Economy / Maldives

Building the dream

The Maldives is being reimagined, with smart cities and industrial hubs literally rising from the sand and sea.

Building the dream

Hulhumalé's planned cruise terminal.

In search for inspiration, the Maldives has found its muse in Dubai, drawing up blueprints for megaprojects that evoke the grandiosity of the UAE’s iconic city. The land-deficient Indian Ocean nation is now embarking on ambitious land reclamation work, not dissimilar from that seen in Dubai, to raise islands out of the sand and sea. Of the megaprojects, the creation of the Hulhulmalé smart city will be the largest, followed by the $300-million Malé-Hulhulmalé Bridge, the iHavan integrated logistics and real estate development, and the Gulhifalhu industrial island; all of the projects require land reclamation.“Hulhumalé, which will have a ‘Youth City,’ is President Yameen’s flagship project to ease stress from population growth and cater to a younger generation’s demands for more modern services and facilities,” says Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Economic Development.

The megaprojects are designed to attract people away from the overcrowded capital and towards modernized centers of commerce, travel and technology. “President Yameen has been very clear in terms of what he would like to see: voluntary migration away from outer atolls and Malé to populate new hubs,” says Minister of State for Economic Relations Mohamed Luveiz at the President’s Office.

“Hulhumalé is President Yameen’s flagship project.” Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Economic Development

“We are poised for an economic shift similar to the one ushered in by tourism in the 1970s,” he adds. In order to achieve this shift, industries that create globally relevant careers are needed. “Ensuring the availability of jobs is a key ingredient to inciting voluntary migration and Hulhumalé’s yacht and cruise ports, for example, alone could create up to 5,000 jobs,” Luveiz says.

“We are poised for an economic shift similar to the one ushered in by tourism in the 1970s.” Mohamed Luveiz, Minister of State for Economic Relations, President’s Office

The Malé-Hulhulmalé Bridge is being built with Chinese loans, while several Arab funds have committed to projects within Hulhulmalé. Careful not to harm natural assets, the Maldives requires mandatory environmental impact assessments (EIA) before any project starts. Such EIAs were used in the development of Gulhifalhu, originally designed for residential use, but now slated for industrial development.