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.
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 the 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.
— Economy & Trade (@EconDevMv) November 10, 2016
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.