/emeu/cabs/maldives.html>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Financial Year 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Maldives. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2000/sa/maldives_ccg2000.pdf>. Accessed May 2001.

World Bank. Maldives Data Profile and Maldives at a Glance. <http://www.worldbank.org>. Accessed May 2001.

Liam Campling

CAPITAL:

Malé.

MONETARY UNIT:

Rufiyaa (Rf). One rufiyaa equals 100 laari. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 laari, and 1 and 2 rufiyaa. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 rufiyaa.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Fish products, clothing.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Consumer goods, intermediate and capital goods, petroleum products.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$540 million (1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$92 million (1999 est.). Imports: US$402 million (1999 est.). [ CIA World Factbook indicates exports at US$98 million (1998) and imports at US$312 million (1998).]

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Maldives

MALDIVES

Republic of Maldives

Major City:
Malé

Other Cities:
Baa Atoll, Seenu Atoll

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Maldives. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of MALDIVES , an independent chain of islands in the northern Indian Ocean about 417 miles southwest of Sri Lanka and 300 miles from the southernmost tip of India, was a sultanate under British protection until 1965. Its experience with foreign influences has been limited and, until recently, its principal economic link was through ties with Sri Lanka. During its years as a British protectorate, it was administered under the sovereignty of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In June 1985, the Republic of Maldives became a full member of the Commonwealth.

MAJOR CITY

Malé

Malé, the capital the Maldives, is an island about one-and-a-half square miles in total area, occupying a central position in the archipelago. Land is slowly being reclaimed on the island's north side. All government offices, the four main government schools, and the single hospital are also here. The commercial district has a wide variety of small shops selling curios, antiques, sea shells, and other goods. Many of the imported items are transported by the 40 vessel Maldivian merchant marine fleet. Malé also has an attractive park, Sultan Park, and a museum with artifacts from the Arab, Dravidian, and Sri Lankan cultures which have influenced the history of this island republic.

Malé's population is about 68,000 (2000 est.). The city is densely populated and there is very little public open space. It is feasible to walk to places within the small urban area. The city is a free port; no duties are levied on articles brought here by visitors, but certain items must be declared at customs. Since the Maldives is a Muslim country, no pork products or liquor may be imported. Tourist islands in the chain, however, often offer pork and liquor for sale to tourists only.

The Maldives international airportMalé Internationalis situated on Hululé Island, adjacent to the capital city; there also are three domestic airports.

Education in government-run schools is free in the republic, but is not compulsory. Western-style education based on the British Commonwealth curriculum exists in Malé only to the high school level; studies beyond high school must be pursued abroad. Most teachers are experienced Maldivian and Sri Lankan nationals. The medium of instruction is both Divehi and English.

Clothing

Warm clothing is never required. Cotton dresses, trousers, skirts, and lightweight tropical suits are the most comfortable year-round attire. Some ready-made clothing, notably shirts, jeans, trousers, dresses and blouses, T-shirts, underwear, rubber sandals, and infants wear, are increasingly available, but only in small sizes and often expensive for the quality. A variety of high-quality synthetic materials is available and relatively inexpensive. Pure cotton cloth, which suits the climate best, is available.

The correct dress for men in offices is trousers with either a shirt and tie or a bush shirt; shoes are preferred to sandals. Women wear slacks, or dresses with knee-length hemlines and short sleeves to offices in Malé.

Food

Most necessary items can be found on the market, although in varying degrees of availability. Many types of inexpensive fresh fish appear daily (except Friday), but the most common are tuna, bonito, and seer. It is possible to arrange occasional supplies of spiny lobster and turtle meat. Poultry and eggs are always available. Fresh meat is available, but dairy products are not.

Fruits such as papayas, limes, bananas, and coconuts are always on the market; one variety of mango is available in season. Tropical yellow vegetables usually can be obtained; potatoes and onions are found intermittently. Fresh green vegetables are imported and available year round.

Good-quality white loaf bread is baked daily. A variety of canned and bottled goods gradually is becoming more common in shops. Nespray powdered milk and tinned cheese, cream, and condensed milk are nearly always sold locally. Frozen meat is available, as is ice cream. Coca-Cola and 7-Up in cans and other soft drinks are available. Beer, wine, spirits, and other drinks containing alcohol are not sold commercially because of local religious customs.

Supplies & Services

The Maldives has a few laundries and no dry cleaning shops. Shoe repair facilities are fair. Imported, high-quality goods are expensive and scarce. Spare parts for household articles must be imported. Electricians' and plumbers' services are available and are of fair quality. Hairdressers and barbers charge moderate rates. Inexpensive domestic help is available, but experienced, well-qualified servants are scarce. Language and customs differences can create problems.

Recreation

Maléhas one or two good restaurants. Four hotels, an Italian restaurant, and the tourist island restaurants provide some diversion in entertainment. Sports such as swimming, scuba diving, windsurfing, and sailing are readily available.

The Maldives are renowned for their beautiful beaches.

The Ministry of Tourism is located in the Ghaazee Building, Malé 20-05, Republic of Maldives.

OTHER CITIES

BAA ATOLL is located north of Malé with a population of about 9,600 (2000 est.). The atoll is actually made up of about 50 different islands. At least five of them have major tourist resorts. The others are undeveloped, but open to visitors looking for a relaxing place to hike or swim. In fact, some of the resorts will organize day trips to the various islands. Divers and snorkellers will enjoy the pristine coral reefs around the islands and perhaps a chance see the mantas and whale sharks that share the waters. Several shops display and sell locally made laquerware and hand woven garments, particularly the "feyli," a traditional wraparound skirt. From the island of Goidhoo, history buffs can learn about the 1602 shipwreck of the French ship "Corbin." Leg-ends say that several castaways and exiles once made Goidhoo their homes.

SEENU ATOLL (also known as Addoo Atoll), is a small, heart-shaped island at the southernmost edge of the Maldives. Diving and snorkeling are popular in the area, where a long outer fringe of reefs are complimented by a number of caves and overhangs that provide homes for turtles and nurse sharks. Mantas may also be seen in the waters. Divers can also see the remains of the "British Royalty," a ship torpedoed by the Japanese in Addoo harbor and later sunk by the British. On land, there is one major resort and travelers can bike through the streets of Hithadhoo, the islands capital, or browse through the many shops located there.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

A chain of 19 atolls with a total area of 115 square miles, the Maldives extends a distance of 500 miles north to south.

The atolls comprise 1,190 coral islands, 199 of which are inhabited. The islets are small (none larger than five square miles in area) and seldom exceed an elevation of five or six feet above sea level. The tropical vegetation varies from grass and scrub to dense woods of fruit trees or coconut palms.

The climate is hot and humid, with little daily variation; the average temperature is 80°F and the relative humidity 80%. Most of the area is subject to the southwest monsoon (June to August) and the northeast monsoon (November to March); the annual rainfall averages 100 inches in the north and 150 inches in the south. Living conditions are not healthful in this warm, wet environment.

Population

The population of the Maldives is 310,400 (2000). Average annual growth rate is 3%. Approximately 200 of the Maldives' 1,200 islands are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the islands, but most heavily concentrated in Malé. Almost 75% of Maldivians live in rural areas. The nation is ethnically divided into admixtures of Sinhalese, Dravidian, and Arab. The Islamic faith was adopted by the Maldivian people during the 12th century. It is now the official religion; nearly 100% of the population are Sunni Muslims. Divehi is the official language, with English as a second tongue. The literacy rate is 93%.

Government

The Maldives has a republic form of government. A popularly-elected unicameral national legislature (Majlis ) consists of 50 members who serve five-year terms. There are two elected members from each atoll and the capital Malé and eight members who are appointed by the president. There are no political parties, so each candidate must run on the basis of personal qualifications.

The president is nominated for a five-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis, which requires confirmation by national referendum. President Mumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected in 1978 and reconfirmed by referendum in 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998.

The legal system is based on Islamic law, with English common law applied in commercial matters. An appointed chief justice is responsible for the administration of the former. No organized political parties exist.

The Maldives is a member of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as the following international bodies: Asian Development Bank, Colombo Plan, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Islamic Development Bank, Nonaligned Movement, and the World Bank.

Three countries have diplomatic representation in Malé: India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Maldives has representation abroad in more than 10 foreign cities, including Bangkok, Thailand; Brussels, Belgium; Tokyo, Japan; Vienna, Austria; and Washington, DC.

The flag of the Republic of Maldives is green with a white crescent, surrounded by a red border.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is free, but only 65% of school-age children are enrolled. Until 1976, all 16 existing schools were located in Malé; most were primary schools.

Three types of formal education are offered: traditional schools (makthabs ), which emphasize knowledge of the Koran (Qur'an); Divehi-language primary schools; and English-language primary and secondary schools, which teach a standard curriculum. The only higher education facility available is a teacher-training institute; most college-age students go abroad for schooling.

Commerce and Industry

The Maldives is one of the poorest and most undeveloped countries in the world. But in recent years, the economy of the Maldives has improved steadily. The gross domestic product (GDP) was $594 million in 2000, or about $2,000 per capita. Tourism and fishing are the most important sectors of the economy.

Tourism alone accounts for 20%-30% of GDP and over 60% of foreign exchange earnings. In 2000, there were 84 resorts in operation, with plans for expansion. Over 400,000 visitors were recorded in 2000.

The fishing industry employs 25% of the labor force and accounts for 60% of all exports. Considerable quantities of fish are exported to Japan. Dried fish is exported to Sri Lanka, where it is a delicacy. Canned tuna and dried fish exports accounted for about 53% of all marine product exports. This is quite an accomplishment considering that the use of nets is illegal. All fishing is done by line and pole. The fishing fleet usually consists of a number of small, flat-bottomed boats. Though, fishermen are now permitted to use outboard motors instead of just sails and oars.

The vegetation of the islands is coconut palms with some scrub. Cultivation of crops is virtually impossible, and nearly all food to supplement the basic fish diet has to be imported; Japan, the U.S., and Thailand are major trade partners.

One of the major problems facing the Maldives is a dwindling supply of fresh water and inadequate sewage treatment. Another environmental problem is associated with the reported rising of the world's sea level, which will gradually erode the coral foundation of the islands. Considering that none of the islands are more than six feet above sea level, the sea level is of great importance. Houses built from coral are now forbidden; cement must be imported for construction.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is located in the Ghaazee Building, Malé 20-05, Republic of Maldives.

Transportation

Five international airlines serve Malé International; also, charter flights are available from Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. Domestic flights are operated by Air Maldives Airways. Malé International is on Hululé Island and there is ferry service to all main islands.

There is little need for transportation on any of the islands since they are so small. All areas on Malé can be reached on foot. There are only a few hundred passenger cars in the Maldives. Limited taxi service is available in Malé; taxis cannot be hailed.

Transportation between the atolls depends mainly on local sailing boats.

Communications

International direct-dial phone calls and fax services are generally available and all 199 inhabited islands of the country have been provided with access to telephone services. Dhiraagu, the partially government owned telecommunications service provider, also provides Internet services. Mobile phone usage is increasing rapidly. There are over 10,000 mobile phone users in the Maldives with services available on 31 inhabited islands and 80 resorts islands.

Radio broadcasting on the Voice of Maldives began in 1962. Broadcasts are in Divehi and English. Television Maldives is the country's lone TV station. One Indian Ocean INTELSAT station serves the country.

There are two daily publications in Malé that are in Divehi and English: Aafathis and Haveeru. All publications must be approved by the government, those not sanctioned are banned.

Health

Clinical medical care in Malé is available at the government hospital, which also has two national dental assistants, one trained in Britain and one in Sri Lanka. Although the hospital itself is a superior small facility with excellent nursing care, most surgery or serious illnesses cannot be handled. Singapore is the nearest place giving first-class specialized care.

Maléhas no piped public water supply or sewage network. Ensuring an adequate water supply is a continuing and growing problem for the government. Sweet water is obtained from household wells and rain catchment; the well water is for general use and the rain catchment is for drinking. Houses rented to foreigners have individual compound septic tanks.

As in other tropical countries, the main health problems of the population are infectious diseases. Malaria, tuberculosis, filariasis, and leprosy are found; gastroenteritis, ear infections, measles, and skin diseases are common. It is necessary to boil and filter drinking water, and wise to avoid eating raw vegetables and unpeeled fruits. The incidence of mosquito-borne diseases is high.

Cholera and yellow fever vaccinations are required of arrivals from affected areas. Immunization against tetanus, typhoid, and poliomyelitis is recommended.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

A valid passport, along with an onward or return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visit visa valid for 30 days is issued upon arrival. If a traveler stays in a resort or hotel, the Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extensions of stays up to 90 days with evidence of sufficient funds. Anyone staying over 60 days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All travelers (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) departing the Republic of the Maldives must pay an airport departure tax.

Arrival by Private Boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance from the Ministry of Defense and National Security. The clearances can be obtained through local shipping agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian Immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka at No. 23, Kaviratne Place, Colombo 6, telephone (94) (1) 586-762/500-943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6195.

Maldivian customs authorities prohibit the importation of non-Islamic religious materials, including religious statues. Personal Bibles are permitted. The importation of pork and pork by-products is restricted. Dogs are not permitted, but visitors may bring their cats. (Many hotels and resorts do not allow pets; travelers should confirm a particular hotel's policy prior to arrival.) Items such as alcohol and religious items will be kept and held for bond until the traveler departs. Pornographic materials are banned, and they will be destroyed upon arrival in the country. A complete summary of custom regulations is available at http://www.customs.gov.mv/

There is no U.S. Embassy in Republic of Maldives, but the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka is also accredited to the Maldives. The former U.S. Consular Agency in Male closed on August 9, 1995. Americans living in or visiting the Maldives are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (1) 448-007. The Embassy's after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1) 448-601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)(1) 436-943. The Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the Consular Section is [email protected].

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The monetary unit used in the Maldives is the rufiyaa, which is equal to 100 laaris.

The Maldives operates on both the metric and imperial systems of weights and measures.

The time in the Maldives is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus five hours.

Special Circumstances

Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. All Maldivian citizens living in the Republic of Maldives are Moslem, and places of worship for adherents of other religions do not exist. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit of foreigners may practice its religion, including Bible readings, privately within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 7 National Day

July 26 & 27 Independence Day

Aug. 12 Huravee Day

Nov. 3 Victory Day

Nov. 11 & 12 Republic Day

Dec. 10 Fisheries Day

Ramadan

Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*

Hijra New Year*

Mawlid an Nabi*

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country: Bell, H.C.P. The Maldive Islands:

An Account of the Physical Features, Climate, History, Inhabitants, Production and Trade. Colombo: Government Printer, 1883.

Gray, A., ed. The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil. New York: B. Franklin, 1964.

Heyerdahl, Thor. The Maldive Mystery. Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1986.

Maldives Ministry of External Affairs. The Maldive Islands. Colombo: Gunasena, 1952.

Maloney, C. People of the Maldive Islands. Bombay: Orient Long-man, 1980.

Maniku, Hassan Ahmed. Changes in the Topography of the Maldives. Maldives: Forum of Writers on the Environment, 1990.

. The Maldives: A Profile. Malé: Department of Information and Broadcasting, 1977.

Reynolds, C.H.B. The Maldive Islands. London: Royal Central Asian Society, 1974.

. Linguistic Strands in the Maldives. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1978.

Smallwood, C. A Visit to the Maldive Islands. London: Royal Central Asian Society, 1961.

Webb, Paul. Maldives: People and Environment. Malé: Department of Information and Broadcasting, 1989.

Young, I.A., and W. Christopher. Memoir on the Inhabitants of the Maldive Islands. Bombay: Bombay Geographical Society, 1844.

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Maldives

Maldives

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Maldives
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 301,475
Language(s): Maldivian Dhivehi, English
Literacy Rate: 93.2%



History & Background

The Republic of Maldives, or Dhivehi Jumhuriya, is situated in an archipelago of approximately 1,190 low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean about 300 miles southwest of India. The islands cluster into 24 natural atolls, grouped for administrative purposes into 19 atolls. The entire land-mass of the nation covers about 115 square miles, spanning an area of 500 miles north to south, and 80 miles east to west. The 197 inhabited islands afford sandy beaches, lagoons, and lush tropical vegetation, with an abundance of coconut palms and breadfruit trees as well as limited arable land. The climate is hot and humid, averaging 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and most of the sixty inches of annual rainfall comes between May and November. Male, the capital island, is in the central part of the archipelago, approximately 400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. Maldives is one of the world's most economically disadvantaged and environmentally endangered countries. Its monetary unit is called a Maldivian Rufiya. Its economy relies on a fast growing tourism sector, alongside the more traditional activities of fishing and fishing-related industry, boat building and repair, handicrafts including coir products, fish products, lace, and lacquer work. The geographical characteristics of this island nation require the dispersion of educational facilities across inhabited atolls and islands and the use of boats for transportation between them.

The nearly 300,000 people in the Maldives have heterogeneous cultural roots based in their Indian, Sri Lankan, Arab, and African origins. The history of Maldivian settlement dates back to the fourth or fifth century B.C. when Southern Indian and Sri Lankan Buddhists first arrived there. In the twelfth century, with new migration from Malaya, Madagascar, Indonesia and China, Islam came to the Maldives and has been the official state religion since then. Between the sixteenth century and the present day, governance in the Maldives has gone through various Islamic and European phases. The seafaring Portuguese took control of the islands in 1558 till their ouster in 1573. The Dutch held the island Sultanate as a protectorate in the seventeenth century. The British took over this position from the Dutch in the nineteenth century (in 1887) following their takeover of Sri Lanka. In 1932 the first democratic constitution was proclaimed while the Sultanate remained. In 1953 a Republic was proclaimed which later reverted to a Sultanate in 1954. Eventually in 1965 full independence was gained from the British. Thereafter in 1968, a new Republic was inaugurated, the Sultanate was abolished, and the Maldives took membership in the United Nations. Later, in 1982 it became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. March 29, 1976, the day the last British troops left the Maldives, is celebrated as Maldives Independence Day. In 1988, an internal coup attempt aided by Tamil mercenaries was thwarted with the help of the Indian Armed forces. Today in this multicultural Republic, Dhivehi is the official language although Arabic, Hindi, and English are also spoken. Traditional education provided in Dhivehi and based on the teachings of the Quran as well as modern education provided in English guided by international curricular standards are both offered.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Constitution of the Maldives, instituted in 1968, designates the President as Head of State elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage afforded to citizens aged 21 and above. A unicameral Citizens' Council or Majlis, also elected to a five-year term is comprised of 48 members, two of whom are from the capital Male, two from each of the nineteen atolls and eight appointed by the President. The Majlis nominates the presidential candidate and is the body to which the President's cabinet is accountable. The President appoints all judges who administer justice according to the tenets of Islamic Law. Women are not allowed under the current constitution to hold the apex political office, but all other political, administrative and other posts are open to them. The Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was elected to his fifth five-year term in 1998 with more than 80 percent of the vote in the national referendum. The government has placed priority on eradicating illiteracy, universalizing primary education, and expanding access to secondary education as well as improving the quality and career-based applicability of education.

Educational SystemOverview

Maldivian society is marked by a high growth rate (2.8 percent) and a declining mortality rate resulting in a youthful population with 46.5 percent of the people being under the age of 15. This creates a heavy dependency ratio of the young on the working, causing particular economic challenges for the nation in the provision of education. Double and in some cases triple shift schooling, maintaining large student-teacher ratios, hiring part-time staff, administering schools in clusters, inviting private sector partnerships and parent/community contributions (where possible) are some of the measures that are being used to deal with the situation.

In Maldives, education has had a long history starting with the traditional, home-based teaching of Dhivehi, the Arabic script, and the Holy Quran in home-based centers known as the edhuruge or kiyavaage. Since the early part of the twentieth century, government schools for boys and later for girls were created in Male and by mid-century in each inhabited atoll. These schools, called maktabs maintained the traditional curriculum along with mathematics. In the 1960s the introduction of English medium schools by the government had the effect of relegating traditional education to a second-class status. Since 1978, the government has pursued a unified education policy by establishing two government schools, Atoll Education Centers and an Atoll School in each atoll and a policy of equitable distribution of facilities and funds to them. These schools are also unified by a common curriculum for grades 1 to 7, in keeping with the national priority of providing universal basic education (defined as grades 1 to 7). The curriculum covers Dhivehi, mathematics, environmental studies, Islam, English, fine arts, physical education, handwriting, and study of the Quran. The school year runs from February through December and the net enrollment ratio in basic education is reported to be 95 percent. Literacy figures are reported to be over 98 percent and gender parity for basic education at 49 percent for females and 51 percent for males.


Preprimary & Primary Education

Preschool education is provided in a two-year cycle in Male and is gradually becoming available in the other atolls as well, reaching more than half of all preschool aged children. Primary prevention initiatives such as "First Steps," a UNICEF funded program, was being launched in 2001 to increase public awareness of early childhood development and early intervention and to promote knowledge-based child-rearing practices from the early years. Primary education consists of five years of education from grades 1 to 5 provided at the Atoll Schools and Atoll Education Centers.


Secondary Education


Middle school consists of two years of schooling (grades 6 and 7), and proceeds through three years of lower secondary (grades 8 to 10) and two years of upper secondary education (grades 11 and 12). Access to middle school for children in more remote areas continues to need attention. Lower secondary education, once available only in Male, is being extended through the expansion of existing schools and the creation of two regional secondary schools, one in the north and one in the south. Upper secondary education is limited to the Science Education Center and the Institute of Islamic Studies. At the tenth grade students sit for the O levels Examination (GCE, London) and at the twelfth grade they sit for the A level examination (GCE, London).


Higher Education


In 1998 the first and only college in Maldives was established. It is called the Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE) and it offers 28 certificate and seven diploma programs. The subject areas covered include teacher education, health sciences, hotel management, Shariah and Law, management and education, vocational training, and technical education, among others. MCHE has entered into collaborations with Indira Gandhi National Open University in India and Open University in Sri Lanka to offer distance learning programs as well.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Government schools cover 51 percent of all available schools in the Maldives whereas increasing efforts at partnership result in the community (40 percent) and the private sector (9 percent) carrying the rest. Education has been a steadily rising cost to the public and is well over 15 percent of the total budgetary expenditure. Limited resources have restricted large-scale investment in educational technologies that would allow the use of the Internet and the development of distance-learning on a large scale. At the same time discussion on curriculum reform at the secondary school level to provide students with computer literacy and the possibility of technologically oriented careers is ongoing.


Nonformal Education

In the nonformal sector the government offers a Condensed Education Program called "Second Chance" to those youth and adults who have not had the opportunity to complete primary and secondary education. Short courses in areas such as early childhood care and development and languages are also provided.


Teaching Profession

The need for competent teachers who can provide relevant education besides the need for trained teachers in general continues to be acute as evidenced by the fact that in 1999, only 63 percent of primary school teachers were formally trained. Furthermore, trained local teachers are particularly needed to reduce the costs of hiring expatriate teachers and paying for teacher training abroad. In 2001 there were approximately 1,814 female and 1,086 male teachers serving the nation.


Summary

Education is a priority in the Maldives because it is seen as vital to the nation's participation in the international forum in this age of globalization. A key issue in educational planning and development in the Maldives is achieving a balance between the preservation of indigenous knowledge and local roots and scientific, technological knowledge and global perspective.


Bibliography

Asian Development Bank. "Social sector Profile: Maldives, Social development Issues for the Twenty-first Century." Asian Development Bank, 2000.

Gayoom, Maumoon Abdul. The Maldives: A Nation in Peril. Ministry of Planning Human Resources and Environment, 1998.

Ministry of Education. "Maldives. Education for a global era: challenges to equity, opportunities for diversity." Country paper for the 14th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers, 2000.

Robinson,Francis(Ed.). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan,Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Cambridge University Press, 1990.


Leena Banerjee

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Maldives

Maldives

Official name: Republic of Maldives

Area: 300 square kilometers (116 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location on Wilingili Island in the Addu Atoll (2.4 meters/7.9 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Eastern, Northern, and Southern

Time zone: 5 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 823 kilometers (510 miles) from north to south; 133 kilometers (82 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 644 kilometers (400 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

The reh2blic of Maldives is located on the equator, south of India. It is the smallest country in Asia, and is about one-and-a-half times the size of Washington, D.C. Maldives has nineteen atolhu, or administrative divisions.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Maldives has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Maldives's climate is equatorialusually hot and humid, with an average temperature of about 27°C (81°F). During the northeast monsoon season from November to March, the weather is mild and comfortable; the weather during the southwest monsoon season from June to August, on the other hand, is extremely rainy and violent. In the south, annual rainfall averages approximately 380 centimeters (150 inches), and in the north it averages 250 centimeters (100 inches).

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Maldives consists of an archipelago of almost twelve hundred coral islands and sandy banks in the Indian Ocean. The level and low-lying islands are gradually washing away into the ocean; others are still forming, and these are constantly growing in size. Most islands have freshwater lagoons, and all have coastal reefs. The largest atoll group is the Malé Atoll, where the capital city, Malé is located.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, about 645 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka. A protective, fringing coral reef surrounds each individual island. Small patch reefs and faroes (unusual ring-shaped reefs) are located in Malé Atoll's lagoon.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Four ocean channels cross through the archipelago from east to west. These are the Kardiva Channel, Veimandu Channel, One and a Half Degree Channel, and Equatorial Channel.

Islands and Archipelagos

Maldives is an archipelago made up of several atoll groups. From north to south, these groups are: Ihavandiffulu Atoll; Tiladummati Atoll; Miladummadulu Atoll; North Malosmadulu and South Malosmadulu Atolls; and Fadiffolu Atoll. Next, the Kardiva Channel separates these atolls from the following groups: Malé Atoll, South Malé Atoll, Ari Atoll, Felidu Atoll, Nilandu Atoll, Mulaku Atoll, and Kolumadulu Atoll. Even farther south are the Veimandu Channel and Haddummati Atoll; the One and a Half Degree Channel and the Suvadiva Atoll; and finally, the Equatorial Channel and the most southerly atoll, Addu Atoll.

All the islands of Maldives are small. The island of Malé, location of the capital city of the same name, is the most densely populated and developed. It is only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long and just over one kilometer (0.6 miles) wide. Sea walls surrounded the island on all sides.

To the far south in Maldives lies Addu Atoll, where the town of Seenu is located.

Coastal Features

White coral sand covers Maldives's flat beaches. Unlike other beaches in the world, there is no trace of yellow or black coloring in the sand.

6 INLAND LAKES

The islands of Maldives are too small to support inland lakes of any significant size.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

The islands of Maldives are too small to support rivers of any significant size.

8 DESERTS

There are no significant deserts on Maldives.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Dense scrub covers the islands. The central islands are less fertile than the northern and southern groups, and the western islands are less fertile than the eastern ones.

There are no thick jungles on the islands because of the poor soil, but small areas of rainforest exist on the larger islands that experience more precipitation. Coconut, plantain, banyan, and mango trees thrive in the tropical climate, along with flowers and shrubs.

The Maldives islands are almost completely flat and have no significant hills or valleys.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Maldives's coral islands are almost completely flat.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

Maldives has no significant canyons or caves.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

Maldives does not have any notable plateaus.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

There are no significant man-made features affecting the geography of Maldives.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Balla, Mark, and Robert Willox. Maldives & Islands of the East Indian Ocean. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: Lonely Planet, 1993.

Heyerdahl, Thor. The Maldives Mystery. Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1986.

NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. Maldives. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001.

Web Sites

Maldive Holidays. Maldives the Last Paradise. http://www.maldive.com/geog/mgeog.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

Visit Maldives. http://www.visitmaldives.com (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Maldives

Maldives (măl´dēvz, –dīvz), Divehi Divehi, officially Republic of Maldives, republic (2005 est. pop. 349,000), 115 sq mi (298 sq km), off the coast of S Asia in the N Indian Ocean. Malé is the capital and the largest island.

Land and People

The Maldives stretch c.500 mi (800 km) from north to south in the N Indian Ocean, SW of Sri Lanka. They consist of about 25 atolls made up of some 1,200 coral islands that are the exposed tops of a submarine ridge. They have a tropical monsoon climate modified by their marine location. The islands, which are mostly very low lying, are covered with tropical vegetation, particularly coconut palms. About 200 of the islands are inhabited, and some have freshwater lagoons. Maldivians are of mixed Dravidian, Sinhalese, Arab, and African stock, and nearly all are Sunni Muslims. The predominant language is Divehi, a Sinhala dialect.

Economy

Tourism and fishing are the chief sources of income. Coconuts and coconut products (especially copra) are also important. Corn, sweet potatoes, and tropical fruit are raised for local consumption, but most staple foods must be imported. Industry is limited, consisting primarily of fish and coconut processing, shipping, boat building, garment and handicraft production, and coral and sand mining. In recent years the government has encouraged more foreign investment. Fish is the largest export, while petroleum products, ships, foodstuffs, clothing, and capital goods are the main imports. Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Great Britain, and the United Arab Emirates are the major trading partners.

Government

The Maldives are governed under the constitution of 2008. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected to a five-year term. The unicameral legislature consists of the People's Council or Majlis; its 85 members are directly elected from single member constituencies. Legislators serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 19 atolls and the capital city.

History

The Maldives were originally settled by peoples who came from S Asia. Islam was brought to the islands in the 12th cent. Starting in the 16th cent., with the coming of the Portuguese, the Maldives were intermittently under European influence. In 1887 they became a British protectorate and military base but retained internal self-government. The Maldives obtained complete independence as a sultanate in 1965, but in 1968 the ad-Din dynasty, which had ruled the islands since the 14th cent., was ended and a republic was declared.

Following the British withdrawal from their base on the southernmost island of Gan in 1976, first the Soviet Union, then India and Sri Lanka courted Maldivian favor. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was first elected president in 1978 and retained power for three decades, ruled in an authoritarian manner. Indian troops landed in the Maldives in 1988 to foil one of several coup attempts. In the late 1980s the Maldives joined with a number of coral atoll nations to raise international awareness of the consequences of global warming, and in 1989 hosted an international conference to discuss this issue.

Beginning in 2003 the country experienced occasional antigovernment demonstrations that called for political reforms. The Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami caused severe damage to many of the country's low-lying islands, and hurt the important fishing and tourist industries. In the Jan., 2005, nonpartisan elections for the Majlis, candidates supported by the banned opposition party won 18 of the elected seats. President Gayoom subsequently called for the establishment of a multiparty democracy by the end of the year, and the Majlis approved the changes in June, but opposition party leader Mohamed Nasheed was arrested at a prodemocracy rally later in the year and charged with treason and terrorism. Opposition activists continued to face repressive government measures in 2006.

Following a bombing in Sept., 2007, that was linked to Islamic militants, the president issued a wide-ranging decree designed to promote moderate Islam and suppress Islamic extremism. In Aug., 2008, a new constitution was adopted that allowed for direct election of the president, multiparty elections, and other democratic reforms; two months later, Mohamed Nasheed was elected president, defeating Gayoom after a runoff. The May, 2009, Majlis elections were won by the opposition, however, and in mid-2010 increasing tensions between the government and Majlis, especially the refusal of the Majlis to confirm supreme court appointments, led the cabinet to resign en masse in protest. In Aug., 2010, the court members were confirmed, but relations between the government and Majlis remained difficult.

During 2011 poor economic conditions led to protests against the government. After the military arrested the top criminal court judge in Jan., 2012, several weeks of demonstrations by Gayoom supporters and others culminated in a police mutiny and the forced resignation of Nasheed (February). He was succeeded as president by Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan. Nasheed was later (July) charged with illegally ordering the arrest of the judge. In Aug., 2012, a report by a Commonwealth-backed Maldives commission called the succession constitutional; the report led to protests in the Maldives.

Nasheed placed first in the Sept., 2013, presidential election, but he failed to win a majority, forcing a runoff with Adbulla Yameen, Gayoom's half-brother. The vote, however, was annulled by the supreme court after the third-place candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, alleged vote fraud. A new election in November led to similar results, and Yameen subsequently won the runoff. In the Mar., 2014, legislative elections, the president's party won a plurality; Nasheed's party placed second. Prior to the vote, the supreme court had convicted the election commission of contempt of court and dismissed the chairman of the commission, who had criticized the court's interference in the 2013 presidential election. In 2015 Nasheed convicted of terrorism in connection with the 2012 arrest of the top criminal court judge and imprisoned.

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Maldives

Maldives

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Maldives
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 301,475
Language(s): Maldivian Dhivehi, English
Literacy rate: 93.2%

The Maldives is a nation of coral atolls scattered off the southwest coast of India in the Indian Ocean. Originally a sultanate, Maldivians fought for more than a century to stave off Western colonization, but eventually agreed to become a British protectorate in exchange for relative independence. The country declared independence in 1965 and is now a republic. Its estimated population is 301,475, and the literacy rate is approximately 93 percent. The official language is Dhivehi, a dialect of Sinhala that derives its script from Arabic. English also is widely spoken, especially in business and government. The president acts as both head of state and government, presiding over the 50-seat, unicameral People's Council. Tourism is by far the largest industry in the Maldives more than 90 percent of the government's tax revenues come from import duties and taxes on tourism. Fishing and boat building also contribute to the economy.

Maldivians do not have freedom of press or expression. Maldives' laws prohibit all speech and action that could incite citizens against the government or that could be construed as libelous, a national security threat, or critical of Islam. Authorities can shut down newspapers and sanction editors, leading most journalists to practice self-censorship. The situation is improving, however, and the media has begun to criticize specific government policies, though not the political system as a whole.

Haveeru is the leading daily newspaper. It began publishing in January 1979 and prints in Divehia and English, and is available online. Other dailies include Aafathis and the Miadhu News; both print in Divehia with a much smaller sections in English, and both appear online. The Monday Times is a popular, magazine-style newspaper that prints weekly in English and appears online. The Maldives News also prints in English, but appears bi-weekly. Dheenuge Magu, a Divehi-language religious publication, appears weekly.

There is one state-run radio station, and one television station, also state-run. There are 35,000 radios, 10,000 televisions, and one Internet service provider.

Bibliography

"About Haveeru." In Haveeru. 2002. Available from http://www.haveeru.com.mv/haveeru/.

"About us." In Aafathis. 2002. Available from http://www.aafathisnews.com.mv/.

"Maldives." Central Intelligence Agency. World Fact Book 2001, 2002. Available from http://www.cia.gov.

"Maldives." Freedom House, 2001. Available from http://www.freedomhouse.org.

Jenny B. Davis

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Maldives

Maldives Republic in the Indian Ocean, c.640km (400mi) sw of Sri Lanka, consisting of c.1200 low-lying coral islands grouped into 26 atolls; the largest island and capital is Male. The islands (200 inhabited) are prone to flooding. The climate is tropical, and the monsoon season lasts from April to October. The chief religion is Sunni Muslim. From the 14th century, the ad-Din dynasty ruled the Maldives. In 1518, the Portuguese claimed the islands. From 1665 to 1886, the Maldives were a dependency of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In 1887, they became a British protectorate. In 1965, they achieved independence as a sultanate. In 1968, the Sultan was deposed and a republic declared. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has served as president since 1978. In 1982, Maldives joined the Commonwealth. In 1988, Indian troops helped suppress an attempted coup. Coconuts and copra are the primary crops. Fishing is the major industry, and the leading export-earner is the bonito (Maldives tuna). Since 1972 the growth in tourism boosted foreign reserves, but the Maldives remain one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$2000). Area: 298sq km (115sq mi). Pop. (2000) 283,000.

http://www.themaldives.com/government; http://maldive.com

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Maldives

Maldives

Culture Name

Maldivian

Orientation

Identification. The Maldives is one of the world's poorest developing countries. It is threatened by global warming because of its very low elevation. The main natural resources are fisheries and a marine environment conducive to tourism. The other constraints it faces are small and widely dispersed island communities, limited skilled human resources, and rapid population growth.

Location and Geography. The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago consisting of twenty-six coral atolls, in the northern Indian Ocean. The chain of islands extends 510 miles (820 kilometers), but occupies an area of just 116 square miles (300 square kilometers), roughly 1.5 times the size of Washington D.C. The closest neighbors are India and Sri Lanka. The capital is Malé.

The twenty-six coral atolls contain 1,190 very small islands of which 198 are inhabited. Most of the islands are close to the atoll enclosure reef, and some are still in the process of forming. The longest is Gan in Adu atoll. Because the islands are coral-based, they are flat and low-lying. As a result, the water table is high. However, the islands are protected from the elements by the reef and rarely have major storms. In the older islands a larger layer of topsoil has formed, and these islands are covered with coconut trees, breadfruit, and dense shrubs. Agricultural potential is limited by the high alkalinity of the soil and its poor water retention. However, people grow vegetables, fruits, and yams.

The climate is warm and tropical. Seasonal changes are determined by the two yearly monsoons. The season of the northeast monsoon is characterized by dry, mild winds, and generally extends from December to April. The southwest monsoon, although irregular, extends from May until August and brings heavy rains and wind. The northern atolls are drier, while the southern atolls are wetter. The humidity is fairly high throughout the year.

Demography. In 1996, the population was 256,157, compared with 195,000 in 1986; the estimated population for the year 2000 is 289,117. The annual rate of population growth is almost 3 percent. Almost most half the population is under fifteen years of age, and about 3 percent is sixty five years and older. About 25 percent of the population reside in Malé. The growth rate in Malé atoll has been high as a result of employment opportunities offered by growth in the service sector. Even though income in Malé is significantly higher than that in the atolls, the resulting rural-urban migration has led to increasing unemployment. Emigration from the republic is rare except for educational purposes or to work as a crew member on Maldivian ships.

Linguistic Affiliation. Dhivehi, which is spoken in all parts of the country, is not spoken in any other part of the world. It is considered an Indo-European language related to Singhala, the language spoken in Sri Lanka. The alphabets and writing system are similar to Arabic. English is the second language and is widely used in commerce and in many government schools.

Symbolism. The national flag is red with a large green rectangle in the center bearing a vertical white crescent on the hoist side. The country is associated with the "maldive fish" (boiled sun-dried tuna).

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The early settlers probably came before 500 b.c.e., from Sri Lanka and southern India. In the twelfth century, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries arrived. Originally, Maldivians were Buddhists, but in the twelfth century Islam was proclaimed the national religion. The Maldives has always been an independent political entity except when it was under Portuguese control from 1558 to 1573. In 1887, the Maldives agreed to become a protectorate of the British government, allowing the British to take responsibility for it defense and foreign relations while maintaining for itself internal control. The first constitution was ratified by the Sultan in 1932, and the sultanate became an elected rather than hereditary position.

National Identity. The Maldives regained full sovereignty in 1965 and joined the United Nations that year. In 1968, the sultanate was abolished and the republic was declared. On 11 November 1968, the Republic of Maldives was created with an elected president. The country joined the British Commonwealth in 1982.

Ethnic Relations. The population consists of a mix of people who trace their descent from Sri Lanka, India, Arab countries, and Africa. Because of religious and linguistic homogeneity, there is stability and unity.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Malé is the center of political and economic life. It has a maze of narrow streets with over twenty mosques and markets. Poor people live in houses built from thatched palm with tin roofs, and the more prosperous have houses made of crushed coral with tile roofs. The main attractions are the National Museum, which displays items from Arab, Sri Lankan, and Dravidian cultures; Sultan Park; the Islamic Centre; and the gold-painted Grand Friday mosque. The oldest mosque, Hukuru Miski, is known for its intricate stone carvings.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Rice and fish are the staple foods. Fish is the most important source of protein in the average diet. Very few vegetables are eaten. Betel leaf with arecanut, cloves, and lime, known as foh, is chewed after meals. Old people smoke guduguda, an elongated pipe that goes through a trough of water. Most food served in tourist resorts is imported.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Meat other than pork is eaten only on special occasions. Alcohol is not permitted except in tourist resorts. The local brew, raa, is a sweet toddy made from the crown of the coconut palm.

Basic Economy. All the fish that is consumed locally is from the domestic economy. Basic food commodities such as rice, sugar, and flour are imported. There are over seventy resort islands near the capital.

Land and Tenure and Property. Land belongs to the state and is given free to families in the island of their origin to build houses. The only exception is that public servants lease land where they work. In other islands, where tourist resorts, a cannery, the airport, and other small industries are located, employees are provided with temporary accommodations.

Commercial Activities. Because of the limited land mass, the main prospect for economic development is the country's marine resources. Fisheries, tourism, trade, and transport (shipping) constitute the principal economic base.

Major Industries. Fisheries and international tourism are the main industries. The economy has changed from a reliance on fisheries to a service-sector-based economy driven by international tourism. The main primary sector is fishing. The secondary sector consists of construction and manufacturing. In the tertiary sector, tourism, government administration, and transport are the dominant industries. Manufacturing output consists primarily of processed fish; apparel and clothing; cottage industries such as woven mats, coir rope, and handicrafts; and boat building industries.

Trade. In addition to food, the country imports manufactured goods such as petroleum products and various consumer goods. In 1997, these products were imported primarily from Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. About 80 percent of exports consist of frozen, dried, and salted skipjack tuna; canned fish; dried shark fins; and fish meal. A small manufacturing export sector exports apparel and clothing accessories. In 1997, the leading destinations for exports were the United Kingdom, the United States, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Singapore.

Division of Labor. There were approximately sixty-four thousand members of the Maldives workforce in 1999, one-third of whom were foreign workers. About 20 percent of the workforce in 1999 worked in the fishing industry; 15 percent in industry; 10 percent in tourism, and 55 percent in other sectors. The minimum working age is fourteen (sixteen for government work).

Social Stratification

Class and Castes. A disproportionate share of government expenditures directly benefits Malé and ensures its residents a standard of living that is substantially higher than that in the atolls. Status is derived primarily from wealth rather than family, although family ties and connections are important in determining the availability of opportunities. One's position with the government also confers status, while education is less important.

Political Life

Government. The legislative assembly known as the Majlis is composed of fifty members: two from Malé, two from each of the twenty administrative atolls, and eight appointed by the president. The speaker of the Majlis is not a member of that body and is appointed by the president. Even though all the members have the right to attend sessions and speak at the Majlis, only elected members can vote. The right to vote is universal for those age twenty one years and over. The head of the government is the president who is nominated in a secret ballot by the Majlis, and then elected by a majority vote at a national referendum for a five-year term. The president appoints the ministers and all judges to the courts. The high court consists of a chief justice and four judges.

The executive branch is divided into the president's office, the attorney general's office, and seventeen ministries and associated entities that implement government programs. The ministries of government, the attorney general's office, and the high court all function under the president's office. The current president is also the governor of the central bank.

Leadership and Political Control. The government appoints an atoll chief who exercises the government power. Each island has an island chief appointed by the government who is the administrative head of the island. The atoll offices and the island offices come under the Ministry of Atoll Administration, which is responsible to the president.

Social Problems and Control. Historically, the society has been closely knit and disciplined as a result of unity of religion (Sunni Muslim) and language. Although there was civil unrest in the past, it was mostly related to power struggles within the government, and the stormy relationship between Maldives and the British government prior to the termination of Britain's military presence in the islands in 1976.

Military Activity. The country maintains only one security unit, the National Security Service. This organization has about 1,800 personnel who perform army, police, and maritime duties. Because of the geographic spread of the islands, it is impossible to have a military presence on every island and for the coast guards to protect the area. Since independence, the country has not faced any external threats.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government has focused its spending on social services and preventive health services. There is no organized social welfare system. Assistance is traditionally provided through the extended family. Employees are entitled to medical and maternity leave.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Over 25 percent of women are employed, primarily by the government. The government sector employed 15,862 people in 1996, approximately 64 percent males and 36 percent females. Women in the atolls generally are employed only in domestic or selected duties within the family, such as tending crops and producing general handicraft items such as coir rope and woven coconut palm leaves for domestic use. Women also collect cowrie shells from the shores.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women make a significant contribution to social, political and economic affairs. The economic sectors in which women are employed are education, health and welfare, services, tourism, transport, and communication.

Marriage, Family and Kinship

Marriage. The legal age for marriage is eighteen, although half of the women marry by age fifteen. Marriages are not arranged. In accordance with Islamic law, a man can have four wives at any time if he can support them financially, but polygamy is uncommon. Sex before marriage is a punishable offense. Marriages can take place only between Muslims. Maldives has one of the highest divorce rates in the world; according to a 1977 census, nearly half of the women over the age of thirty had been married four times or more.

Domestic Unit. Unlike households in many other Muslim countries, households in Maldives typically do not include extended family members. Nuclear families consisting of a married couple and their children comprise roughly 80 percent of the households, with the father typically recognized as the head of the family. Unmarried persons generally live with their families rather than by themselves.

Inheritance. Both men and women may inherit property.

Kin Groups. The island communities outside of Malé are generally close-knit, self-contained groups in which most everyone is related through generations of intermarriage.

Socialization

Child Rearing and Education. Primary level education is for five years and secondary education is in two stages: five years at the lower level and two years at the higher level. Education is not compulsory. There are three streams of Maldivian education: traditional religious schools (makhtabs), which teach the Koran (Qur'an), basic arithmetic, and the ability to read and write Divehi; modern Divehi-language primary schools; and modern English-language schools. Primary and secondary schooling is based on the British educational system.

In 1998 there were 48,895 students enrolled in 228 primary schools, with 1,992 teachers. In the same year, secondary schools had a total of 36,905 students.

Higher Education. Maldivians must go abroad for higher education. Currently the Science Education Centre in Malé provides pre-university courses, and the Centre may evolve into a university.

Etiquette

Maldivians are brought up to respect elders and those who are educated while conforming to an Islamic code of conduct. Strong loyalties tie the individual to the extended family.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Islam is the only national religion; no other religions are permitted. All Maldivians belong to the Sunni sect. Only Muslims may become citizens, marry, or own property in Maldives, and daily life is regulated according to the tenets of Islam. The widespread belief in jinns, or evil spirits, has resulted in a blending of Islam with traditional island beliefs into a magico-religious system known as fandita.

Religious Practitioners. The political, judicial, and religious systems in Maldives are so closely intertwined that the political leaders and judges are also the country's religious leaders. The president is considered the primary religious leader, and judges, known as gazis, are responsible for interpreting Islamic law in the courts.

Rituals and Holy Places. Most holidays are based on the Islamic lunar calendar. In addition to the Golden Grand Friday mosque, twenty other mosques are scattered around Malé. Mosques are also found in each of the islands. In Malé, a graveyard holds the tomb of Abu Al Barakat, a North African Arab who brought the Koran to the Maldives in the twelfth century. He later became the first sultan. Also located in this graveyard are tombstones of all the former sultans.

Death and the Afterlife. In accordance with the Islamic faith, the people of Maldives believe that people go to heaven or hell after death, depending on how faithfully they adhered to the five tenets of Islam while still alive. Believers are considered worthy to enter heaven if they were faithful to repeat the creed "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah"; fast during the month of Ramadan; pray five times every day; give alms to the poor; and, if possible, make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca sometime during their lifetime.

Medicine and Health Care

Improved health services have decreased the infant mortality rate and the general death rate. Life expectancy increased to seventy-one years, from sixty-one years between 1986 and 1996. The birth rate per thousand dropped from forty-five in 1986 to twenty-six in 1996.

Secular Celebrations

Kudaeid celebrates the sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadan, and the Prophet Mohamed's birthday is also celebrated. National Day, the day Mohammed Thakurufaan overthrew the Portuguese in 1573, occurs on first day of the third month of the lunar calender. Victory Day on 3 November celebrates the defeat of the Sri Lankan mercenaries who tried to overthrow the government. Republic Day on 11 November commemorates the foundation of the current republic.

Bibliography

Adney, M., and W. K. Carr. "The Maldives." In J. M. Ostheimer, ed. The Politics of the Western Indian Ocean Islands, 1975.

Anderson, R. C., and A. Hafiz. The State of the Maldivian Tuna stock: Analysis of Catch and Effort Data and Estimation of Maximum Sustainable Yield, 1985.

Cole, R. V. "The Island States of the Indian Ocean: A View from the South Pacific." Pacific Economic Bulletin 1 (2): 4146, 1986

Fifth National Development Plan 19972000, 1998.

Maniku, H. A. The Republic of Maldives, 1980.

Ministry of Planning, Human Resources and Environment. Statistical Year Book of Maldives, 1998.

Sathiendrakumar, S. Development of Resources of the Sea for Regional Cooperation and National Development, 1983.

. "Artisanal Fisheries, Tourism and Development: Economic Analysis of the Maldives and Fishing-Boat Mechanisation." Ph. D. Thesis, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, 1988.

. "An Appropriate Management Policy for the Tuna fishery in the Maldives." Asian Fisheries Science 2: 163175, 1989.

. "Marine Areas as Tourist Attractions in the Southern Indian Ocean." In M. L. Miller, and J. Auyong, eds., Proceedings of the 1990 Congress on Coastal and Marine Tourism, 1990.

. "Problems Faced by Indian Ocean Island Economies: The Case of the Maldives." In R. Gabbay, R. N. Gosh, and M. A. B. Siddique eds., Economics of Small Island Nations, 1996.

. "Environmental Management for Sustainable Economic Development in Island Economies: The Maldivian Experience." In K. C. Roy, H. C. Blomqvist, and Hossain Iftekhar, eds., Development That Lasts, 1997.

, and C. A. Tisdell. "Tourism and the Development of the Maldives" Massey Journal of Asian and Pacific Business 1 (1): 2734, 1985.

. "Fishery Resources and Policies in the Maldives: Trends and Issues for an Island Developing Country." Marine Policy 10 (4): 279293, 1986.

. "Optimal Economic Fishery Effort in the Maldivian Tuna Fishery: An appropriate Model." Marine Resource Economics 4 (1): 1544, 1987.

. "Migration from Traditional Rural Communities and Outside Employment: A Study of Maldivian Fishing Villages." South East Asian Economic Review 8 (2): 12163, 1987.

. "Towards and Appropriate Effort-Based Fishery Model for the Tuna Fishery of Maldives." Indian Journal of Fisheries 34 (4): 433454, 1987.

. "The Maldives: Development and Socio-Economic Tensions." South East Asian Economic Review 9 (2): 125162, 1988.

. "Economic Importance of Tourism for Small Indian Ocean and Pacific States." In C. A. Tisdell, C. J. Aislabie, and P. J. Stanton, eds., Economics of Tourism: Case Studies and Analysis, 1988.

. "International Tourism and the Economic Development of the Maldives." Annals of Tourism Research 16 (2): 254264, 1989.

. "Determinants of Relative Wealth in Maldivian Fishing Villages." Asian Profile 17 (2): 155168, 1989.

. "International Tourism and the Economic Importance of an Archipelago: The Case of the Maldives." In J. L. Kaminarides, Briguglio, and H. Hoogendonk, eds., The Economic Development of Small Countries: Problems, Strategies and Policies, 1989.

. "Technological Change and Income Distribution: Findings from Maldivian Fishing Villages." Journal of Economics and International Relations 3 (3): 217240, 1990.

World Bank. The Maldives: An Introductory Economic Report, 1980.

. Fishery: Sector Policy Paper, 1982.

Rajasundram Sathuendrakumar

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Maldives

Maldives. The Maldive islands lie 400 miles south-west of Sri Lanka. Their population was converted to Islam in the 12th cent., and in the 14th cent. the sultanate was secured by the ad-Din family who ruled for the next 600 years. The Portuguese briefly established a settlement 1518–28 but the islands were left as a dependency of the prevailing power in Sri Lanka. In 1887 the British government placed them under a direct protectorate. The sultanate was overthrown for a republic in 1952 but restored in 1954. From 1956 to 1986 the RAF maintained an important air base at Gan.

David Anthony Washbrook

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Maldives

Maldives

PROFILE
PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S. MALDIVIAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the January 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Maldives

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.

Cities: Capital—Male’ (pop. 70,000).

Terrain: Flat islands.

Climate: Hot and humid.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective-Maldivian(s).

Population: 370,000 (plus 31,000 expatriate laborers who are not counted in the census).

Population growth rate: 1.66%. Population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs.

Religions: Sunni Islam.

Languages: Dhivehi (official); many government officials speak English.

Education: Years compulsory—none. Attendance—primary (grades 1-5) 99%; secondary: (grades 6-10) 51%, (grades 11-12) 5%. Literacy—98%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—18/ 1,000. Life expectancy—73 years male; 74 years female.

Resident work force: Community, social and personal services—21%; manufacturing—13%; fishing—11%; tourism—11%; transport, storage, and communication—9%; other—35%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 26, 1965 (formerly a British protectorate).

Constitution: November 11, 1968.

Government branches: Executive—president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral Majlis (parliament). Judicial—High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and 204 general courts.

Political subdivisions: 19 atolls and capital city.

Political parties: Adalath Party, Dhivehi Raiyyethunge Party, Islamic Democratic Party, Maldivian Democratic Party.

Suffrage: Universal at age 21.

Economy

GDP: (2006 est.) $907 million.

GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 18.5%.

Per capita GDP: (2006 est.) $3,000.

Inflation: (2006) 2.8%.

Percentages of GDP: (2006 est.) Tourism—28%; transport and communications—17%; government—15%; manufacturing—7%; real estate—6%; fishing—7%; construction—6%; agriculture—2%; other—12%.

Trade: (2006 est.) Exports—$147 million: fish products. Major markets—U.S., Thailand, EU, Sri Lanka, Japan (source: Maldives Customs Service). Imports—$832 million: oil, construction material, prepared foodstuffs, vegetables, animal products, electrical appliances, wood products, computers, transport equipment. Major suppliers—Singapore, Sri Lanka, EU, India, Malaysia, U.A.E.

PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE

Maldives comprises 1,191 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.

Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.

The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhala, a language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools. Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, perceived Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male’.

The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride—daughter of the king of Sri Lanka—in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast—present-day Kerala state in India—harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar Al-Azam.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name.

Environmental Concerns

There is growing concern about coral reef and marine life damage because of coral mining (used for building and jewelry making), sand dredging, and solid waste pollution. Mining of sand and coral have removed the natural coral reef that protected several important islands, making them highly susceptible to the erosive effects of the sea. The practices have recently been banned. In April 1987, high tides swept over the Maldives, inundating much of Male’ and nearby islands. That event prompted high-level Maldivian interest in global climatic changes, as its highest point is about 8 feet above sea level. The Asian Brown Cloud, a U.S.-sized area of pollution over the Indian Ocean, has the potential of wreaking havoc on the tourism-and fishery-based Maldivian economy.

Investment in Education

The government expenditure for education was 20% of the budget in 2004. Both formal and nonformal education have made remarkable strides in the last decade. Unique to Maldives, modern and traditional schools exist side by side. The traditional schools are staffed by community-paid teachers without formal training and provide basic numeracy and literacy skills in addition to religious instruction.

The modern schools, run by both the government and private sector, provide primary and secondary education. As the modern English-medium school system expands, the traditional system is gradually being upgraded. By early 2003, every inhabited island was equipped to provide primary school education up through grade seven. Secondary schools (grades 8 through 10) are available in atoll capitals and on the islands with larger populations. Five schools have higher secondary classes, two in Capital Male and in three atolls. Only around 5% of students go to high school, but literacy is high at 98%. Seven post-secondary technical training institutes provide opportunities for youth to gain skills that are in demand. The World Bank provided $17 million for education development from 2000-2004. It plans to commit a further $1.5 million for education development, as well as $9 million for an education-related component under an integrated human development project. Over 2000-2006, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed $7 million to support post-secondary education development in Maldives. ADB has committed $6.5 million for employment skills training over 2004-2009.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A 1968 referendum approved the constitution, making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975 and is again under revision.

Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became President and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected President in 1978 and reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. Nominated to a 5-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (parliament), the president must be confirmed by a national referendum.

The unicameral Majlis is composed of 50 members serving 5-year terms. Two members from each atoll and Male’ are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president. A special Majlis session began meeting in mid-2004 to review constitutional reform issues. Regularly scheduled Majlis elections took place in January 2005.

The Maldivian legal system—derived mainly from traditional Islamic law—is administered by secular officials, a chief justice, and lesser judges on each of the 19 atolls, who are appointed by the president and function under the Ministry of Justice. There is also an attorney general. Each inhabited island within an atoll has a chief who is responsible for law and order. Every atoll chief, appointed by the president, functions as a district officer in the British South Asian tradition.

On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. In September 2003, following the death of an inmate, a brief prison riot broke out on an

island near the capital Male'. Three other inmates were killed during the incident. In response to the killings of the inmates, brief rioting took place on the streets of Male'. The government often prevents opposition rallies from taking place. Throughout 2006, the opposition faced restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the government continued to arrest opposition activists. The government also keeps a tight rein on expressions of Islamic extremism. The government is investigating links between religious extremists and a September 2007 bombing in a Male’ park that injured several tourists.

President Gayoom's commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. A human rights commission was established, and a special Majlis, or parliament, was convened to consider changes in the constitution, including the legalization of political parties. In August 2004, however, a demonstration in the capital turned violent and the government declared an emergency and arrested a large number said to be connected to the protest. Some of those arrested were prominent in the reform movement, including several members of the special Majlis. Most were released a few months later.

The Maldives were badly hit by the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed 82 and caused substantial damage to Maldives tourism, housing, and fishing infrastructure. The U.S. provided $1.6 million in immediate relief assistance. Despite the disaster, the Government of the Maldives held parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December 31, on January 22, 2005. Reform candidates performed strongly. Following the poll, President Gayoom announced plans to establish multiparty democracy within a year.

In June 2005, the members of the People's Majlis unanimously voted to legally recognize political parties. In order of registration the parties are the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, the government's Dhivehi Raiyyethunge Party, the Adalath (Justice) Party, and the Islamic Democratic Party. Although no elections have been held since the party system was implemented, members of parliament have declared their political affiliations.

In March 2006, the government introduced a “Roadmap for Reform” and subsequently introduced several bills in parliament. However, as of January 2007, parliament had not yet enacted any of the reform legislation. In August 2007, a referendum was held to decide whether Maldives’ new constitution would provide for a presidential or parliamentary system of government. The special Majlis missed a November 2007 deadline for completing the new constitution, but continues to meet. A presidential election, although not yet scheduled, must be held before November 2008, according to the existing constitution.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

President: Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM

Min. of Atolls Development: Thasmeen ALI

Min. of Construction & Public Infrastructure: Mohamed Mauroof JAMEL

Min. of Defense & National Security: Ismail SHAFEEU

Min. of Economic Development & Trade: Mohamed JALEEL

Min. of Education: Zaahiya ZAREER

Min. of Environment, Energy, & Water: Ahmed ABDULLA

Min. of Finance & Treasury: Gasim IBRAHIM

Min. of Fisheries & Agriculture: Hussain HILMY

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Abdullah SHAHID

Min. of Gender and Family: Aishath Mohamed DIDI

Min. of Health: Ilyas IBRAHIM

Min. of Higher Education, Employment, & Social Security: Abdulla YAMEEN

Min. of Home Affairs: Abdullah Kamal DEEN

Min. of Housing & Urban Development:Ibrahim RAFEEQ

Min. of Information & Arts: Mohamed NASHEED

Min. of Justice: Mohamed Muiz ADNAN

Min. of Planning & National Development:Hamdoon HAMEED

Min. of Presidential Affairs: Mohamed HUSSAIN

Min. of the President's Office: Aneesa AHMED

Min. of Tourism & Civil Aviation:Mahmood SHAUGEE

Min. of Transportation & Communication:Mohamed SAEED

Min. of Youth & Sports: Waheed DEEN

Min. of State for Foreign Affairs: Abdullah SHAHID

Attorney General:

Governor, Maldives Monetary Authority (Central Bank): Mohamed JALEEL

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York:

ECONOMY

The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Of the Maldives’ 1,191 islands, only 200 are inhabited.

The population is scattered throughout the country, with the greatest concentration on the capital island, Male'. Limitations on potable water and arable land constrain expansion.

Development has been centered upon the tourism industry and its complementary service sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.

GDP in 2006 totaled $907 million, or about $3,000 per capita. The Maldivian economy has made a remarkable recovery from the tsunami, which inflicted damages of about $375 million, excluding $100 million in damages to resorts, the bulk of which was covered by private insurance. A rebound in tourism, post-tsunami reconstruction, and new resort construction helped increase GDP by about 18% in 2006 from a contraction of 4.5% in 2005. Inflation has moderated to about 3%. As tourism staged a speedy recovery and government borrowing increased, the balance of payments recorded a surplus of about $40 million in 2006 from a deficit of $17 million in 2005. Fiscal control has deteriorated due to tsunami reconstruction as well as an increase in non-tsunami-related government expenditure. Government expenditure was estimated at 74.5% of GDP in 2006, compared to 36% of GDP in 2004 before the tsunami. The budget deficit was 18% of GDP in 2006. While reconstruction is ongoing, the recovery process remains under-funded.

The Maldives has been running a merchandise trade deficit in the range of $200 to $260 million annually since 1997. The trade deficit ballooned to $386 million in 2004, $493 million in 2005, and reached an estimated $618 million in 2006, largely the result of increased oil prices and increased imports of construction material.

International shipping to and from the Maldives is mainly operated by the private sector with only a small fraction of the tonnage carried on vessels operated by the national carrier, Maldives Shipping Management Ltd. Over the years, the Maldives has received economic assistance from multilateral development organizations, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Individual donors—including Japan, India, Australia, and European and Arab countries (including Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwaiti Fund)—also have contributed.

A 1956 bilateral agreement gave the United Kingdom the use of Gan—in Addu Atoll in the far south—for 20 years as an air facility in return for British aid. The agreement ended in 1976, shortly after the British closed the Gan air station.

Economic Sectors

Tourism. In recent years, Maldives has successfully marketed its natural assets for tourism—beautiful, unpolluted beaches on small coral islands, diving in blue waters abundant with tropical fish, and glorious sunsets. Tourism now brings in about $450 million a year. Tourism and related services contributed 28% of GDP in 2007.

Since the first resort was established in 1972, more than 90 islands have been developed, with a total capacity of some 17,500 beds. Maldives has embarked on a rapid tourism expansion plan. The government has awarded tenders for the development of about 40 new resorts. Over 650,000 tourists (mainly from Europe) visited Maldives in 2007. The average occupancy rate is over 80%, and reaches over 95% in the peak winter tourist season. Average tourist stay is 8 days.

Fishing. This sector employs about 11% of the labor force. The fisheries industry, including fish processing, traditionally contributes about 7% of GDP. Due to a drastic drop in the fish catch, the industry's contribution to GDP was only about 4.5% in 2007. However, international tuna prices increased in 2007, thereby increasing export earnings to about $100 million. The use of nets is illegal; all fishing is done by line. Production was about 115,000 metric tons in 2007, most of which was skipjack tuna. More than 60% is exported, largely to Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the European Union. Fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted, and canned tuna exports account for about 90% of all marine product exports.

Agriculture. Poor soil and scarce arable land have historically limited agriculture to a few subsistence crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions. Almost all food, including staples, has to be imported. The December 2004 tsunami inundated several agricultural islands, which could take a significant amount of time to recover. Agriculture provides about 2% of GDP.

Manufacturing. The manufacturing sector provides less than 7% of GDP. Traditional industry consists of boat building and handicrafts, while modern industry is limited to a few tuna canneries, a bottling plant, and a few enterprises in the capital producing PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. Five garment factories that had exported principally to the United States closed in 2005, following the expiration of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) that had set quotas on developing country garment exports to developed countries. The loss of these factories has not proven an insurmountable hurdle, however, as most of the profits were repatriated and most of the labor was expatriate.

Other. The construction sector contributes approximately 6% of GDP due to tsunami reconstruction and new resort construction.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Maldives follows a nonaligned policy and is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. The country has a UN Mission in New York, with the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York also accredited as Ambassador to the United States, an embassy in Sri Lanka and in the United Kingdom, a trade representative in Singapore, and a Tourist Information Bureau in Germany. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka maintain resident embassies in Male'. Denmark, Norway, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, and Sweden have consular agencies in Male’ under the supervision of their embassies in Sri Lanka and India. The UNDP has a representative resident in Male', as do the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Like the United States, many countries have nonresident ambassadors accredited to the Maldives, most of them based in Sri Lanka or India. The Maldives is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

U.S. MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

The United States has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Ambassador and some Embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to the Maldives and make periodic visits. The United States supports Maldivian independence and territorial integrity and publicly endorsed India's timely intervention on behalf of the Maldivian Government during the November 1988 coup attempt. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male’ in recent years. The Maldives extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing in 2001-2002.

U.S. contributions to economic development in the Maldives have been made principally through international organization programs. Following the December 2004 tsunami, the U.S. and Maldives signed a bilateral assistance agreement for $8.6 million in reconstruction assistance. This assistance will help in the rebuilding of harbors, sewerage systems, and electrical generation facilities and in the development of aid absorption capacity in the Ministry of Finance. The United States has directly funded training in airport management and narcotics interdiction and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. The United States also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel annually. About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in the Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit the Maldives annually. The Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as somewhat of a damper. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly. There is a shortage of local skilled labor, and most industrial labor has to be imported from Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

COLOMBO (E) 210, Galle Road, Colombo 3,, 94-11-249-8500, Fax 94-11-243-7345, Workweek: M-Th:0800-1730, F:0800-12:00, Website: http://colombo.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Karie L. Ennis
AMB OMS:Amanda T. Prytherch
ECO:Robert R. Gabor
FM:Sergio J. Tristan
HRO:Alboino L. Deulus
IBB:William S. Martin
MGT:Maria E. Brewer
AMB:Robert O. Blake, Jr..
CON:Christopher R. Green
DCM:James R. Moore
PAO:Terry J. White
COM:Kami A. Witmer
GSO:Yoshino E. Rosenstein
RSO:Michael V. Perkins
AFSA:Alboino L. Deulus
AID:Rebecca W Cohn
CLO:Susan Hern
DAO:Ltc. James E. Oxley
EEO:Lissa M. McAtee
FIN:Alboino L. Deulus
FMO:Alboino L. Deulus
ICASS:Chair Rebecca W. Cohn
IMO:Mark A. Brewer
ISSO:Mark A. Brewer
POL:Michael R. Detar
State ICASS:Robert R. Gabor

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 13, 2007

Country Description: The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of almost 300,000, of which about 104,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands. The tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused some damage to several hotels and facilities on some of the islands. Most of the tourism infrastructure remains intact.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visitor visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax, which is usually included in the price of an airline ticket. Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area.

Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka at No. 24, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, telephone (94) (11) 2580076/2586762/ 2500943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6194.

Visit the web site of the Maldives Permanent Mission to the United Nations at www.maldivesmission-ny.com/eng/ for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: During 2004-2005, there was some political unrest, particularly in the capital of Male. Americans are cautioned against engaging in political activity in the Maldives. While there have been many arrests for political activity, as of this date there has been little political violence in the Maldives.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: The Maldives has a low crime rate, but theft of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels does occur. Drug use is on the rise and the penalty for drugs is severe.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the government-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately-owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neurosurgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male.)

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Maldives is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Only a few of the islands are large enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated, is either by foot or by readily-available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay overnight at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

Visit the web site of the Maldives national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.visitmaldives.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Maldives, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Maldives’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Religious Laws: Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit may practice its religion, including Bible readings, within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines. In the past, several non-Maldivian families resident in the Maldives, including some Americans, were expelled for allegedly engaging in religious proselytizing. Although Maldivian law prohibits importing “idols for religious worship,” tourists traveling to the resort islands are generally allowed to bring in items and texts used for personal religious observances.

Currency: Credit cards are increasingly accepted outside large hotels and resorts; cash payment in dollars is accepted at most retail shops and restaurants and by taxi drivers.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Maldives are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Maldives. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka provides consular support for the Maldives. Americans living or traveling in the Maldives are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Maldives. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. As a trip from Colombo to the Maldives takes about 3 hours, consular support may be limited in an emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 249-8500. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94) (11) 249-8888. The Consular Section fax number is (94) (11) 249-8590. The Embassy's Internet address is http://colombo.usembassy.gov. The email address for the consular section is [email protected] or [email protected]

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Maldives

MALDIVES

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Maldives


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.

Cities:

Capital—Male' (pop. 70,000).

Terrain:

Flat islands.

Climate:

Hot and humid.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Maldivian(s).

Population (mid-year 2002):

280,000 (plus 31,000 expatriate laborers who are not counted in the census).

Population growth rate:

1.66%. Population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Ethnic groups:

South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs.

Religion:

Sunni Islam.

Language:

Dhivehi (official); many government officials speak English.

Education:

Years compulsory—none. Attendance—primary (grades 1-5) 99%; secondary: (grades 6-10) 51%, (grades 11-12) 5%. Literacy—98%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—18/1,000. Life expectancy—73 years male; 74 years female.

Resident work force:

Community, social and personal services—21%; manufacturing—13%; fishing—11%; tourism—11%; transport, storage, and communication—9%; other—35%.

Government

Type:

Republic.

Independence:

July 26, 1965 (formerly a British protectorate).

Constitution:

November 11, 1968.

Branches:

Executive—president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral Majlis (parliament). Judicial—High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and 204 general courts.

Administrative subdivisions:

19 atolls and capital city.

Political parties:

None.

Suffrage:

Universal at age 21.

Economy

GDP (2002):

$639.5 million.

GDP Growth rate:

6.0%.

Per capita GDP:

About $2,279.

Inflation (2002):

0.9%.

Percentages of GDP (2002):

Tourism—31%; distribution—14%; government—12%; manufacturing—9%; real estate—8%. fishing—7%; construction—3%; agriculture—3%; other—13%.

Trade (2002):

Exports—$91 million: fish products, garments. Major markets—U.S., Sri Lanka, EU, Thailand, Japan (source: Maldives Customs Service). Imports—$393 million: oil, textiles and yarn, rice, cigarettes, cement, engines for boats, televisions, aircraft parts, prefabricated buildings, vegetables. Major suppliers—Singapore, Sri Lanka, EU, India, Malaysia, U.A.E.


PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE

Maldives comprises 1,191 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.

Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.

The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhala, a language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.

Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, perceived Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male.

The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride—daughter of the king of Sri Lanka—in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast—present-day Kerala state in India—harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar Al-Azam.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name.

Environmental Concerns

There is growing concern about coral reef and marine life damage because of coral mining (used for building and jewelry making), sand dredging, and solid waste pollution. Mining of sand and coral have removed the natural coral reef that protected several important islands, making them highly susceptible to the erosive effects of the sea. The practices have recently been banned. In April 1987, high tides swept over the Maldives, inundating much of Male' and nearby islands. That event prompted high-level Maldivian interest in global climatic changes, as its highest point is about 8 feet above sea level. The Asian Brown Cloud, a U.S.-sized area of pollution over the Indian Ocean, has the potential of wreaking havoc on the tourism- and fishery-based Maldivian economy.

Investment in Education

The government expenditure for education was 18% of the budget in 2002. Both formal and nonformal education have made remarkable strides in the last decade. Unique to Maldives, modern and traditional schools exist side by side. The traditional schools are staffed by community-paid teachers without formal training and provide basic numeracy and literacy skills in addition to religious instruction.

The modern schools, run by both the government and private sector, provide primary and secondary education. As the modern English-medium school system expands, the traditional system is gradually being upgraded. By early 2003, every inhabited island was equipped to provide primary school education up through grade five. Fewer islands have secondary schools for grades 6 through 10, and the only high school (grades 11 and 12) in the Maldives is in Male'. Only around 5% of students go to high school, but literacy is high at 98%.

Seven post-secondary technical training institutes provide opportunities for youth to gain skills that are in demand. The World Bank has already committed $17 million for education development in 2000-04, and plans to commit further $15 million for human development and distance learning during this period. Over 2001-03, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed $7 million to support post-secondary education development in Maldives.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A 1968 referendum approved the constitution, making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975 and is again under revision.

Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became President and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected President in 1978 and reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. Nominated to a 5-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (Parliament), the president must be confirmed by a national referendum.

The unicameral Majlis is composed of 48 members serving 5-year terms. Two members from each atoll and Male' are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president. A special Majlis session began meeting in mid-2004 to review constitutional reform issues. Regularly scheduled Majlis elections are expected to take place in late 2004, although the exact date has not yet been finalized.

The Maldivian legal system—derived mainly from traditional Islamic law—is administered by secular officials, a chief justice, and lesser judges on each of the 19 atolls, who are appointed by the president and function under the Ministry of Justice. There also is an attorney general. Each inhabited island within an atoll has a chief who is responsible for law and order. Every atoll chief, appointed by the president, functions as a district officer in the British South Asian tradition.

Maldives has no organized political parties. Candidates for elective office run as independents on the basis of personal qualifications. On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. In September 2003, following the death of an inmate, a brief prison riot broke out on an island near the capital Male'. Three other inmates were killed during the incident. In response to the killings of the inmates, brief rioting took place on the streets of Male'. In February 2004, the government prevented an opposition rally from taking place. Several people were arrested but they were all reportedly released later. The government also keeps a tight rein on any expression of Islamic extremism.

President Gayoom's commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. A human rights commission was established, and a Special Majlis or parliament was convened to consider changes in the constitution, including the legalization of political parties. In August, however, a demonstration in the capital turned violent and the government declared an emergency and arrested a large number said to be connected to the protest. Some of those arrested were prominent in the reform movement, including several members of the Special Majlis. Most were released a few months later.

The Maldives were badly hit by the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed 82 and caused substantial damage to Maldives tourism, housing, and fishing infrastructure. The U.S. provided $1.6 million in immediate relief assistance. Despite the disaster, the Government of the Maldives held parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December 31, on January 22, 2005. Reform candidates performed strongly. Following the poll, President Gayoom announced plans to establish multi-party democracy within a year.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 8/18/2005

President: Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM
Min. of Atolls Administration: Mohamed Waheed DEEN

Min. of Construction & Public Infrastructure: Mohamed Mauroof JAMEEL
Min. of Defense & National Security: Ismail SHAFEEU
Min. of Economic Development & Trade: Mohamed JALEEL
Min. of Education: Zaahiya ZAREER
Min. of Environment, Energy, & Water: Ahmed ABDULLA
Min. of Finance & Treasury: Gasim IBRAHIM
Min. of Fisheries, Agriculture, & Marine Resources: Abdulla KAMALUDDEEN
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Ahmed SHAHEED
Min. of Gender and Family: Aishath Mohamed DIDI
Min. of Health: Ilyas IBRAHIM
Min. of Higher Education, Employment & Social Security: Abdulla YAMEEN
Min. of Home Affairs: Ahmed Thasmeen ALI
Min. of Housing & Urban Development: Ibrahim RAFEEQ
Min. of Information & Arts: Mohamed NASHEED
Min. of Justice: Mohamed Jameel AHMED
Min. of Planning & National Development: Hamdoon HAMEED Min. of Presidential Affairs: Mohamed HUSSAIN
Min. of the President's Office: Aneesa AHMED
Min. of Tourism & Civil Aviation: Mahmood SHAUGEE
Min. of Transportation & Communication: Mohamed SAEED
Min. of Youth & Sports: Hussain HILMY
Min. of State for Foreign Affairs:
Abdullah SHAHID
Attorney General: Hassan SAEED
Governor, Maldives Monetary Authority (Central Bank): Mohamed JALEEL
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Mohamed LATHEEF


ECONOMY

The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Of the Maldives' 1,191 islands, only 200 are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, with the greatest concentration on the capital island, Male'. Limitations on potable water and arable land constrain expansion.

Development has been centered upon the tourism industry and its complementary service sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.

GDP in 2002 totaled $640 million or about $2,200 per capita. The Maldives has experienced relatively low inflation in recent years. Real GDP growth averaged about 10% in the 1980s. It expanded by an exceptional 16.2% in 1990, declined to 4% in 1993, grew to 10% in 1998 and has since leveled to the 5% to 7% range.

The Maldives has been running a merchandise trade deficit in the range of $200 to $260 million since 1997. The trade deficit declined to $208 million in 2002 from $233 million in 2001.

International shipping to and from the Maldives is mainly operated by the private sector with only a small fraction of the tonnage carried on vessels operated by the national carrier, Maldives Shipping Management Ltd. Over the years, the Maldives has received economic assistance from multilateral development organizations, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Individual donors—including Japan, India, Australia, and European and Arab countries (including Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwaiti Fund)—also have contributed.

A 1956 bilateral agreement gave the United Kingdom the use of Gan—in Addu Atoll in the far south—for 20 years as an air facility in return for British aid. The agreement ended in 1976, shortly after the British closed the Gan air station.

Economic Sectors

Tourism

In recent years, Maldives has successfully marketed its natural assets for tourism—beautiful, unpolluted beaches on small coral islands, diving in blue waters abundant with tropical fish, and glorious sunsets. Tourism now brings in about $198 million a year. Tourism and related services contributed 31% of GDP in 2002.

Since the first resort was established in 1972, more than 87 islands have been developed, with a total capacity of some 19,000 beds. The number of tourists (mainly from Europe) visiting the Maldives increased from 1,100 in 1972 to 280,000 in 1994. In 2000, the number of tourist arrivals exceeded 466,000; although final figures are not yet available, the number is expected to top 500,000 for 2003. The average occupancy rate is 69%, with the average tourist staying 8 days and spending about $396.

Fishing

This sector employs about 11% of the labor force and contributes 7% of GDP or 10%, including fish preparation. The use of nets is illegal, so all fishing is done by line. Production was about 164,003 metric tons in 2002, most of which was skipjack tuna. About 50% is exported, largely to Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the European Union. Fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted, and canned tuna exports accounted for 84% of all marine product exports, split fairly evenly between the products. Total export proceeds from fish were about $56 million in 2002. The fishing fleet consists of some 1,647 small, flat-bottomed boats (dhonis). Since the dhonis shifted from sails to outboard motors, the annual tuna catch per fisherman rose from 1.4 metric tons in 1983 to 15.9 metric tons in 2002.

Agriculture

Poor soil and scarce arable land have historically limited agriculture to a few subsistence crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions. Almost all food, including staples, has to be imported. Agriculture provides about 3% of GDP.

Industry and manufacturing

The industrial sector provides only about 9% of GDP. Traditional industry consists of boat building and handicrafts, while modern industry is limited to a few tuna canneries, five garment factories, a bottling plant, and a few enterprises in the capital producing PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. The vast majority of Maldivian exports to the United States are garment products.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Maldives follows a nonaligned policy and is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. The country has a UN Mission in New York, with the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York also accredited as Ambassador to the United States, an embassy in Sri Lanka and in the United Kingdom, a trade representative in Singapore, and a Tourist Information Bureau in Germany. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka maintain resident embassies in Male'. Denmark, Norway, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, and Sweden have consular agencies in Male' under the supervision of their embassies in Sri Lanka and India. The UNDP has a representative resident in Male', as do the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Like the United States, many countries have nonresident ambassadors accredited to the Maldives, most of them based in Sri Lanka or India. The Maldives is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


U.S.-MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

The United States has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Ambassador and some Embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to the Maldives and make periodic visits. The United States supports Maldivian independence and territorial integrity and publicly endorsed India's timely intervention on behalf of the Maldivian Government during the November 1988 coup attempt. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male' in recent years. The Maldives extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing in 2001-02.

U.S. contributions to economic development in the Maldives have been made principally through international organization programs. Although no bilateral aid agreement exists between the two countries, the United States has directly funded training in airport management and narcotics interdiction and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. The United States also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel annually. About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in the Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit the Maldives annually. The Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as somewhat of a damper. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly. There is a shortage of local skilled labor, and most industrial labor has to be imported from Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO (E) Address: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3; Phone: 94-11-244-8007; Fax: 94-11-243-7345; Work-week: M-Th:0800-1730, F:0800-12:00; Website: http://usembassy. state.gov/srilanka/.

AMB:Jeffrey J. Lunstead
AMB OMS:Sue Rowell
DCM:James F. Entwistle
DCM OMS:Sheila Romine
POL:Patricia Mahoney
COM:Rick Merrin
CON:Marc H. Williams
MGT:Jane Ross
AFSA:Philip Cargile
AID:Carol Becker
CLO:Alda Kauffeld
DAO:James Oxley
ECO:Dean R. Thompson
EEO:Patricia Mahoney
FMO:James E. Hostetler
GSO:James Oden
IBB:Glenn Britt
ICASS Chair:Dean Thompson
IMO:Craig A. Zimmerman
ISO:Kinam Kim
ISSO:Craig A. Zimmerman
PAO:Philip A. Frayne
RSO:Pittman Orr
State ICASS:Dean Thompson
Last Updated: 12/5/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 9, 2005

Country Description:

The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of 270,000, of which about 70,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands. The Tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused some damage to several hotels and facilities on some of the islands. Most of the tourism infrastructure remains intact. Travelers planning to visit the Maldives should consult with travel agencies or the Maldivian Tourist Board to ensure their itineraries take this recent event into consideration.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visit visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax. Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area.

Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka at No. 24, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, telephone (94) (11) 2580076/2586762/2500943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6194.

Safety and Security:

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The Maldives has a low crime rate, but thefts of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels does occur.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the governmentowned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). Both provide general and orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neuro-surgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male).

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Maldives is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated is either by foot or by readily-available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay over-night at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

Visit the website of the Maldives' national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.visitmaldives.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Maldives, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Maldives' Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/.

Religious Laws:

Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit may practice its religion, including Bible readings, within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines.

In the past, several non-Maldivian families resident in the Maldives, including some Americans, were expelled for allegedly engaging in religious proselytizing. Although Maldivian law prohibits importing "idols for religious worship," tourists going to the resort islands are generally allowed to bring in items and texts used for personal religious observances.

Currency:

Credit cards are increasingly accepted outside large hotels and resorts; cash payment in dollars is accepted at most retail shops and restaurants and by taxi drivers.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Maldives are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. For more information http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1467.html.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Maldives. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo provides consular support for the Maldives. Americans living or traveling in the Maldives are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Maldives.

Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(11) 244 8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-243-6943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is [email protected]

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Maldives

Maldives

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Maldivians

35 Bibliography

Republic of Maldives

Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa

CAPITAL: Malé

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white crescent at the center of a green field which, in turn, is at the center of a red field.

ANTHEM: Gavmii mi ekuverikan matii tibegen kuriime salaam (In National Unity Do We Salute Our Nation).

MONETARY UNIT: The Maldivian rupee, or rufiyaa (MR), is a paper currency of 100 laris. There are notes of ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, and 100 rufiyaa. The dollar circulates freely and is the only currency accepted at some resorts. mr1 = $0.07813 (or $1 = mr12.8) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system has been adopted, but some local units remain in use.

HOLIDAYS: National Day, 7 January; Independence Day, 26 July; Republic Day, 11 November; Fishermen’s Day, 10 December. ‘Id al-Fitr, ‘Id al’Adha’, and Milad an-Nabi are some of the Muslim religious holidays observed.

TIME: 5 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

The smallest country in Asia, the Republic of Maldives consists of an archipelago of nearly 1,200 coral islands and sand banks in the Indian Ocean, about 200 of which are inhabited. The chain of islands are grouped in 26 atolls that stretch across the equator, south of India and west of Sri Lanka. The total coastline is 644 kilometers (400 miles). The area occupied by Maldives is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.

Maldives’ capital, Malé, is situated on the largest island in the chain, in the Malé Atoll.

2 Topography

Some of the islands are still in the process of formation and are constantly increasing in size, while others are gradually eroding away. The islands are level and extremely low-lying, with elevations rarely exceeding 1.8 meters (6 feet) above sea level. Many contain freshwater lagoons. The highest point of the Maldives is an unnamed location of Wilingili Island with an elevation of

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 300 sq km (116 sq mi)

Size ranking: 187 of 194

Highest elevation: 2.4 meters (7.8 feet) at an unnamed location on Wilingil Island

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Indian Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 13%

Permanent crops: 30%

Other: 77%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 250–380 centimeters (100–150 inches)

Average temperature in January: 27°c (81°f)

Average temperature in July: 27°c (81°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

2.4 meters (7.8 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Indian Ocean).

The disastrous tsunami that struck Indonesia on 26 December 2004 also impacted Maldives. The northernmost and southernmost islands suffered the brunt of the damage.

3 Climate

The Maldives’ equatorial climate is generally hot and humid, with a mean temperature of about 27°c (81°f). The weather during the northeast monsoon (November to March) is mild and pleasant; the southwest monsoon (June to August) is violent and very rainy. Annual rainfall in the south averages about 380 centimeters (150 inches); in the north, 250 centimeters (100 inches).

4 Plants and Animals

The islands are covered with a dense scrub. The northern and southern islands are more fertile than those in the central group, and the eastern islands generally are more fertile than the western. Coconut, breadfruit, plantain, papaya, mango, and banyan trees flourish. Shrubs and flowers are widespread. Rats, rabbits, and flying foxes are the only indigenous mammals. Birds include ducks, bitterns, crows, curlews, snipes, and various sea birds. Small scorpions, beetles, and land crabs are common. Inland lagoons and coastal reefs contain tropical ocean fish, crustaceans, and turtles; the surrounding waters contain sharks, swordfish, and porpoises.

5 Environment

Environmental issues in the Maldives include dwindling freshwater supply and inadequate sewage treatment. Recent estimates indicate that the nation’s water supply may be exhausted in the near future and population increases have created a sanitation problem that threatens the waters surrounding this island nation. Another significant environmental problem is a rise in sea levels due to global warming. The islands are particularly susceptible to flooding. Preservation of the desert island ecology, protection of marine life and coral reefs, and coconut tree rehabilitation are additional environmental goals. In 2006, two species of birds and eight species of fish were considered threatened. The hawksbill turtle, green turtle, and blue whale are on the endangered list.

6 Population

In 2005, the population was estimated at 294,000. The projected population for the year 2025 was 398,000. The population density was 1,071 per square kilometer (2,774 per square mile). Much of the population (27%) resides primarily in urban areas. Malé, the capital and sole urban settlement, had a population of 83,000 in 2005.

7 Migration

People migrate between islands mainly to settle in Malé. Between 1967 and 2000, the population in the capital rose from one-tenth to more than one-quarter of the national total. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 3,000. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was zero.

8 Ethnic Groups

The original inhabitants of the Maldives are thought to have been of south Indian and Arab origin. The people of the northern atolls have to some extent intermarried with peoples from western India, Arabia, and North Africa. Inhabitants of the southern islands show stronger physical affinities with the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. Black African slaves imported from Zanzibar and Arabia have intermarried with the Maldivians, and there are also some Caucasian and Malayan elements.

9 Languages

The Maldivian language, Divehi, is similar to the old Sinhala (Elu) of Ceylon. It has contributed

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: 11 November 1978, reelected to his sixth term in 2003

Birthplace: Malé, Maldives

Birthdate: 29 December 1937

Religion: Islam

Education: Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, post-graduate degree in Islamic history and philosophy

Spouse: Nareena Ibrahim

Children: Two sons, Two daughters

Of interest: He has maintained an untarnished image and is respected as an experienced administrator, diplomat, and academic.

the word atoll to international terminology. In recent years, the language has been influenced by Arabic and Urdu. Thaana, developed during the 17th century, is the corresponding script, written from right to left. English is spoken by most government officials, but only by a small number of the Maldivian population.

10 Religions

Most of the population are Sunni Muslims, since both land ownership and citizenship are limited to adherents to this faith. Non-Muslim foreigners working in or visiting the country are permitted to practice their own religion privately, but there are no non-Muslim places of worship. Proselytizing (or recruiting new members from other faiths) is prohibited for all non-Muslim faiths.

11 Transportation

Malé, the capital, and a few other islands have fairly good roads. Most people travel by bicycle or on foot. Inter-atoll transportation still depends mostly on local sailing boats, called batheli and odi.

As of 2005, the Maldives had a fleet of 16 vessels, totaling 57,118 gross registered tons, serving worldwide destinations, all controlled by Maldives Shipping Ltd., a public enterprise. In 2004, the Maldives had five airports, two of which had paved runways. Also in 2001, 311,100 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

12 History

Indo-European-speaking Sinhalese from Ceylon entered the Maldives in the fourth and fifth centuries bc. Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism by Arab traders from east Africa and the Middle East in the middle of the 12th century. From 1153, an unbroken line of 92 sultans served as local rulers for 800 years until 1953.

During the 16th century, the Maldives were occupied by the Portuguese. In the 17th century, the Dutch, who controlled neighboring Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), concluded a treaty with the sultanate. When Ceylon fell to the British in the 19th century, so did the protection arrangements of the Maldives.

When Ceylon gained independence in 1948, the Maldives remained under the protection of Great Britain. In 1959, government forces crushed rebellions in two of the southernmost atolls. The Sultanate of the Maldive Islands achieved complete independence on 26 July 1965. A new republican constitution came into force on 11 November 1968, establishing the Republic of Maldives. Britain left the Gan air base on 31 December 1975, and the United Kingdom-Maldivian protection accord was formally terminated the following year.

In November 1988, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom successfully resisted an attempt to overthrow him by hired soldiers from Sri Lanka. He was helped by an Indian military contingent flown to the Maldives at his request. Gayoom was reelected for a sixth term as president and chief of state in 2003.

The Maldives has been concerned for two decades about the effects of global warming on the islands. In 2002, President Gayoom warned that his country could be submerged if a rise in sea levels due to the melting of polar ice caps continued.

In 2003, Amnesty International accused the Maldives government of political repression and torture. In August, a state of emergency was imposed after a pro-democracy demonstration became violent. Nearly 100 people were jailed.

On 26 December 2004, Maldives suffered severe damage as a result of a massive tsunami triggered by a powerful underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia.

13 Government

Under the 1998 constitution, the president nominated by the Citizens’ Majlis (parliament) but must be confirmed in office by popular referendum. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet, and serves a five-year term of office. The Majlis has 50 members, 42 directly elected and 8 appointed by the president.

The Maldives is divided into 20 districts, each headed by a government-appointed verin or chief.

14 Political Parties

There are no organized political parties. Candidates run for election as independents and campaign based on their personal and family reputations.

15 Judicial System

Justice is carried out according to traditional Islamic law (Shariah) by the High Court and lower courts appointed for that purpose by the president. Civil law also is applied but remains subordinate to Shariah.

On the capital island, Malé, there is a High Court and lower courts. On the other islands, there is one all-purpose lower court, and complex cases are referred to the appropriate specialized court in Malé. There are also general courts on the islands.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

16 Armed Forces

The armed forces of the Maldives consist of a paramilitary national security service and militia of only a few hundred. Defense is primarily reserved to protect the territorial waters for the fishing industry. Military expenditures amounted to $34.5 million in 2001 or 8.6% of gross domestic product.

17 Economy

Maldives is among the least developed countries in the world, but economic progress has been steady. Fishing, tourism, and shipping are the mainstays of the economy. The government is seeking to diversify the economy through further promotion of tourism, processing industries, and garment production.

The economy took a downturn, with growth rates of 2.2% in 2004 (down from 6% in 2003) and -3.8% in 2005. The inflation rate has been fluctuating, but it did not pose a problem to the economy; in 2004, it reached 6.4%.

18 Income

In 2002, Maldives’ GDP was $1.2 billion, or about $3,900 per person. The average inflation rate that year was 3%. Inflation was estimated at 6.4% in 2004. The annual growth rate of GDP was 6% in 2003, but growth declined in 2004 and 2005.

19 Industry

The manufacturing sector is small and limited by the shortage of domestic labor. After the fishing industry, important traditional industries in the Maldives include the manufacture of coir (a rope made from dried coconut fibers) and lacemaking. Maldivian lacquerwork and finely woven mats are famous for their quality and design.

Modern industry is limited to tuna canneries and other fish processing, several apparel factories built during the past decade, a soft drink bottling plant, and small-scale manufacturing enterprises that produce PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products.

20 Labor

There were approximately 72,000 members of the Maldives workforce in 2002, one-third of whom were foreign workers. About 20% of the workforce in 1999 was employed in fishing; 15% in industry; 10% in tourism; and 55% in other sectors. The unemployment rate was very low in 2003.

The minimum working age is 14 (16 for government work), and there were no reports

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

of children working in the formal economic sector in 2001. However, children work in family agricultural and fishing enterprises. There is no national minimum wage.

21 Agriculture

Only 13% of the land is estimated to be arable. Millet, corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, pineapples, sugarcane, almonds, and many kinds of tropical vegetables and fruits are successfully grown, largely in homestead gardens. Coconut palms provide copra and coir, the most important exports after fish. Virtually all rice, a staple food for the population, must be imported. Breadfruit, mangoes, papayas, limes, bananas, pumpkins, watermelon, taro, and chili peppers are also valuable crops. As of 2004, small amounts of corn, millet, and sorghum were cultivated. Production in 2004 included 35,000 tons of coconuts and 30,000 tons of vegetables and melons.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

22 Domesticated Animals

The feed supply is insufficient to support large numbers of cattle, but there are many goats and chickens in the country.

23 Fishing

Fishing is the chief industry (accounting for 11% of GDP), with the main catch being skipjack and yellowfin tuna. About half the annual harvest is frozen, canned, or dried. It is then exported to Thailand, Europe, and Sri Lanka. Expansion of the canning industry and investment in fisheries diversification are ongoing. The fish catch in 2003 totaled 155,415 tons; exports of fish were valued at $76.4 million that year. Annual per capita consumption of fish and shell-fish in the mid-1990s averaged 175.5 kilograms (386.9 pounds, live weight equivalent), greater than that of any other nation. Shell gathering is a relatively important activity in the Maldives, with large quantities of cowries exported for use as ornaments. Several rare shell species are also collected.

24 Forestry

There are no major forests in Maldives. Coconut wood, however, is used in the building of boats and the construction of houses. In 2004, imports of forest products amounted to $4.2 million.

25 Mining

There are no known mineral resources.

26 Foreign Trade

Fish products account for the majority of total exports, followed by garments. Manufactured goods, machinery, food, and fuels are the main imports. In 2000, leading trade partners included the United States, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.

27 Energy and Power

As of 2005 the Maldives had no known reserves of oil or natural gas, nor any crude oil refining capacity. Therefore, the country must rely upon imports to meet its oil and natural gas needs. The electric output for 2002 was 0.13 billion kilowatt hours. In 2002, the country’s electric power generating capacity came to 0.04 million kilowatts, of which all was dedicated to fossil fuels.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorMaldives Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$3,900 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.8% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land1071 803032
Life expectancy in years: male63 587675
female66 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.1 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)n.a. 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)96.3% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people143 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people58 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n.a. 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)3.37 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

28 Social Development

There is no organized social welfare system. Assistance is traditionally provided through the extended family. In spite of traditional Islamic restrictions on women, they have increased their participation in public life. Although children’s rights are explicit in law and provisions are in place to protect children from abuse, education is not compulsory. Female children are more likely to be withdrawn from school than boys.

29 Health

In 2005, there were an estimated 0.1 physicians per 1,000 people. There is a relatively modern 86-bed hospital in Malé and a new Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (200 beds). There is also a 12-bed regional hospital and medical rescue services in the outlying atolls. Between 1976 and 1994, 30% of children under five were underweight. Life expectancy was estimated at 64.06 years and infant mortality at 56.5 per 1,000 live births as of 2005.

In 2004, there were 100 people living with the immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Water-borne disease epidemics have occurred, often caused by contamination of wells.

Most residential units throughout the country have brick walls, some of which are also plastered, and roofs of galvanized metal sheets. The poorer houses are walled from the street with mats, called cadjan, or palm leaves.

According to a 2000 housing census, there were about 43,556 residential units nationwide. About 96% were detached dwellings. About 325 were apartments. The average dwelling size is from three to six rooms. About 48% of all dwellings had been built from 1990 to 2000. Nearly 68% of the population relies on rain water as a primary source of water. About 43% of all dwellings have septic tanks. About 84% of households have electric lighting, but firewood and oil are the primary heating and cooking fuels.

31 Education

Primary education is for seven years and secondary education is in two stages: five years at the lower level and two years at the higher level. Education is compulsory for seven years. Traditional religious schools (makhtabs) teach the Koran, basic arithmetic, and the ability to read and write Divehi.

In 1998 there were 48,895 students enrolled in 228 primary schools, with 1,992 teachers. As of 2003, virtually 92% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while only 51% of those eligible attended secondary school.

Maldivians must go abroad for higher education. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 96.3% for both men and women.

32 Media

In 2002, there were 28,700 mainline phones and 41,900 mobile phones in use nationwide. As of 2005, there were two radio stations and one television station, all government owned. In 1999, there were 35,000 radios and 10,000 televisions throughout the country. In 2002, there were 15,000 Internet subscribers with access through one service provider. By 2004, there were an estimated 58 Internet users for every 1,000 people.

There are two major daily newspapers, Aafathis (2002 circulation 300) and Haveeru Daily (circulation 4,500). Both papers are published in Divehi and English.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Tourism is the principal industry and leading foreign exchange earner. There were 563,593 visitors in 2003. There were 8,557 hotel rooms and 17,114 beds, with an occupancy rate of 77%.

Natural attractions are crystal-clear lagoons and white beaches that are ideal for swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

34 Famous Maldivians

Ibn Battutah (Muhammad bin ‘Abdallah bin Battutah, born Tangier, 1304–1377), the remarkable Arab traveler and geographer, lived in the Maldives for several years, served as a quadi there, and married the daughter of a Maldivian vizier. Sultan Iskandar Ibrahim I, who reigned for nearly 40 years during the 17th century, had the Hukuru Miskit (the principal mosque on Malé Island) built in 1674. Modern-day leaders include Amir Ibrahim Nasir (1926–) and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (1937–).

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Heyerdahl, Thor. The Maldives Mystery. Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986.

NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. Maldives. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001.

Reynolds, C. H. B. Maldives. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1993.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/maldives/index.stm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Commonwealth Country Profiles. www.thecommonwealth.org/Templates/YearbookHomeInternal.asp?NodeID=138746. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/mv/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. www.maldivesinfo.gov.mv. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Maldives

Maldives

Compiled from the January 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Maldives

PROFILE

PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.

Cities: Capital—Male’ (pop. 70,000).

Terrain: Flat islands.

Climate: Hot and humid.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Maldivian(s).

Population: (mid-year 2002) 280,000 (plus 31,000 expatriate laborers who are not counted in the census).

Population growth rate: 1.66%. Population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs.

Religion: Sunni Islam.

Languages: Dhivehi (official); many government officials speak English.

Education: Years compulsory—none. Attendance—primary (grades 1-5) 99%; secondary: (grades 6-10) 51%, (grades 11-12) 5%. Literacy—98%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—18/1,000. Life expectancy—73 years male; 74 years female.

Work force: Community, social and personal services—21%; manufacturing—13%; fishing—11%; tourism—11%; transport, storage, and communication—9%; other—35%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 26, 1965 (formerly a British protectorate).

Constitution: November 11, 1968.

Government branches: Executive—president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral Majlis (parliament). Judicial—High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and 204 general courts.

Political subdivisions: 19 atolls and capital city.

Political parties: Adalath Party, Dhivehi Raiyyethunge Party, Islamic Democratic Party, Maldivian Democratic Party.

Suffrage: Universal at age 21.

Economy

GDP: (2006 est) $907 million.

GDP growth rate: (2006 est.) 18.5%.

Per capita GDP: (2006 est) $3,000.

Inflation: (2006) 2.8%.

Percentages of GDP: (2006 est) Tourism—28%; transport and communications—17%; government—15%; manufacturing—7%; real estate—6%; fishing—7%; construction—6%; agriculture—2%; other—12%.

Trade: (2006 est) Exports—$147 million: fish products. Major markets—U.S., Thailand, EU, Sri Lanka, Japan (source: Maldives Customs Service). Imports—$832 million: oil, construction material, prepared foodstuffs, vegetables, animal products, electrical appliances, wood products, computers, transport equipment. Major suppliers—Singapore, Sri Lanka, EU, India, Malaysia, U.A.E.

PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE

Maldives comprises 1,191 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.

Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.

The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhala, a language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.

Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, perceived Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male’.

The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride—daughter of the king of Sri Lanka—in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast—present-day Kerala state in India—harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar AlAzam.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name.

Environmental Concerns

There is growing concern about coral reef and marine life damage because of coral mining (used for building and jewelry making), sand dredging, and solid waste pollution. Mining of sand and coral have removed the natural coral reef that protected several important islands, making them highly susceptible to the erosive effects of the sea. The practices have recently been banned. In April 1987, high tides swept over the Maldives, inundating much of Male’ and nearby islands. That event prompted high-level Maldivian interest in global climatic changes, as its highest point is about 8 feet above sea level. The Asian Brown Cloud, a U.S.-sized area of pollution over the Indian Ocean, has the potential of wreaking havoc on the tourism- and fishery-based Maldivian economy.

Investment in Education

The government expenditure for education was 20% of the budget in 2004. Both formal and nonformal education have made remarkable strides in the last decade. Unique to Maldives, modern and traditional schools exist side by side. The traditional schools are staffed by community-paid teachers without formal training and provide basic numeracy and literacy skills in addition to religious instruction.

The modern schools, run by both the government and private sector, provide primary and secondary education. As the modern English-medium school system expands, the traditional system is gradually being upgraded. By early 2003, every inhabited island was equipped to provide primary school education up through grade seven. Secondary schools (grades 8 through 10) are available in atoll capitals and on the islands with larger populations. Five schools have higher secondary classes, two in Capital Male and in three atolls. Only around 5% of students go to high school, but literacy is high at 98%.

Seven post-secondary technical training institutes provide opportunities for youth to gain skills that are in demand. The World Bank provided $17 million for education development from 2000-04. It plans to commit a further $1.5 million for education development, as well as $9 million for an education-related component under an integrated human development project. Over 2000-06, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed $7 million to support post-secondary education development in Maldives. ADB has committed $6.5 million for employment skills training over 2004-2009.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A 1968 referendum approved the constitution, making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975 and is again under revision.

Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became President and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected President in 1978 and reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. Nominated to a 5-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (parliament), the president must be confirmed by a national referendum.

The unicameral Majlis is composed of 50 members serving 5-year terms. Two members from each atoll and Male’ are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president. A special Majlis session began meeting in mid–2004 to review constitutional reform issues. Regularly scheduled Majlis elections took place in January 2005.

The Maldivian legal system—derived mainly from traditional Islamic law—is administered by secular officials, a chief justice, and lesser judges on each of the 19 atolls, who are appointed by the president and function under the Ministry of Justice. There is also an attorney general. Each inhabited island within an atoll has a chief who is responsible for law and order. Every atoll chief,

appointed by the president, functions as a district officer in the British South Asian tradition.

On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom’s request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. In September 2003, following the death of an inmate, a brief prison riot broke out on an island near the capital Male’. Three other inmates were killed during the incident. In response to the killings of the inmates, brief rioting took place on the streets of Male’. The government often prevents opposition rallies from taking place. Throughout 2006, the opposition faced restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the government continued to arrest opposition activists. The government also keeps a tight rein on expressions of Islamic extremism.

President Gayoom’s commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. A human rights commission was established, and a special Majlis, or parliament, was convened to consider changes in the constitution, including the legalization of political parties. In August 2004, however, a demonstration in the capital turned violent and the government declared an emergency and arrested a large number said to be connected to the protest. Some of those arrested were prominent in the reform movement, including several members of the special Majlis. Most were released a few months later.

The Maldives were badly hit by the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed 82 and caused substantial damage to Maldives tourism, housing, and fishing infrastructure. The U.S. provided $1.6 million in immediate relief assistance. Despite the disaster, the Government of the Maldives held parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December 31, on January 22, 2005. Reform candidates performed strongly. Following the poll, President Gayoom announced plans to establish multi-party democracy within a year.

In June of 2005, the members of the People’s Majlis unanimously voted to legally recognize political parties. In order of registration the parties are the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, the government’s Dhivehi Raiyyethunge Party, the Adalath (Justice) Party, and the Islamic Democratic Party. Although no elections have been held since the party system was implemented, members of parliament have declared their political affiliations. In March 2006, the government introduced a “Roadmap for Reform” and subsequently introduced several bills in parliament. However, as of January 2007, parliament had not yet enacted any of the reform legislation.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 8/18/2005

President: Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM

Min. of Atolls Administration: Mohamed Waheed DEEN

Min. of Construction & Public Infrastructure: Mohamed Mauroof JAMEEL

Min. of Defense & National Security: Ismail SHAFEEU

Min. of Economic Development & Trade: Mohamed JALEEL

Min. of Education: Zaahiya ZAREER

Min. of Environment, Energy, & Water: Ahmed ABDULLA

Min. of Finance & Treasury: Gasim IBRAHIM

Min. of Fisheries, Agriculture, & Marine Resources: Abdulla KAMALUDDEEN

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Ahmed SHAHEED

Min. of Gender and Family: Aishath Mohamed DIDI

Min. of Health: Ilyas IBRAHIM

Min. of Higher Education, Employment & Social Security: Abdulla YAMEEN

Min. of Home Affairs: Ahmed Thasmeen ALI

Min. of Housing & Urban Development: Ibrahim RAFEEQ

Min. of Information & Arts: Mohamed NASHEED

Min. of Justice: Mohamed Jameel AHMED

Min. of Planning & National Development: Hamdoon HAMEED

Min. of Presidential Affairs: Mohamed HUSSAIN

Min. of the President’s Office: Aneesa AHMED

Min. of Tourism & Civil Aviation: Mahmood SHAUGEE

Min. of Transportation & Communication: Mohamed SAEED

Min. of Youth & Sports: Hussain HILMY

Min. of State for Foreign Affairs: Abdullah SHAHID

Attorney General: Hassan SAEED

Governor, Maldives Monetary Authority (Central Bank): Mohamed JALEEL

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Mohamed LATHEEF

ECONOMY

The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Of the Maldives’ 1,191 islands, only 200 are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, with the greatest concentration on the capital island, Male’. Limitations on potable water and arable land constrain expansion.

Development has been centered upon the tourism industry and its complementary service sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.

GDP in 2006 totaled $907 million, or about $3,000 per capita. The Maldivian economy has made a remarkable recovery from the tsunami, which inflicted damages of about $375 million, excluding $100 million in damages to resorts, the bulk of which was covered by private insurance. A rebound in tourism, post-tsunami reconstruction, and new resort construction helped increase GDP by nearly 18% in 2006 from a contraction of 4.5% in 2005. Inflation has moderated to about 3%. As tourism staged a speedy recovery and government borrowing increased, the balance of payments recorded a surplus of about $40 million in 2006 from a deficit of $17 million in 2005. Fiscal control has deteriorated due to tsunami reconstruction as well as an increase in non-tsunami-related government expenditure. Government expenditure was estimated at 74.5% of GDP in 2006, compared to 36% of GDP in 2004 before the tsunami. The budget deficit was 18% of GDP in 2006. While reconstruction is ongoing, the recovery process remains underfunded.

The Maldives has been running a merchandise trade deficit in the range of $200 to $260 million annually since 1997. The trade deficit ballooned to $386 million in 2004, $493 million in 2005, and reached an estimated $618 million in 2006, largely the result of increased oil prices and increased imports of construction material. International shipping to and from the Maldives is mainly operated by the private sector with only a small fraction of the tonnage carried on vessels operated by the national carrier, Maldives Shipping Management Ltd. Over the years, the Maldives has received economic assistance from multilateral development organizations, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Individual donors—including Japan, India, Australia, and European and Arab countries (including Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwaiti Fund)—also have contributed.

A 1956 bilateral agreement gave the United Kingdom the use of Gan—in Addu Atoll in the far south—for 20 years as an air facility in return for British aid. The agreement ended in 1976, shortly after the British closed the Gan air station.

Economic Sectors

Tourism. In recent years, Maldives has successfully marketed its natural assets for tourism—beautiful, unpolluted beaches on small coral islands, diving in blue waters abundant with tropical fish, and glorious sunsets. Tourism now brings in about $400 million a year. Tourism and related services contributed 28% of GDP in 2006.

Since the first resort was established in 1972, more than 87 islands have been developed, with a total capacity of some 17,000 beds. Maldives has embarked on a rapid tourism expansion plan. The government has awarded tenders for the development of 41 resorts. Over 650,000 tourists (mainly from Europe) visited Maldives in 2006. The average occupancy rate is over 80%, and reaches over 95% in the peak winter tourist season. Average tourist stay is 8 days.

Fishing. This sector employs about 11% of the labor force and contributes 7% of GDP, including fish preparation. The use of nets is illegal, so all fishing is done by line. Production was about 183,000 metric tons in 2005, most of which was skipjack tuna. About 50% is exported, largely to Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the European Union. Fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted, and canned tuna exports accounted for 94% of all marine product exports. Total export proceeds from fish were about $84 million in 2005.

Agriculture. Poor soil and scarce arable land have historically limited agriculture to a few subsistence crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions. Almost all food, including staples, has to be imported. The December 2004 tsunami inundated several agricultural islands, which could take a significant amount of time to recover. Agriculture provides about 2% of GDP.

Manufacturing. The manufacturing sector provides only about 7% of GDP. Traditional industry consists of boat building and handicrafts, while modern industry is limited to a few tuna canneries, a bottling plant, and a few enterprises in the capital producing PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. Five garment factories that had exported principally to the United States closed in 2005, following the expiration of the Multi-Fiber Agreement (MFA) that had set quotas on developing country garment exports to developed countries. The loss of these factories has not proven an insurmountable hurdle, however, as most of the profits were repatriated and most of the labor was expatriate.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Maldives follows a nonaligned policy and is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. The country has a UN Mission in New York, with the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York also accredited as Ambassador to the United States, an embassy in Sri Lanka and in the United Kingdom, a trade representative in Singapore, and a Tourist Information Bureau in Germany. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka maintain resident embassies in Male’. Denmark, Norway, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, and Sweden have consular agencies in Male’ under the supervision of their embassies in Sri Lanka and India. The UNDP has a representative resident in Male’, as do the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Like the United States, many countries have nonresident ambassadors accredited to the Maldives, most of them based in Sri Lanka or India. The Maldives is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

U.S.-MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

The United States has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Ambassador and some Embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to the Maldives and make periodic visits. The United States supports Maldivian independence and territorial integrity and publicly endorsed India’s timely intervention on behalf of the Maldivian Government during the November 1988 coup attempt. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male’ in recent years. The Maldives extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing in 2001-02.

U.S. contributions to economic development in the Maldives have been made principally through international organization programs. Following the December 2004 tsunami, the U.S. and Maldives signed a bilateral assistance agreement for $8.6 million in reconstruction assistance. This assistance will help in the rebuilding of harbors, sewerage systems, electrical generation facilities and in the development of aid absorption capacity in the Ministry of Finance. The United States has directly funded training in airport management and narcotics interdiction and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. The United States also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel annually. About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in the Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit the Maldives annually. The Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as somewhat of a damper. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly. There is a shortage of local skilled labor, and most industrial labor has to be imported from Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO (E) Address: 210, Galle Road, Colombo 3,; Phone: 94-11-249-8500; Fax: 94-11-243-7345; Workweek: Mon-Thur: 0800-1730, Fri: 0800-12:00; Website: http://colombo.usembassy.gov/.

AMB:Robert O. Blake, Jr.
AMB OMS:Sue Rowell
DCM:James R. Moore
DCM OMS:Karie Ennis
POL:Michael DeTar
COM:Rick Merrin
CON:Philip Cargile
MGT:Maria E. Brewer
AFSA:Philip Cargile
AID:Rebecca Cohn
CLO:Alda Kauffeld
DAO:James Oxley
ECO:Robert Gabor
EEO:Neil Brans
FIN:Alboino Deulus
FMO:Joe Ellingson
IBB:Glenn Britt
ICASS Chair:Rebecca Cohn
IMO:Mark Brewer
ISO:Kinam M. Kim
ISSO:Mark Brewer
PAO:Terry White
RSO:Pittman Orr
State ICASS:Robert Gabor

Last Updated: 1/27/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : October 20, 2006

Country Description: The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of 270,000, of which about 70,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands. The Tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused some damage to several hotels and facilities on some of the islands. Most of the tourism infrastructure remains intact. Travelers planning to visit the Maldives should consult with travel agencies or the Maldivian Tourist Board to ensure their itineraries take this event into consideration.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visitor visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax. Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area.

Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel’s departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka at No. 24, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, telephone (94) (11) 2580076/2586762/2500943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6194.

Visit the website of the Maldives Permanent Mission to the United Nations at http://www.un.int/maldives/ for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The Maldives has a low crime rate, but thefts of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels does occur.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the government-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately-owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neurosurgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male.)

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Maldives is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated is either by foot or by readily-available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat.

Several local companies provide sea-plane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay overnight at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

Visit the website of the Maldives national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.visitmaldives.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Maldives, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Maldives’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Religious Laws: Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit may practice its religion, including Bible readings, within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines.

In the past, several non-Maldivian families resident in the Maldives, including some Americans, were expelled for allegedly engaging in religious proselytizing. Although Maldivian law prohibits importing “idols for religious worship,” tourists traveling to the resort islands are generally allowed to bring in items and texts used for personal religious observances.

Currency: Credit cards are increasingly accepted outside large hotels and resorts; cash payment in dollars is accepted at most retail shops and restaurants and by taxi drivers.

Political activity: During 2004-2005, there has been some political unrest, particularly in the capital of Male. Americans are cautioned against engaging in political demonstrations in the Maldives. While there have been many arrests for political activity, as of this date there has been little political violence in the Maldives.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Maldives are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Maldives. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo provides consular support for the Maldives. Americans living or traveling in the Maldives are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Maldives. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. As a trip from Colombo to the Maldives takes about 3 hours, consular support may be limited in an emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy’s telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(11) 244 8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-243-6943. The Embassy’s Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The email address for the consular section is [email protected] state.gov.

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Maldives

Maldives

Type of Government

The government of the Maldives is a presidential republic with near absolute power vested in the executive. The president is head of state, head of government, and even the supreme religious leader. The political system is highly centralized, and power is held mainly by a small group related to the president. The executive branch is headed by the president, who selects the cabinet, part of the parliament, and all judges.

Background

Maldives is a chain of 1,191 coral islands, grouped into what are known as atolls, in the Indian Ocean, south of India and west of Sri Lanka. Only about two hundred of the islands are inhabited. Maldives was gradually populated beginning in the twelfth century AD as sailors, traders, and settlers migrated southward from Sri Lanka and India. The population converted from Buddhism to Islam in 1153, and Sunni Islam is the official religion today.

Due to its isolation, Maldives has been able to survive as a self-governing, independent country for centuries. The country was a sovereign Islamic sultanate for almost the entire period between 1153 and 1968. Portugal claimed ownership of the islands from 1558 until they were defeated by Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Azam in 1573. The Dutch government, controlling nearby Ceylon, reached an agreement whereby the sultanate paid tribute to the rulers of Ceylon in return for protection. When Great Britain took control of Ceylon in 1815, it also assumed responsibility for Maldives. Colonial Ceylon became independent Sri Lanka in 1948, and Great Britain and Maldives negotiated a new agreement that eliminated tribute payments.

A 1952 referendum abolished the sultanate in favor of a republic, but the royal family, the Didis, continued to dominate the government. Amir Didi, already Sultan Amin Didi’s designated heir, became president on January 1, 1953. Many Maldivians resented Didi’s progressive reforms, such as emancipation of women, and he was removed from office in September 1953. Two of his cousins temporarily served as copresidents. Parliament voted to restore the sultanate in 1954, to be led by Muhammad Fareed Didi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Ali Didi.

Maldives became independent in 1965, and a November 11, 1968, referendum replaced the sultanate with a second presidential republic. Ibrahim Nasir (1926–), a member of the royal family who had been prime minister since 1965, became president, a post he occupied until 1978.

Government Structure

Under the constitution of 1968, Maldives has an executive branch headed by the president, who is head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief. The president is nominated by parliament and approved by national referendum. Presidents may serve an unlimited number of five-year terms. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (1937–) was elected president in 1978 and re-elected five times (1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003). His brothers occupy key advisory roles within the government, including speaker of parliament, minister of trade, and minister of atoll administration. President Gayoom is also minister of defense and national security, minister of finance, and governor of the national monetary authority. There is no prime minister, although the president is assisted by an eleven-member cabinet, most of whom are relatives.

The Maldivian legislative branch consists of a unicameral (one-chamber) parliament, the Majlis, with fifty members. Each administrative district sends two representatives to parliament, while the president appoints an additional eight. The representatives typically have other state responsibilities in local governments or as heads of state-owned firms. All parliament representatives serve five-year terms.

Judicial authority in Maldives is exercised by a High Court, as well as a civil court, criminal court, family and juvenile court, and 204 general courts. The legal code draws from Islamic law, and customary punishments such as banishment are common. The president appoints all judges; he may fire judges or overturn High Court decisions at will. There are no jury trials for criminal cases.

Local governance is complicated by the diffuse structure of Maldives. The numerous islands are grouped into twenty districts, while the capital city, Male, is the twenty-first district. Each district is ruled by an atoll chief, appointed by the president. All citizens of Maldives are permitted to vote at the age of twenty-one.

Political Parties and Factions

Political parties were banned in Maldives prior to June 2005. Before then, candidates for parliament ran as independents. Four parties have registered—Adalath (Justice), Dhivehi Raiyyethunge, Islamic Democratic Party, and Maldivian Democratic Party—and members of parliament have begun to announce their affiliations.

Major Events

Maldives has enjoyed relative calm since independence and the 1968 constitution, a calm some analysts attribute to the common Islamic beliefs shared among most of the population. Critics, however, blame the government for maintaining peace by restricting opposition activities. Demands for representative government are increasing, with the number of protests growing since the last presidential referendum in 2003.

By 1978 President Nasir’s popularity had plummeted, even among the ruling elite. He was criticized for his autocratic political style, and poor economic policies had left a hungry population protesting over rising prices for food. Consequently, Nasir announced he would resign in 1978. The Majlis appointed diplomat Gayoom as the next president.

Gayoom has survived three coup attempts. In 1980 Nasir loyalists hired British mercenaries to try to overthrow Gayoom, but their plot was discovered before they could act. A local businessman, Reeko Ibrahim Maniku, unsuccessfully tried to buy the 1983 presidential nomination for himself by bribing judges and members of parliament. Tamil mercenaries from Sri Lanka attempted to overthrow the Maldivian government on November 8, 1988, shortly after Gayoom was inaugurated for a third term. They wanted to use Male as a gunrunning outpost and raise funds through the Maldivan tourist sector. President Gayoom appealed to New Delhi for assistance, and Indian troops put down the invasion within twenty-four hours.

The most serious challenge to Gayoom’s rule occurred in the summer of 2004. In June he convened a special session of parliament to consider constitutional amendments, including limiting presidents to two five-year terms, increasing judicial independence, ending the president’s right to appoint eight members of parliament, and legalizing political parties. Parliament was scheduled to take up the reform package on August 16.

But on August 12 a group of protestors assembled outside the police headquarters in Male, demanding the release of four political activists. The number of protestors grew overnight to around five thousand people, and they began calling for the dismissal of several hard-line members of the government. Gayoom declared a state of emergency on August 13, invoking a constitutional provision that the president could suppress peaceful, democratic protests. As part of the crackdown, at least two hundred opposition leaders and several members of parliament were arrested, and Gayoom briefly cut Maldivian access to the Internet.

Twenty-First Century

Maldives faces three challenges in the years ahead: accommodating demands for democracy, rebuilding the tourist sector, and stemming environmental damage.

The December 26, 2004, Asian tsunami struck Maldives and severely damaged the country’s lucrative tourist and fishing industries. About 10 percent of the population lost their homes. The estimated price tag for reconstruction was set at $1 billion—double the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Parliamentary elections had been scheduled for December 31, 2004, but were successfully held three weeks later, on January 22, 2005. However, four of Gayoom’s main critics were arrested on corruption charges ahead of the vote, complicating their campaign efforts. Pro-Gayoom candidates won twenty-eight of the forty-eight elected seats, giving Gayoom another compliant parliament. His reforms have been shelved, but popular protests for democracy continue.

The islands of Maldives rise only a few feet above sea level, making them prone to erosion and flooding. Global warming could lead to rising sea levels that eventually could submerge the country. The government launched a land reclamation project in 1997 to alleviate housing shortages, but any progress was literally washed away by the 2004 tsunami. Furthermore, the islands are rapidly losing their freshwater supply, and the country’s poor sanitation systems threaten the environment.

Ellis, Royston. A Man for All Islands: A Biography of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom . New York: Times Editions, 1998.

Hockly, T. W. The Two Thousands Islands: A Short Account of the People, History and Customs of the Maldive Archipelago . New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2003.

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Maldives

Maldives

  • Area: 116 sq mi (300 sq km) / World Rank: 194
  • Location: Straddling the equator, in the Eastern, Northern, and Southern Hemispheres, in the Indian Ocean, south of India, west of Sri Lanka
  • Coordinates: 3°15′N, 73°00′E
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 400 mi (644 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll, 7.9 ft (2.4 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 510 mi (823 km) N-S / 82 mi (133 km) E-W
  • Longest River: None of significant size
  • Natural Hazards: Sensitivity to sea level rise because of the Maldives's level, low-lying land
  • Population: 310,764 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 170
  • Capital City: Malé, in the Malé Atoll, on the largest island in the chain
  • Largest City: Malé, 68,000 (2000 est.)

OVERVIEW

Consisting of an archipelago of almost 1,200 coral islands and sand banks in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is the smallest country in Asia. Some of the islands are level and low-lying and are gradually washing away into the ocean; others are in the process of formation and are constantly growing in size. Most islands have freshwater lagoons, and all have coastal reefs. The largest atoll group is the Malé Atoll, where the capital city is located.

Because of its equatorial position, the Maldives have a humid and hot climate, with two monsoon seasons. More violent storms are possible in the northern atolls than those in the south.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Consisting of coral islands, the Maldives are almost completely flat.

INLAND WATERWAYS

The islands of the Maldives are too small to support inland waterways of any significant size.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean, about 400 mi (645 km) southwest of Sri Lanka. Four ocean channels cross through the archipelago from east to west. These are the Kardiva Channel, Veimandu Channel, One and a Half Degree Channel, and Equatorial Channel.

A protective, fringing coral reef surrounds each island, and many islands have freshwater lagoons. Small patch reefs and faroes (unusual ring-shaped reefs) are located in Malé Atoll's lagoon.

Major Islands

The atoll groups, from north to south, are: Ihavandiffulu Atoll, Tiladummati Atoll, Miladummadulu Atoll, North Malosmadulu and South Malosmadulu Atolls, and Fadiffolu Atoll; separated from these atolls by the Kardiva Channel are Malé Atoll, South Malé Atoll, Ari Atoll, Felidu Atoll, Nilandu Atoll, Mulaku Atoll, and Kolumadulu Atoll; further south, separated by the Veimandu Channel is Haddummati Atoll; the One and a Half Degree Channel separates the Suvadiva Atoll; and the Equatorial Channel separates the most southerly atoll, Addu Atoll.

All the islands of the Maldives are small, but the island of Malé, location of the capital city, is the most densely populated and developed. It is 1.2 mi (2 km) long and just over one-half mile (1 km) wide. Land reclamation projects have increased the size of Malé, but travelers must use an airport on a neighboring island and then be transported to Malé by boat, since there is not enough room for an airport runway. Sea walls surrounded the island on all sides.

To the far south in the Maldives lies Addu Atoll, where the town of Seenu is located. The British used these south-lying atolls as an air base during World War II, and undertook some engineering projects during the 1950s following the end of the war. Among these was a causeway connecting Fua Mulaku, Midu, and Hitadu, and Gan islands in the Addu Atoll.

The Coast and Beaches

White coral sand covers Maldives's flat beaches, and there is no trace of yellow or black coloring in the sand, as there is on other beaches in the world.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

The Maldives' climate is equatorial—usually hot and humid, with an average temperature of about 81°F (27°C). During the northeast monsoon (from November to March), the weather is mild and comfortable, while the southwest monsoon season (from June to August) is extremely rainy and violent.

Rainfall

In the south, rainfall averages approximately 150 in (380 cm), and in the north it averages 100 in (250 cm).

Grasslands

Dense scrub covers the islands. The central islands are less fertile than the northern and southern groups, and the western islands are less fertile than the eastern ones.

Forests and Jungles

There are no thick jungles on the islands because of the poor soil, but small areas of rainforest exist on the larger islands that have more precipition. Coconut, mango, plantain, banyan, and mango trees thrive in the tropical climate, as well as flowers and shrubs.

Departments – Maldives
POPULATIONS FROM 1995 CENSUS
Name Population Capital
Alifu Alifu 4,852 Rasdhoo
Alifu Dhaal 6,764 Mahibadhoo
Baa 10,147 Eydhafushi
Dhaalu 5,587 Kudahuvadhoo
Faafu 3,573 Magoodhoo
Gaafu Alifu 9,453 Villingili
Gaafu Dhaalu 15,067 Thinadhoo
Ghaviyani 8,034 Fuvahmulah
Haa Alifu 15,893 Dhidhdhoo
Haa Dhaalu 17,755 Kulhudhuffushi
Kaafu 7,855 Male
Laamu 11,320 Fondahoo
Lhaviyani 9,250 Naifaru
Malé 34,583 Malé
Meemu 5,543 Muli
Noonu 11,457 Manadhoo
Raa 15,129 Ugoofaaru
Seenu 23,835 Hithadhoo
Shaviyani 11,792 Funadhoo
Thaa 11,620 Veymandhoo
Vaavu 1,823 Felidhoo
SOURCE : Census of Population by Locality, 1995, Ministry of Planning and National Development, Maldives.

HUMAN POPULATION

The capital, Malé, the only urban settlement, had an estimated population of 68,000 in 2000, and the size of the island is roughly 0.75 mi (1.9 sq km). About 200 of the 1,200 islands are inhabited.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Fish is Maldives's only natural resource of note, especially yellowfin tuna and skipjack, with almost half of the harvest dried, frozen, or canned for export. Also important to the economy is the tourism industry.

FURTHER READINGS

Balla, Mark, and Willox, Robert. Maldives & Islands of the East Indian Ocean. 2nd Edition. Berkeley, CA: Lonely Planet, 1993.

Heyerdahl, Thor. The Maldives Mystery. Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler, 1986.

Maldive Holidays. Maldives... the Last Paradise.http://www.maldive.com/geog/mgeog.html (accessed March 13, 2002).

Reynolds, C.H.B. Maldives. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1993. TheMaldives.com. Maldives Geography.http://www.themaldives.com/Maldives/Maldives_geography.htm (accessed March 13, 2002).

GEO-FACT

Because of concerns that rising sea levels may eventually submerge the low-lying islands of Maldives, the government has undertaken programs to prepare for the worst. A six-foot concrete retaining wall, known as the Great Wall of Malé, has been constructed to protect the capital. Even more drastic is the construction of 4 sq mi (10 sq km) artificial island, Hulhumale off the coast of Malé. With an elevation of 6 ft (2 m), Hulhumale is about 2 ft (.6 m) higher than Malé itself. The government plans to use Hulhumale to support the country's population if the other islands become inhabitable due to flooding. People will be encouraged to settle on Hulhumale when it is completed, even before flooding threatens their homes. Trees and rabbits are already thriving there, and light industry will be established on the island as soon as possible.

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Maldives

Maldives

At a Glance

Official Name: Republic of Maldives

Continent: Asia

Area: 116 square miles (300 sq km)

Population: 310,764

Capital City: Malé

Largest City: Malé (63,973)

Unit of Money: Rufiyaa

Major Languages: Dhivehi (official), Arabic, English

Literacy: 93%

Land Use: 10% arable, 3% pasture, 3% forest, 84% other

Natural Resources: Fish

Government: Republic

Defense: Paramilitary police force

The Place

Maldives (formerly Maldive Islands) is made up of a chain of 1,190 small coral islands grouped into clusters of atolls about 417 miles (671 km) southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. The islands are more than 510 miles (820 km) from north to south and 80 miles (130 km) from east to west, and are surrounded by barrier reefs. The islands are low-lying, with none rising to more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above sea level. Nearly 80% of the land is 3 feet (0.91 m) or less above sea level.

The atolls have sandy beaches and lagoons. About 10% of the land is arable. The most common plants that grow on the islands are coconut palms and breadfruit trees.

Maldives has a tropical, humid climate. The average temperature is 80° F (26.7° C). The islands average 60 inches (152 cm) of a rain a year, although most of the rain falls between May and November. The islands are sometimes affected by monsoons.

The People

Maldives has a population density of 2,698 people per square mile (1,042 people per sq km). People inhabit 202 of the islands. Malé, the capital and major commercial center, is the most populated atoll. About 20 of the islands have more than 1,000 inhabitants. Southern islands are more populated than northern islands.

More than 40% of the population is under 15 years old. The people reflect a variety of ethnicities, including Indian, Sinhalese, and African. Islam is the state religion. About two-thirds of school-age children are enrolled in school. Higher education is not offered on the islands. Life expectancy is 69 years.

Maldives is one of the poorest countries in the world. Tourism is its most important industry. Fishing, boatbuilding, and boat-repairing are its other main sources of income. About 25% of the labor force works in the fishing industry, 21% in services and manufacturing and construction, 16% in trade, hotels, and restaurants, and 10% in communication and transportation.

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Maldives

MALDIVES

Compiled from the August 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
Republic of Maldives


PROFILE
HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S. MALDIVIAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.

Cities: Capital—Male' (pop. 70,000).

Terrain: Flat islands.

Climate: Hot and humid.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Maldivian(s).

Population: (mid-year 2002) 280,000 (plus 31,000 expatriate laborers who are not counted in the census).

Population growth rate: 1.66%. Population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs.

Religion: Sunni Islam.

Languages: Dhivehi (official); many government officials speak English.

Education: Years compulsory—none. Attendance—primary (grades 1-5) 99%; secondary: (grades 6-10) 51%, (grades 11-12) 5%. Literacy—98%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—18/1,000. Life expectancy—73 years male; 74 years female.

Resident Work force: Community, social and personal services—21%; manufacturing—13%; fishing—11%; tourism—11%; transport, storage, and communication—9%; other—35%.


Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 26, 1965 (formerly a British protectorate).

Constitution: November 11, 1968.

Branches: Executive—president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral Majlis (parliament). Judicial—High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and 204 general courts.

Administrative subdivisions: 19 atolls and capital city.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Universal at age 21


Economy

GDP: (2002)$639.5 million.

GDP growth rate: 6.0%.

Per capita GDP: About $2,279.

Inflation: (2002) 0.9%.

Percentages of GDP: (2002)Tourism—31%; distribution—14%; government—12%; manufacturing—9%; real estate—8%. fishing—7%; construction—3%; agriculture —3%; other—13%.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$91 million: fish products, garments. Major markets—U.S., Sri Lanka, EU, Thailand, Japan (source: Maldives Customs Service). Imports—$393 million: oil, textiles and yarn, rice, cigarette, cement, engines for boats, televisions, aircraft parts, prefabricated buildings, vegetables. Major suppliers—Singapore, Sri Lanka, EU, India, Malaysia, U.A.E.




HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS

Maldives comprises 1,191 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.


Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.


The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhala, a language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.


Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, perceived Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male'.


The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride—daughter of the king of Sri Lanka—in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.


Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast—present-day Kerala state in India—harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar Al-Azam.


Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by are public, and the country assumed its present name.


Environmental Concerns

There is growing concern about coral reef and marine life damage because of coral mining (used for building and jewelry making), sand dredging, and solid waste pollution. Mining of sand and coral have removed the natural coral reef that protected several important islands, making them highly susceptible to the erosive effects of the sea. The practices have recently been banned. In April 1987, high tides swept over the Maldives, inundating much of Male' and nearby islands. That event prompted high-level Maldivian interest in global climatic changes, as its highest point is about 8 feet above sea level. The Asian Brown Cloud, a U.S.-sized area of pollution over the Indian Ocean, has the potential of wreaking havoc on the tourism- and fishery-based Maldivian economy.


Investment in Education

The government expenditure for education was 18% of the budget in 2002. Both formal and nonformal education have made remarkable strides in the last decade. Unique to Maldives, modern and traditional schools exist side by side. The traditional schools are staffed by community-paid teachers without formal training and provide basic numeracy and literacy skills in addition to religious instruction.


The modern schools, run by both the government and private sector, provide primary and secondary education. As the modern English-medium school system expands, the traditional system is gradually being upgraded. By early 2003, every inhabited island was equipped to provide primary school education up through grade five. Fewer islands have secondary schools for grades six through 10, and the only high school (grades 11 and 12) in the Maldives is in Male'. Only around 5% of students go to high school, but literacy is high at 98%.


Seven post-secondary technical training institutes provide opportunities for youth to gain skills that are in demand. The World Bank has already committed $17 million for education development in 2000-04, and plans to commit further $15 million for human development and distance learning during this period. Over 2001-03, the ADB has committed $7 million to support post-secondary education development in Maldives.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A 1968 referendum approved the constitution, making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The Constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975 and is again under revision.


Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became president and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected president in 1978 and reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. Nominated to a 5-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (Parliament), the president must be confirmed by a national referendum.


The unicameral Majlis is composed of 48 members serving 5-year terms. Two members from each atoll and Male' are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president.


The Maldivian legal system—derived mainly from traditional Islamic law—is administered by secular officials, a chief justice, and lesser judges on each of the 19 atolls, who are appointed by the president and function under the Ministry of Justice. There also is an attorney general. Each inhabited island within an atoll has a chief who is responsible for law and order. Every atoll chief, appointed by the president, functions as a district officer in the British South Asian tradition.


Maldives has no organized political parties. Candidates for elective office run as independents on the basis of personal qualifications. On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries
tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. The government also keeps a tight rein on any expression of Islamic extremism. Political stability in the Maldives has brought considerable predictability in the economic policy and institutional environment.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 10/22/02


President: Gayoom, Maumoon Abdul

Speaker of People's Majlis: Hameed, Abdulla

Min. of Atolls Administration: Hameed, Abdulla

Min. of Construction & Public Works: Zahir, Umar

Min. of Defense & National Security: Gayoom, Maumoon Abdul

Min. of Education: Shafeeu, Ismail

Min. of Finance & Treasury: Gayoom, Maumoon Abdul

Min. of Fisheries, Agriculture, & Marine Resources: Hussain, Abdul Rasheed

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Jameel, Fathulla

Min. of Health: Abdulla, Ahmed

Min. of Home Affairs, Housing, & Environment: Shafeeu, Ismail

Min. of Human Resources, Employment, & Labor: Kamaluddeen, Abdulla

Min. of Information, Arts, & Culture: Manik, Ibrahim

Min. of Justice: Zahir, Ahmed

Min. of Planning & National Development: Zaki, Ibrahim Hussain

Min. of the President's Office: Jameel, Abdulla

Min. of Science & Technology:

Min. of Tourism: Sobir, Hassan

Min. of Trade & Industries: Yameen, Abdulla

Min. of Transport & Civil Aviation: Ibrahim, Ilyas

Min. of Women's Affairs & Social Security: Ahmed, Aneesa

Min. of Youth & Sports: Hussain, Mohamed Zahir

Min. of State & Auditor-General: Fathy, Ismail

Min. of State for Defense & National Security: Sattar, Anbaree Abdul

Min. of State for Finance & Treasury: Hilmy, Arif

Min. of State for Pres. Affairs: Hussain, Mohamed

Iman, of the Islamic Center: Shathir, Ahmed

Special Advisor, Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs: Fathy, Moosa

Attorney General: Munavvar, Mohammed

Governor, Central Bank: Gayoom, Maumoon Abdul

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Latheef, Mohamed




ECONOMY

The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Of the Maldives' 1,191 islands, only 200 are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, with the greatest concentration on the capital island, Male'. Limitations on potable water and arable land constrain expansion.

Development has been centered upon the tourism industry and its complementary service sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.


GDP in 2002 totaled $640 million or about $2, 200 per capita. The Maldives has experienced relatively low inflation in recent years. Real GDP growth averaged about 10% in the 1980s. It expanded by an exceptional 16.2% in 1990, declined to 4% in 1993, grew to 10% in 1998 and has since leveled to the 5% to 7% range.


The Maldives has been running a merchandise trade deficit in the range of $200 to $260 million since 1997. The trade deficit declined to $208 million in 2002 from $233 million in 2001.


International shipping to and from the Maldives is mainly operated by the private sector with only a small fraction of the tonnage carried on vessels operated by the national carrier, Maldives Shipping Management Ltd. Over the years, the Maldives has received economic assistance from multilateral development organizations, including the UN Development Program, Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Individual donors—including Japan, India, Australia, and European and Arab countries (including Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwaiti Fund)—also have contributed.


A 1956 bilateral agreement gave the United Kingdom the use of Gan—in Addu Atoll in the far south—for 20 years as an air facility in return for British aid. The agreement ended in 1976, shortly after the British closed the Gan air station.


Economic Sectors

Tourism. In recent years, Maldives has successfully marketed its natural assets for tourism—beautiful, unpolluted beaches on small coral islands, diving in blue waters abundant with tropical fish, and glorious sunsets. Tourism now brings in about $198 million a year. Tourism and related services contributed 31% of GDP in 2002.


Since the first resort was established in 1972, more than 87 islands have been developed, with a total capacity of some 19,000 beds. The number of tourists (mainly from Europe) visiting the Maldives increased from 1,100 in 1972 to 280,000 in 1994. In 2000, tourist arrivals exceeded 466,000 and is expected to top 500,000 in 2003. The average occupancy rate is 69%, with the average tourist staying 8 days and spending about $396.


Fishing. This sector employs about 11% of the labor force and contributes 7% of GDP or 10%, including fish preparation. The use of nets is illegal, so all fishing is done by line. Production was about 164,003 metric tons in 2002, most of which was skipjack tuna. About 50% is exported, largely to Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the European Union. Fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted, and canned tuna exports accounted for 84% of all marine product exports, split fairly evenly between the products. Total export proceeds from fish were about $56 million in 2002. The fishing fleet consists of some 1,647 small, flat-bottomed boats (dhonis). Since the dhonis have shifted from sails to outboard motors, the annual tuna catch per fisherman has risen from 1.4 metric tons in 1983 to 15.9 metric tons in 2002.


Agriculture. Poor soil and scarce arable land have historically limited agriculture to a few subsistence crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions. Almost all food, including staples, has to be imported. Agriculture provides about 3% of GDP.


Industry and manufacturing. The industrial sector provides only about 9% of GDP. Traditional industry consists of boat building and handicrafts, while modern industry is limited to a few tuna canneries, five garment factories, a bottling plant, and a few enterprises in the capital producing PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. The vast majority of Maldivian exports to the United States are garment products.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Maldives follows a nonaligned policy and is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. The country has a UN Mission in New York, with the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York also accredited as Ambassador to the United States, an embassy in Sri Lanka and in the United Kingdom, a trade representative in Singapore, and a Tourist Information Bureau in Germany. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka maintain resident embassies in Male'. Denmark, Norway, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, and Sweden have consular agencies in Male' under the supervision of their embassies in Sri Lanka and India. The UNDP has a representative resident in Male', as do UNICEF and WHO. Like the United States, many countries have nonresident ambassadors accredited to the Maldives, most of them based in Sri Lanka or India. The Maldives is a member of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).




U.S. MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

The United States has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. ambassador and some embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to the Maldives and make periodic visits. The United States supports Maldivian independence and territorial integrity and publicly endorsed India's timely intervention on behalf of the Maldivian Government during the November 1988 coup attempt. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male' in recent years. The Maldives has extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing in 2001-02.

U.S. contributions to economic development in the Mal dives have been made principally through international organization programs. Although no bilateral aid agreement exists between the two countries, the United States has directly funded training in airport management and narcotics interdiction and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. The United States also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel annually. About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in the Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit the Maldives annually. The Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as somewhat of a damper. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly. There is a shortage of local skilled labor, and most industrial labor has to be imported from Sri Lanka or elsewhere.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Colombo, Sri Lanka (E), 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3 - P.O. Box 106, Tel [94] (1) 448007; Main Fax 437345; CON Fax 436943; ADM Fax 471091; AID: 44 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Tel 472855; Fax 472850; PAO: 44 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Tel 421270; Fax 449070; IBB Tel 032-55931/32; Fax 032-55822.

AMB: E. Ashley Wills
DCM: W. Lewis Amselem
POL: Joseph L. Novak
ECO: William H. Avery
COM/LAB: Teresa L. Manlowe
CON: Marc H. Williams
MGT: Long N. Lee
RSO: Stephen V. Wright
PAO: Bruce A. Lohof
DAO: LTC Richard S. Girven
AID: Carol R. Becker
IBB: Walter D. Patterson
IMO: Bruce R. Begnell
FAA: Ross Hamory
FAS: Chad R. Russell (res. New Delhi)
IRS: Dennis Melton (res. Singapore)

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
August 8, 2003


Country Description: The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of 270,000, of which about 70,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visit visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax.


Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka at No. 23, Kaviratne Place, Colombo 6, telephone (94) (1) 586-762/500-943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6195.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence or relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: The Republic of Maldives recognizes dual nationality. Dual nationals are not required to use their Maldivian passports when entering the country, but they must use them when departing.


Crime Information: The Maldives has a low crime rate, but thefts of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels do occur. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the government-owned Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). Both provide general and orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male.) The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neuro surgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives may need to be medevaced to another destination, such as Singapore.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. U.S. medical plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover healthcare expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Republic of Maldives is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural road conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated is either by foot or by readily available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxis and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay overnight at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Maldivian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Maldivian National Tourist Organization Office in Male via the Internet at http://www.visitmaldives.com.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and the Republic of Maldives, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Maldives' civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.


For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at 1-618-229-4801.


Customs Regulations: Maldivian customs authorities prohibit the importation of non-Islamic religious materials, including religious statues. Personal Bibles are permitted. The importation of pork and pork by-products is restricted. Dogs are not permitted, but visitors may bring their cats. (Many hotels and resorts do not allow pets; travelers should confirm a particular hotel's policy prior to arrival.) Pornographic materials are banned, and all pornographic material will be destroyed upon arrival in the country. Offenders of customs regulations may face jail sentences, deportation and/or heavy fines.

A complete summary of customs regulations is available at www.customs.gov.mv.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced in the Maldives. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, deportation, and/or heavy fines. It is illegal to bring alcohol into the Maldives. Alcoholic beverages are legally available for retail sale to tourists on resort islands.


Special Circumstances: Religious Laws: Public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. Religious gatherings such as Bible study groups are prohibited; however, a family unit may practice its religion, including Bible readings, within its residence. It is against the law to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to attend these gatherings. Offenders may face jail sentences, expulsion and/or fines.

In the past, several non-Maldivian families resident in the Maldives, including some Americans, were expelled for allegedly engaging in religious proselytizing. Although Maldivian law prohibits importing "idols for religious worship," tourists going to the resort islands are generally allowed to bring in items and texts used for personal religious observances. Refer to the Customs Regulations section above for other restrictions.


Currency: Credit cards are increasingly accepted outside large hotels and resorts; cash payment in dollars is accepted at most retail shops and restaurants and by taxi drivers.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: There is no U.S. Embassy in Republic of Maldives, but the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka is also accredited to the Maldives. The former U.S. Consular Agency in Male closed on August 9, 1995. Americans living in or visiting the Maldives are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (1) 448-007. The Embassy's afterhours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1) 448-601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)(1) 436-943. The Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka.

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Maldives

Maldives

POPULATION 275,000
SUNNI ISLAM 100 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Maldives, known officially as Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa and also called Maldive Islands until 1969, is a group of 19 coral atolls and about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean. It has a total land area of approximately 116 square miles (300 square kilometers). Only about 200 of the islands are inhabited. Maldives is about 420 miles (675 kilometers) southwest of Sri Lanka.

The Maldivian national language, Dhivehi, is related to Sinhalese, which is spoken in Sri Lanka, and includes words from Arabic and Indian languages. According to tradition, Sunni Islam has been the religion of the Maldivians since the twelfth century, when a visiting Islamic scholar converted King Sri Tribuvana Aditiya to Islam.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Religious freedom is greatly restricted in Maldives, where the nation's constitution requires that the president and cabinet ministers be Sunni Muslims. Shariah (Islamic law) is observed and does not permit the public practicing or propagation of any other religious faith. Some reports indicated that two-dozen foreigners were expelled in 1998 on suspicion of spreading the Christian faith. Expatriate residents, however, are permitted to practice their religion in their private lives. Generally the government prohibits the importing of icons and religious statues, but it does not forbid the bringing in of religious books, such as Bibles, for personal use. In 1998, however, the government tried unsuccessfully to get the Seychelles to stop radio broadcasts of Christian programs in the Dhivehi language.

The government of Maldives does not permit the influence of Islamic fundamentalism, believing that standard Sunni Islam is one of the distinctive characteristics of the country, giving it religious harmony and a national identity. A Muslim converting to another faith is considered in violation of Islamic law, resulting in the loss of the rights to citizenship.

Major Religion

SUNNI ISLAM

DATE OF ORIGIN 1153 c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 275,000

HISTORY

Islamization of Maldives was not accomplished without resistance. After his conversion in 1153 c.e., King Sri Tribuvana Aditiya became Sultan ibn Abdulla and constructed the first mosque in Maldives, leading to a rebellion of Buddhist monks, which was brutally suppressed. This was followed by the building of mosques at the sites of desecrated Buddhist monasteries and the forced conversion of many Buddhists to Islam.

A struggle ensued to keep the European powers and their religion—Christianity, both in its Roman Catholic and the varied Protestant forms—out of Maldives. Tarikh, an often-quoted chronicle in Arabic, describes some of the bloody battles fought in Maldives to keep the infidel Christians at bay.

Sunni Islam, along with its traditional institutions, was firmly established after the islands were placed under British protection in 1887. The entire present group of islands became the independent Republic of Maldives in 1965. Thereafter, the process of Islamization was very rapid, and the Maldivian government took full responsibility for this movement.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, elected in 1978, was president throughout the 1980s and '90s. Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to impose a stricter traditional way of life in the 1990s opposed Gayoom. Despite this opposition—and three coup attempts in 1980, 1983, and 1988—Gayoom continued to promote a more moderate form of Sunni Islam into the twenty-first century.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Early Maldive history is obscure. A local Muslim leader, Muhammed Thakurufaan, helped free the islands from the Portuguese in the 1570s. In the latter part of the sixteenth century Sheikh Najeeb Habashee worked to strengthen Islam in the islands and contributed much to the religious and intellectual development of the Maldivian people.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is a religious author whose works interpret the Koran and its message for the Maldivians. He is the editor of Dheenuge Magu (Path of Religion), published weekly in Dhivehi language. With a circulation of 7,500, this journal promotes an official Maldivian form of Sunni Islam.

Muhammad Luthfie, H.A. Maniku, A.S. Hassan, M. Waheed, and others are considered significant authors in Maldives. They write mainly in Dhivehi and work primarily on reconstructing the history of Maldives, weaving together the life and the religion of the islands.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

After King Sri Tribuvana Aditiya built the first mosque in the twelfth century, others followed quickly. As of 1991 there were 724 mosques for men and 266 mosques for women throughout the country. In Malé, the capital of Maldives, the Islamic Center and the Grand Friday Mosque were built in 1984, with major funding from outside Maldives. The gold-colored dome of this mosque is the first building sighted when approaching the capital.

WHAT IS SACRED?

In Maldives sacredness is not limited to the mosque and the recitation of the Koran. Fandita, a magico-religious system that coexists with Islam in the minds of ordinary people, provides an alternative way of dealing with their problems. This system, a mixture of folk medicine, charms, and black magic, as well as Koranic verses, gets its momentum from a widespread belief in jinni, or evil spirits. The Koran is seen as supporting this popular belief in jinni.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Festivals in Maldives, though religious, also increase the sense of unity among Maldivians, as they involve communal worship, festivities, and entertainment. The two major Islamic festivals are the Bodu Eid (Id al-Adha), or the Feast of Sacrifice, and the Kuda Eid (Id al-Fitr), the feast celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast. Maldivians celebrate these festivals in the same way as Sunni Muslims elsewhere do, except on some Maldivian islands, where water is splashed on celebrants during Bodu Eid. Traditional music and traditional dances play a unique role in these holiday celebrations. The Prophet Mohammed's birthday is celebrated in Maldives, though without the same high spirit of festivity found during the Bodu Eid or Kuda Eid.

MODE OF DRESS

Most poor men wear a shirt and the traditional sarong, an ankle-length cloth fastened around the waist. Many educated men now wear Western-style clothes. Men may choose to wear a head cloth, which also serves as covering during worship.

Styles for women include a long, shoulder-to-ankle dress or sometimes the Salwar Khamiz, similar to women's garb in India. Women may wear either a partial or a full veil. Schoolgirls may wear knee-length dresses without a veil.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Eating habits have been greatly influenced by India, though this has more to do with availability than religion. Fish, rice, and coconuts are the staple foods. Reflecting Islamic dietary restrictions, alcoholic beverages, pork, and pork products are outlawed in Maldives (though alcohol is available in tourist areas).

RITUALS

Muslim rituals in Maldives are much like those in other Islamic nations. The ritual prayer, salat, is conducted five times daily. Most shops and some offices in the islands close for about 10–15 minutes after the prayer call.

During the month of Ramadan, islanders fast during the daytime, and restaurants are closed. Working hours are also limited. Selling food during the daytime in the month of Ramadan is a punishable crime in Maldives. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, Maldivians also abstain from worldly pleasures such as listening to music or dancing. Yet at night and until dawn, the fast is broken, and the Koran and special prayers are recited.

Maldivian funerals are very simple ceremonies, with funeral prayers offered to the soul of the dead.

RITES OF PASSAGE

A Maldivian baby is usually given an Arabic name on the seventh day after the birth. The naming ceremony is accompanied with ritual prayers followed by a celebration with close friends and relatives. Food is also frequently given to the poor. In some of the islands, it is also customary to shave a baby's hair on the day of naming.

Circumcision of boys between the ages of 7 to 10 is another rite of passage common in Maldives. The local doctor, known as the hakeem, performs this rite. In Malé this is normally done in a hospital. The circumcision ceremony takes place in the boy's home, which is decorated and visible to the community. The public is attracted to the celebrations by traditional drum music and dances; they are also treated to delicious food. This goes on while the boy lies in the middle of the room on a bed surrounded by relatives, who massage his feet and generally attempt to keep him comfortable. The boy also receives gifts. The festivities, typically a week, last until the boy is healed.

MEMBERSHIP

The government does not aggressively propagate Islam among the expatriate non-Muslim workers in Maldives. The government does, however, expend a great deal of energy promoting the spirit and culture of Islam, largely to counteract certain Christian groups who try to proselytize among Maldivian Muslims.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

The government's promotion of tourism, despite effects on the country's Islamic culture and the fisheries industry, has been much criticized. Critics, including Muslim leaders, have argued that tourism has led to a religious and cultural deterioration, as well as an increase in drug-related crimes, fights and murders among foreigners living in Maldives, child sexual abuse, pornography; and other social ills.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Despite the Islamic value on marriage and the family, there has been increasing rate of divorce, single-parent families, and cohabitation without marriage in Maldives, especially in Malé. Polygyny is allowed in Maldives, though only about 1 in 11 men have more than one wife.

POLITICAL IMPACT

In Maldives Islam and politics are closely related. The nation's president must be a Sunni Muslim. Furthermore, the government considers the protection and promotion of Sunni Islam as one of its primary tasks; Islam, it believes, provides the glue that holds the islands together as one harmonious nation.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

The Maldivian courts apply a mixture of Shariah (Islamic law) and civil law. The government sanctions floggings and banishment to remote islands, which is very controversial, particularly for women, although it has been practiced in Maldives for centuries.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Although Sunni Islam generally restricts arts such as music, traditional Maldivian music and dancing are permitted on the islands, particularly during festivals.

Other Religions

The only distinct religious minority, Shia Muslims, is found in Malé among the trading community of Indians, who settled there in the 1800s. There are no statistics regarding their numbers. A small number of Sri Lankans, with their Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu religions, have come to Maldives to work in the tourist resorts, because Maldivians, as devout Muslims, refuse to work in facilities serving alcoholic beverages.

Isaac Henry Victor

See Also Vol. 1: Islam, Sunnism

Bibliography

Heyerdall, Thor. The Maldive Mystery: The Search for Ancient Civilizations in the Remote Islands of the Indian Ocean. New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

Maloney, Clarence. People of the Maldive Islands. Madras: Orient Longmans, 1980.

Phadnis, Urmila, and Ela Dutt Luithui. Maldives: Winds of Change in an Atoll State. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1985.

Robinson, Francis, ed. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Wijesundera, G.D., J.B. Wijayawardhana, J.B. Disanayaka, Ahmed Hassan, and Mohamed Luthufee. Historical and Linguistic Survey of Dhivehi: Final Report. Colombo, Sri Lanka: University of Colombo, 1988.

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Maldives

MALDIVES

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Maldives


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.

Cities: Capital—Male' (pop. 70,000).

Terrain: Flat islands.

Climate: Hot and humid.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Maldivian(s).

Population: (mid-year 2002) 280,000 (plus 31,000 expatriate laborers who are not counted in the census).

Population growth rate: 1.66%. Population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs.

Religions: Sunni Islam.

Languages: Dhivehi (official); many government officials speak English.

Education: Years compulsory—none. Attendance—primary (grades 1-5) 99%; secondary: (grades 6-10) 51%, (grades 11-12) 5%. Literacy—98%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—18/1,000. Life expectancy—73 years male; 74 years female.

Work force: Community, social and personal services—21%; manufacturing—13%; fishing—11%; tourism—11%; transport, storage, and communication—9%; other—35%.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: July 26, 1965 (formerly a British protectorate).

Constitution: November 11, 1968.

Branches: Executive—president, cabinet. Legislative—unicameral Majlis (parliament). Judicial—High Court, Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family and Juvenile Court, and 204 general courts.

Administrative subdivisions: 19 atolls and capital city.

Political parties: None.

Suffrage: Universal at age 21.

Economy

GDP: (2002) $639.5 million.

GDP growth rate: 6.0%.

Per capita GDP: About $2,279.

Inflation: (2002) 0.9%.

Percentages of GDP: (2002) Tourism—31%; distribution—14%; government—12%; manufacturing—9%; real estate—8%. fishing—7%; construction—3%; agriculture—3%; other—13%.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$91 million: fish products, garments. Major markets—U.S., Sri Lanka, EU, Thailand, Japan (source: Maldives Customs Service). Imports—$393 million: oil, textiles and yarn, rice, cigarettes, cement, engines for boats, televisions, aircraft parts, prefabricated buildings, vegetables. Major suppliers—Singapore, Sri Lanka, EU, India, Malaysia, U.A.E.


PEOPLE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE

Maldives comprises 1,191 islands in the Indian Ocean. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India. Indo-European speakers followed them from Sri Lanka in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and Arab countries came to the islands. Today, the Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of these cultures, reinforced by religion and language.

Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Sunni Islam in the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the entire population. Strict adherence to Islamic precepts and close community relationships have helped keep crime low and under control.

The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language related to Sinhala, a language of Sri Lanka. The writing system is from right to left. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.

Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, perceived Islamic virtue, and family ties. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Male'.

The early history of the Maldives is obscure. According to Maldivian legend, a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride—daughter of the king of Sri Lanka—in a Maldivian lagoon and stayed on to rule as the first sultan.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast—present-day Kerala state in India—harassed the islands. In the 16th century, the Portuguese subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73) before being driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar Al-Azam.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name.

Environmental Concerns

There is growing concern about coral reef and marine life damage because of coral mining (used for building and jewelry making), sand dredging, and solid waste pollution. Mining of sand and coral have removed the natural coral reef that protected several important islands, making them highly susceptible to the erosive effects of the sea. The practices have recently been banned. In April 1987, high tides swept over the Maldives, inundating much of Male' and nearby islands. That event prompted high-level Maldivian interest in global climatic changes, as its highest point is about 8 feet above sea level. The Asian Brown Cloud, a U.S.-sized area of pollution over the Indian Ocean, has the potential of wreaking havoc on the tourism- and fishery-based Maldivian economy.

Investment in Education

The government expenditure for education was 18% of the budget in 2002. Both formal and nonformal education have made remarkable strides in the last decade. Unique to Maldives, modern and traditional schools exist side by side. The traditional schools are staffed by community-paid teachers without formal training and provide basic numeracy and literacy skills in addition to religious instruction.

The modern schools, run by both the government and private sector, provide primary and secondary education. As the modern English-medium school system expands, the traditional system is gradually being upgraded. By early 2003, every inhabited island was equipped to provide primary school education up through grade five. Fewer islands have secondary schools for grades 6 through 10, and the only high school (grades 11 and 12) in the Maldives is in Male'. Only around 5% of students go to high school, but literacy is high at 98%.

Seven post-secondary technical training institutes provide opportunities for youth to gain skills that are in demand. The World Bank has already committed $17 million for education development in 2000-04, and plans to commit further $15 million for human development and distance learning during this period. Over 2001-03, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed $7 million to support post-secondary education development in Maldives.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

A 1968 referendum approved the constitution, making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975 and is again under revision.

Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became President and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected President in 1978 and reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. The president heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. Nominated to a 5-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (Parliament), the president must be confirmed by a national referendum.

The unicameral Majlis is composed of 48 members serving 5-year terms. Two members from each atoll and Male' are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president. A special Majlis session began meeting in mid-2004 to review constitutional reform issues. Regularly scheduled Majlis elections are expected to take place in late 2004, although the exact date has not yet been finalized.

The Maldivian legal system—derived mainly from traditional Islamic lawis administered by secular officials, a chief justice, and lesser judges on each of the 19 atolls, who are appointed by the president and function under the Ministry of Justice. There also is an attorney general. Each inhabited island within an atoll has a chief who is responsible for law and order. Every atoll chief, appointed by the president, functions as a district officer in the British South Asian tradition.

Maldives has no organized political parties. Candidates for elective office run as independents on the basis of personal qualifications. On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil

mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. In September 2003, following the death of an inmate, a brief prison riot broke out on an island near the capital Male'. Three other inmates were killed during the incident. In response to the killings of the inmates, brief rioting took place on the streets of Male'. In February 2004, the government prevented an opposition rally from taking place. Several people were arrested but they were all reportedly released later. The government also keeps a tight rein on any expression of Islamic extremism.

President Gayoom's commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. A human rights commission was established, and a Special Majlis or parliament was convened to consider changes in the constitution, including the legalization of political parties. In August, however, a demonstration in the capital turned violent and the government declared an emergency and arrested a large number said to be connected to the protest. Some of those arrested were prominent in the reform movement, including several members of the Special Majlis. Most were released a few months later.

The Maldives were badly hit by the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed 82 and caused substantial damage to Maldives tourism, housing, and fishing infrastructure. The U.S. provided $1.6 million in immediate relief assistance. Despite the disaster, the Government of the Maldives held parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December 31, on January 22, 2005. Reform candidates performed strongly. Following the poll, President Gayoom announced plans to establish multi-party democracy within a year.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 10/22/02

President: Gayoom , Maumoon Abdul
Speaker of People's Majlis: Hameed , Abdulla
Min. of Atolls Administration: Hameed , Abdulla
Min. of Construction & Public Works: Zahir , Umar
Min. of Defense & National Security: Gayoom , Maumoon Abdul
Min. of Education: Shafeeu , Ismail
Min. of Finance & Treasury: Gayoom , Maumoon Abdul
Min. of Fisheries, Agriculture, & Marine Resources: Hussain , Abdul Rasheed
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Jameel , Fathulla
Min. of Health: Abdulla , Ahmed
Min. of Home Affairs, Housing, & Environment: Shafeeu , Ismail
Min. of Human Resources, Employment, & Labor: Kamaluddeen , Abdulla
Min. of Information, Arts, & Culture: Manik , Ibrahim
Min. of Justice: Zahir , Ahmed
Min. of Planning & National Development: Zaki , Ibrahim Hussain
Min. of the President's Office: Jameel , Abdulla
Min. of Science & Technology:
Min. of Tourism: Sobir , Hassan
Min. of Trade & Industries: Yameen , Abdulla
Min. of Transport & Civil Aviation: Ibrahim , Ilyas
Min. of Women's Affairs & Social Security: Ahmed , Aneesa
Min. of Youth & Sports: Hussain , Mohamed Zahir
Min. of State & Auditor-General: Fathy , Ismail
Min. of State for Defense & National Security: Sattar , Anbaree Abdul
Min. of State for Finance & Treasury: Hilmy , Arif
Min. of State for Pres. Affairs: Hussain , Mohamed
Iman, of the Islamic Center: Shathir , Ahmed
Special Advisor, Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs: Fathy , Moosa
Attorney General: Munavvar , Mohammed
Governor, Central Bank: Gayoom , Maumoon Abdul
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Latheef , Mohamed


ECONOMY

The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Of the Maldives' 1,191 islands, only 200 are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, with the greatest concentration on the capital island, Male'. Limitations on potable water and arable land constrain expansion.

Development has been centered upon the tourism industry and its complementary service sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.

GDP in 2002 totaled $640 million or about $2,200 per capita. The Maldives has experienced relatively low inflation in recent years. Real GDP growth averaged about 10% in the 1980s. It expanded by an exceptional 16.2% in 1990, declined to 4% in 1993, grew to 10% in 1998 and has since leveled to the 5% to 7% range.

The Maldives has been running a merchandise trade deficit in the range of $200 to $260 million since 1997. The trade deficit declined to $208 million in 2002 from $233 million in 2001.

International shipping to and from the Maldives is mainly operated by the private sector with only a small fraction of the tonnage carried on vessels operated by the national carrier, Maldives Shipping Management Ltd. Over the years, the Maldives has received economic assistance from multilateral development organizations, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. Individual donors—including Japan, India, Australia, and European and Arab countries (including Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwaiti Fund)—also have contributed.

A 1956 bilateral agreement gave the United Kingdom the use of Gan—in Addu Atoll in the far south—for 20 years as an air facility in return for British aid. The agreement ended in 1976, shortly after the British closed the Gan air station.

Economic Sectors

Tourism. In recent years, Maldives has successfully marketed its natural assets for tourism—beautiful, unpolluted beaches on small coral islands, diving in blue waters abundant with tropical fish, and glorious sunsets. Tourism now brings in about $198 million a year. Tourism and related services contributed 31% of GDP in 2002.

Since the first resort was established in 1972, more than 87 islands have been developed, with a total capacity of some 19,000 beds. The number of tourists (mainly from Europe) visiting the Maldives increased from 1,100 in 1972 to 280,000 in 1994. In 2000, the number of tourist arrivals exceeded 466,000; although final figures are not yet available, the number is expected to top 500,000 for 2003. The average occupancy rate is 69%, with the average tourist staying 8 days and spending about $396.

Fishing. This sector employs about 11% of the labor force and contributes 7% of GDP or 10%, including fish preparation. The use of nets is illegal, so all fishing is done by line. Production was about 164,003 metric tons in 2002, most of which was skipjack tuna. About 50% is exported, largely to Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the European Union. Fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted, and canned tuna exports accounted for 84% of all marine product exports, split fairly evenly between the products. Total export proceeds from fish were about $56 million in 2002. The fishing fleet consists of some 1,647 small, flat-bottomed boats (dhonis). Since the dhonis shifted from sails to outboard motors, the annual tuna catch per fisherman rose from 1.4 metric tons in 1983 to 15.9 metric tons in 2002.

Agriculture. Poor soil and scarce arable land have historically limited agriculture to a few subsistence crops, such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions. Almost all food, including staples, has to be imported. Agriculture provides about 3% of GDP.

Industry and manufacturing. The industrial sector provides only about 9% of GDP. Traditional industry consists of boat building and handicrafts, while modern industry is limited to a few tuna canneries, five garment factories, a bottling plant, and a few enterprises in the capital producing PVC pipe, soap, furniture, and food products. The vast majority of Maldivian exports to the United States are garment products.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Maldives follows a nonaligned policy and is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. The country has a UN Mission in New York, with the Permanent Representative to the UN in New York also accredited as Ambassador to the United States, an embassy in Sri Lanka and in the United Kingdom, a trade representative in Singapore, and a Tourist Information Bureau in Germany. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka maintain resident embassies in Male'. Denmark, Norway, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, and Sweden have consular agencies in Male' under the supervision of their embassies in Sri Lanka and India. The UNDP has a representative resident in Male', as do the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Like the United States, many countries have nonresident ambassadors accredited to the Maldives, most of them based in Sri Lanka or India. The Maldives is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


U.S. MALDIVIAN RELATIONS

The United States has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Ambassador and some Embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to the Maldives and make periodic visits. The United States supports Maldivian independence and territorial integrity and publicly endorsed India's timely intervention on behalf of the Maldivian Government during the November 1988 coup attempt. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male' in recent years. The Maldives extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing in 2001-02.

U.S. contributions to economic development in the Maldives have been made principally through international organization programs. Although no bilateral aid agreement exists between the two countries, the United States has directly funded training in airport management and narcotics interdiction and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. The United States also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel annually. About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in the Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit the Maldives annually. The Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as somewhat of a damper. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly. There is a shortage of local skilled labor, and most industrial labor has to be imported from Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (E)

Address: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3; Phone: 94-11-244-8007; Fax: 94-11-243-7345; Workweek: M-Th: 0800-1730, F: 0800-12:00; Website: http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka/

AMB:Jeffrey J. Lunstead
DCM:James F. Entwistle
PO:Patricia A. Mahoney
COM:Teresa L. Manlowe
CON:Marc H. Williams
MGT:Jane Ross
AFSA:Chris J. Long
AID:Carol Becker
CLO:Elizabeth Sugermeyer
DAO:Richard S. Girven, LTC
ECO:Dean R. Thompson
EEO:Teresa L. Manlowe
FMO:James E. Hostetler
GSO:James P. Stover
ICASS Chair:Richard S. Girven
IMO:Craig A. Zimmerman
ISSO:Craig A. Zimmerman
PAO:Philip A. Frayne
RSO:Alex Moore
State ICASS:Alex Moore
Last Updated: 8/26/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 21, 2005

Country Description: The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited) in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The Maldives has a population of 270,000, of which about 70,000 reside in Male, the capital city. Beautiful atolls, inhabited by over 1,100 species of fish and other sea life, attract thousands of visitors each year. Tourism facilities are well developed on the resort islands. The Tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused some damage to several hotels and facilities on some of the islands. Most of the tourism infrastructure remains intact. Travelers planning to visit the Maldives should consult with travel agencies or the Maldivian Tourist Board to ensure their itineraries take this recent event into consideration.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds, is required for entry. A no-cost visit visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation. All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax. Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area.

Arrival by private boat: Travelers arriving by private yacht or boat are granted no-cost visas, usually valid until the expected date of departure. Vessels anchoring in atolls other than Male must have prior clearance through agents in Male. Maldivian customs, police and/or representatives of Maldivian immigration will meet all vessels, regardless of where they anchor. Vessels arriving with a dog on board will be permitted anchorage, but the dog will not be allowed off the vessel. Any firearms or ammunition on board will be held for bond until the vessel's departure. Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka at No. 24, Melbourne Avenue, Colombo 4, telephone (94) (11) 2580076/2586762/2500943, or the Maldives Mission to the U.N. in New York, telephone (212) 599-6194.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The Maldives has a low crime rate, but thefts of valuables left unattended on beaches or in hotels does occur.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The Maldives has limited medical facilities. There are two hospitals in Male: the governmentowned Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). Both provide general and orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery. ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. The hospitals perform general, orthopedic and neuro-surgery, but the Maldives has no trauma units, and spinal surgery is not available. Persons needing treatments not offered in the Maldives require evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility, such as in Singapore.

Two recompression chambers are available in the Maldives. One is on Bandos Island (fifteen minutes by speedboat from Male) and the other is in Kuramathi (one hour by speed boat and about twenty minutes by air taxi from Male.)

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web-site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Maldives is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Only a few of the islands are big enough to support automobiles. Most transportation in the Maldives is by boat or seaplane (air taxi). The Maldives has good safety standards for land, sea, and air travel. Roads in Male and on the airport island are brick and generally well maintained. Dirt roads on resort islands are well kept by the resorts. Transportation on the small island on which the capital, Male, is situated is either by foot or by readily-available taxis. Transportation between the airport and Male, as well as to nearby resort islands, is by motorized water taxi and speedboat. Several local companies provide seaplane and helicopter service to outlying islands. Air taxis stop flying one hour before sunset, and several resorts do not transport passengers by boat between the airport and the resort island later than one hour before sunset. Visitors to distant resorts arriving in the country at night can expect to stay over-night at a hotel in Male or at the airport hotel and should confirm transfer arrangements in advance.

Visit the website of the Maldives national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.visitmaldives.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and the Maldives, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Maldives' Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences.

Persons violating Maldivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Maldives are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in the Maldives are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Maldives. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(11) 244 8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-243-6943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is [email protected]

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Maldives

Maldives

The Republic of the Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, the south-southwest of India. The Maldives comprises approximately 1,200 coral islands, grouped into twenty-six atolls, and covers an area of 300 square kilometers (116 square miles). The capital and most populated city of the Maldives is Male.

The Maldives long lived independently, with the exception of the period between 1556 and 1578, during which the Portuguese ruled. In 1887, the country became a British protectorate, which ended when it became a fully independent state on July 26, 1965. After independence, Ibrahim Nasir (b. 1926) served as president from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded in 1978 by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (b. 1937), who has since been reelected as the president of the Maldives five times, in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003.

The economic life of the Maldives relies heavily on tourism and fishing. The gross domestic product per capita in 2003 was $2,027. The total life expectancy is approximately 63 years, and the literacy rate for the total population is over 97 percent. Sunni Islam is the dominant religion, which profoundly shapes the social and political life of the Maldives. The common language is Dhivehi. The population of 339,330, as estimated in July 2004, is a blend of the ethnic groups that include Sinhalese, Dravidian, Arab, and African.

Historically, the Maldives were long ruled by sultans, although the sultanate regime became constitutional with the promulgation of the 1932 constitution. The Maldives experienced a very short period of republican form of government in 1953 and 1554, but the country remained a sultanate until 1968 when a republican form of government was instituted. The first constitution of the Republic of the Maldives was promulgated on June 4, 1968.

The government of the Maldives has three branches: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The executive power is held by the president and cabinet, with political power highly centralized in the office of the president, who is both chief of the state and head of the government. The president is elected by the parliament (majlis) and has to be approved by the public in a yes-or-no referendum. The president is aided by the Council of Minister, which comprises the ministers of atolls. Ministers are appointed by the president and do not have to be members of the majlis.

The legislative power lies in the majlis, a unicameral parliament. The majlis consists of forty-eight members, forty of whom are elected for five-year terms, with eight appointed by the president. The judiciary is divided into courts of general and limited jurisdiction and includes a high court, civil court, criminal court, family and juvenile court, and 204 general courts. The legal system is based on a mixture of Islamic law and the English common law in commercial matters. Administratively, the country is divided into nineteen atolls and the capital city.

The political life of the Maldives is characterized by the absence of political parties and interest groups to organize citizen participation in political life. Parties and groups are discouraged due to the emphasis on unity and homogeneity. Despite the general and formal appreciation of human rights and freedoms, there are some restrictions and occasional violations of freedoms and rights, especially speech, press, and religion, and Freedom House rated the Maldives in 2004 as "not free."

See also: Shari'a.

bibliography

Adeney, M., and W. K. Carr. "The Maldives Republic." In The Politics of the Western Indian Ocean Islands, ed. John M. Ostheimer. New York: Praeger, 1975.

Freedom House. "Maldives." Freedom in the World 2004. New York: Freedom House, 2004. <http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2004/countryratings/maldives.htm>.

Henerdahl, Thor. The Maldives Mystery. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1986.

"Maldives." CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/mv.html>.

The Ministry of Planning and National Development of the Republic of the Maldives, Statistic Section. "Maldives: Key Indicators 2004." Malé, Republic of the Maldives: The Ministry of Planning and National Development of the Republic of the Maldives, Statistic Section, 2004. <http://www.planning.gov.mv/yrb2004/keyindicators/keyindi2k4.pdf>.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. "Senegal." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2004. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27948.htm>.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of South Asian Affairs. "Background Note: Maldives." Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of South Asian Affairs, 2005. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5476.htm>.

Isa Camyar

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