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To Invest Or Not: GMR Fiasco At Hands Of Yameen & Friends Leave Indian Investors Nervous, Non-Committal

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At the lavish Ashoka Palace in the Indian capital New Delhi, visuals of clear turquoise water, white beaches, exciting under-water experience and boduberu dance set the mood for the delegates of over 400 companies who were here to attend the third edition of Maldives Investment Forum on Tuesday.

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Government in its keynote address tried to recapture the confidence of Indian investors as apprehension was running high due to the abrupt termination of international contract with GMR Infrastructure Ltd.

Government said they were ready to promote a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and will welcome investment from India with open arms. ” The government is committed to change its legal framework to allow trade and investment to diversify economy and there has been massive progress on the infrastructure front,” Vice President Abdulla Jihad said.

“I want to assure all potential investors that Maldives is open for business. It is open 24 hours,” he added.

Even though the delegates looked impressed and were confident about the potential of doing business in the Maldives, the GMR fiasco held them back from committing immediately.

“No doubt, the Maldives looks like a dream destination for doing business. But, I would like to know more about the legal and bilateral aspects before we move forward,” said a delegate while looking at his info kit on investing in the Maldives

Another delegate who was here to explore the possibilities of investing in telecom services said, “It is very important to have a set up where we can feel secure about investing money in a certain project. Let’s see how it rolls.”

The concern over providing a conductive environment to do business in the Maldives also appeared in Indian newspapers. A leading Indian business paper Mint wrote, “The memory of the Maldives government abruptly terminating a India-Malaysia joint venture for modernising the Male airport in 2012 saw Indian industry seeking greater predictability and protection for investments in the Maldives… The cancellation of the deal had soured ties between India and the Maldives.”

Last month, GMR won a lawsuit over termination of contract to run Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).  In a major embarrassment, government was ordered to pay USD 250 million to Indian infrastructural company GMR by a 3-member Singaporean Arbitration Tribunal in its final order.

The third edition of the investment forum was held in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to seek investments in infrastructural development, airport expansion and various other sectors to boost job creation in the country.

Jihad also announced that the country will sign its first free trade agreement early next year to boost trade and cooperation with other countries.

“It is investment, both foreign and domestic that has transformed our economy and elevated to current position. On the strength of our past achievements, the government is looking into new investments and is actively seeking foreign direct investment as it is one of the fundamental driving forces of Government policies,” he added.

The annual Maldives Investment Forum was held in Singapore in 2014 and in Beijing last year. The next edition of the forum will be held in Doha, Qatar.

Maldives Investment Forum 2016 Becomes ‘Hail Yameen’ Conference

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The third edition of Maldives Investment Forum was all praise of President Abdulla Yameen by his cabinet ministers – Vice President Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed – as they tried to garner the interest of investors in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.

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The annual forum to tap the potential of the Maldives’ tourism and infrastructure sector in the international market was started under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen in 2014 in Singapore followed by Beijing in 2015.

Here are top 5 mentions of President Abdulla Yameen at the high-profile investment forum:

  • GDP has grown with double digit under the leadership of President Yameen in last three years
  • We have seen the trust for President Yameen’s economic policies. We are seeing the results of our efforts
  • Far-sighted policies of President Yameen has narrowed down fiscal deficit in the country
  • President Yameen has eased monetary policies leading to increased credit availability for the private sector and have lowered inflation
  • President Yameen’s government promotes a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and believes in strong, predictable and transparent commercial regime is critical for private sector led growth

My President Is A Respected Economist, Says Maldivian Economic Development Minister In New Delhi!!!!

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“President Yameen is a respected economist…,” this is how Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed introduced his president at Maldives Investment Forum in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.

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“President Abdulla Yameen is a respected economist under whose governance GDP and per capita income have improved, ” he went on to add while facing uncomfortable questions from reporters on the sidelines of the event.

However, the qualifications of Yameen – infamous as an increasingly autocratic President – are bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Public Policy, not exactly good enough to hail him as an economist!

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And off late, Yameen has been accused of large-scale money-laundering and muzzling political voices with his strong arm tactics and misuse of the local courts.

But Saeed insisted that “he (Yameen) is a well-informed leader who is focused on  bringing social harmony through development and job creation” while avoiding pointed questions on eroded international image of his country.

The interaction with the reporters in New Delhi during the Maldives Investment forum came across as another embarrassment as ministers in the Yameen’s cabinet jump from one faux pax to another.

While asked about the corruption charges facing President Yameen, Saeed’s response came from a scripted note, which had no relation to the questions being asked to the minister.

Speaking on similar lines as his boss Yameen, Saeed also expressed the government’s collective desire to make the Maldives the next Singapore (interestingly something that Yameen’s half-brother and mentor Maumoon Gayoom does not approve!)

“We are not comparing the Maldives to Singapore… but it does translate into the desire to look up to Singapore,” Saeed said while he pitched for greater investment in the Maldivian tourism and infrastructure.

Contrary to the reports of World Bank that the Maldivian economy had slowed down in 2015 and  figures on fiscal deficits and public debt were sobering, Saeed claimed that in Yameen’s three-year tenure there was a steady growth in GDP and public debt has been fixed.

Maldives Sliding To Dictatorship, On The Brink Of Violence & Anarchy; Finds Commonwealth

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When in April, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) decided not to put the Maldives on its agenda, both the government and the former claimed victory.

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CMAG, a New Delhi based watchdog, in its concluding statement then made no mention of the phrase “formal agenda,” but called for “clear, measurable progress” by September.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) accredited to the 53-member inter-governmental body, which was in the archipelago to review the situation said the nations is “sliding into a dictatorial system once again” and expresses grave concern over the corruption, human rights violations and crackdown on dissent saying that the situation will soon push the island nation into the “brink of violence and anarchy”.

“(We express) grave apprehension at the continuing and persistent deterioration of human rights, rule of law and democracy in the Maldives. There has been a steady deterioration since CMAG’s last meeting in April 2016,” the group said concluding that the current environment is not at all “conducive” to free and fair presidential elections due in 2018.

“Events and developments on the ground give further evidence of curbing fundamental rights, targeted persecution of opposition leaders, misuse of state institutions (including the judiciary, legislature and the police) to restrict, crush and punish dissent, stifling political debate, and crippling independent institutions,” the group added.

The group also hits out at the government for not “engaging seriously” with rights group like CHRI or Human Rights to implement reforms that will strengthen democratic institutions and enable realization of fundamental rights.

The group of ministers also expressed worry over the six priorities areas that the group had identified in February this year and said that the government has failed to make progress on those. CHRI will further review the progress made in these areas in their next meeting on September 23.

EXCLUSIVE: Maldives Brace For Déjà Vu, MUO To Hit Streets After Eid Against Prez Yameen

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A hot, humid and tiring day in the holy month of Ramadan was getting over across Asia. The clouds of Brexit hung over London. It was 9 o’clock at night in New Delhi. 9 PM in Colombo. 4.30 PM in Salisbury, England. 10.30 PM In Thailand, and across the Gulf Of Thailand in Malaysia, it was 11.30 in the night. In the Maldives, it was 8.30 PM in capital Male´ and in Addu, the southernmost tip of the country. Last Thursday, they were all connected via Skype. Their bond – The Maldives. Their cause – Democracy.

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So the eight-member delegation of the Maldives United Opposition (MUO) that landed in the Indian capital here on Wednesday night to garner support from its “closest neighbour” India was patching up their laptops with their leadership-in-exile in England – the first democratic president of the country Mohamed Nasheed, MUO Leader Ahmed Jameel Waheed (former vice-president of the country), Deputy Leader Ali Waheed, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed among others teamed up with former United Kingdom MP John Glenn.

Along with a few members from two Maldivian cities, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia, they were online for the third Shadow Cabinet Meeting of the ‘united’ opposition-in-exile.

“We are constantly moving from one country to another and our members are scattered in different countries, this is how we are going to hold this meeting,” Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Maldivian Democratic Party spokesperson told FocusMaldives.com.

muo cabinetSoon, six windows popped in on the laptop screen and all the member began talking in Dhivehi about the day spent in New Delhi with the media, rights group and ruling party leaders to lobby for the proposed transitional government and then proceeded to strategise when and how to organise a mass rally for the much needed grassroots level opposition movement.

On the agenda, hit the cobbled roads of Male’ with a mass protest rally against the incumbent, allegedly ‘autocratic’ government of President Abdullah Yameen, after Ramadan.

It had to be after Ramadan, it was supposed to be around Independence Day and they came up with a date- July 14. The mass rally that will witness Nasheed, Jameel and Waheed speaking to the people of Maldives. Of course, via video conference.

“Many people ask why the United Opposition is not being seen on the streets, because of Ramadan,” Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Naseem said earlier that day.
“We are on streets for last four years, now they (government) have imposed rules and regulations, which we are ready to challenge. We will contest for our rights and hold the rally,” he added.

The meeting was also a part of bigger agenda to ensure that the MUO- the rainbow coalition of all the political rivals or the “victims of President Abdulla Yameen’s dictatorial regime”- gets maximum international support.

The poster boy of climate change and the champion of democracy globally, Nasheed explained what MUO is and what they are striving for through a small video that was soon circulated on United Opposition’s Twitter handle later that evening from Salisbury (Read: later that night in Male’).

The similar message was sent out by the delegation in New Delhi earlier that day which met media, rights group, friend and ruling BJP leader Ram Madhav but skipped meeting with the government this time around. The MEA did arrange for cars to drop them at the airport 2 days later.

“We want the people of India aware about the situation in Maldives. We met interest groups, advisors from MEA, former ambassadors and journalists who will be at a better position to convince the government about our crisis,” Naseem told FocusMaldives.com.

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On being asked why they did not request a meeting with the government, Naseem said this time it was not in their agenda adding that if they requested meeting, they would have certainly met.

“We want to make India comfortable, we are not the government, we are opposition. They are working strategically and we don’t want to jeopardise that,” he said.

Naseem expressed confidence that India- the largest democracy in the world- believes in democracy and will back MUO in reinforcing back the rule of people.

Nasheed also echoed the same confidence in Salisbury and said, “We have done this (bringing democracy back) once, and we are confident that we can do it again.”

The last word came from the captain of the ship, Dr Jameel, who urged “a free and fair election and rise of the people free”.

The delegation of the United Opposition will soon reach USA after a brief stay in London and will engage with “friends” in media there (again before engaging with the government) with a motive to lobby for the “much needed” reform in the paradise island.

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