Economic cooperation based on shared values underpins the Maldives’ burgeoning trade and development partnerships with Gulf states, says Abdullah Hameed, the country’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
How would you describe relations between the Maldives and the Gulf states?
Historically, the Gulf countries have been very engaged with our development. Kuwaiti, UAE and OPEC funding went into our airport. These relations have come naturally because the Maldives is 100 percent Muslim and thus shares many values with its allies in the Gulf.
How important is the Gulf as a trade partner?
Historically, our biggest trading partner was Singapore; however, since the establishment of Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, the UAE has become our number-one trading partner. This is an important relationship given that the Maldives imports everything except fish. As of last October, we passed the $680 million mark in UAE imports. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also expressed greater trade interest in the Maldives.
Why is the Maldives an attractive destination for Gulf investors?
We have great connectivy with the GCC region, making around 60 flights weekly, and we are only four hours from Dubai. The north of the Maldives is an international shipping route that forms a strategic artery in the heart of the Indian Ocean. Maritime authorities and ship owners have inquired about facilities offering services like bunkering and harbor services, capacities we plan to develop through the iHavan megaproject, a smart city located on Ihavandhippolhu due to be completed in about five years.
What projects are being supported by Gulf funding?
The Saudi Fund for Development, Saudi Arabia’s investment arm, has committed funds for the Hulhumalé megaproject, which has reclaimed a huge lagoon besides the airport. Meanwhile, green technology ventures have acquired assistance from the UAE.