On March 28, 2018, the two industrial islands of Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi merged to create the Greater Malé Industrial Zone Ltd. (GMIZL), formally establishing the Maldives business backbone of tomorrow. Blueprints for the islands’ development include plans for a new port, LNG terminal, labor park and warehousing facilities, to name a few projects. Ahmed Nasif, Managing Director of the GMIZL, reveals his master plan for the Maldives’ industrial future.
What is the rationale behind the establishment of the Greater Male Industrial Zone?
The Greater Male Industrial Zone was created from the merger of Gulhifalhu Investment and the Thilafushi Corporation in order to allow better support for growing industrial demand. This merger will especially support growth in the logistics and construction industries by providing more warehousing systems. Both companies are 100% state-owned, so it was important that they both work together to use state resources in the most efficient manner and in one format. The merger will also allow us to develop industrial activities and infrastructure to support the development of the new port at Thilafushi, as well as supporting services in Gulhifalhu, which will cater for industrial development fuelled by a growing economy.
What major projects will the Greater Male Industrial Zone house?
Either Gulhifalhu or Thilafushi will be home to a labor park for between 40,000 to 50,000 workers, further easing population pressures on Male. A labor park would also work towards the government’s goal of attracting one-third of the national population to live in the Greater Male region. Moreover, construction at the new port on Thilafushi will most probably kick off this year. The Maldives is achieving rapid development and we need this port if we want to continue at this pace. If the government wants to see sustainability, it has to ensure that the right infrastructure is put in place.
What is the current blueprint for development of the Greater Male Special Economic Zone?
There has been a collaborative effort including the President’s Office to see how we can develop a special economic zone. Thilafushi is not the first choice because it is already developed and home to many construction materials businesses, as well as fiber and speedboat production, such as Gulf Craft, a Middle Eastern company. The SEZ will be developed on both Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi in order to support its mission to provide supporting services and serve as a business hub.
How much land will you be reclaiming in the years to come, especially if you’re planning on making a labor park that would absorb 50,000 people?
One of the main government objectives has been to strengthen the economy by carefully planned investment spending to ensure that we are able to develop on our own. MTCC has focused on deploying a new dredger that is being used to create a new land space, and later be employed to reclaim more land for Thilafushi and Gulhifalhu. We have another 100 hectares of reclamation that needs to be done on Thilafushi, and about 30 hectares more from Gulhifalhu. We are also looking at another segment of the Greater Male Region with other lagoons.
How can new technology be employed to improve Thilafushi’s waste management systems?
Land creation at Thilafushi has evolved from landfilling to dredged-sand reclamation because the understanding for environmental care has been instilled. However, we also have had the need to ensure that we are able to cater for the Male region’s waste management, so there has been a specific area assigned for landfill. The government also initiated an industrial village on Male. The Waste Management Cooperation (WAMCO), which was launched in 2016, changed the whole landscape of how waste has been dealt with. We recently oversaw the installation of five new incinerators, focusing on a more modern means of waste management. The environment ministry is on the verge of putting up a 50-ton incineration facility, which will be established over the next two years.
How feasible is introducing an LNG terminal at the Greater Male Industrial Zone?
The LNG terminal project has been targeted for the last two years, but the government has very much been concentrated on structuring old debt. This means that while we are taking on loans to undertake new projects, there’s also a considerable focus on ensuring that we are paying our debts. We believe that the Gulf can support this project for a lucrative return because the economic development that you’re seeing in the Maldives today is going to multiply the economy by four times in the next few years. Therefore, there’s going to be much more demand for different forms of energy, also including LPG and NGL, and I feel that the government is in a position to really create these new opportunities.
What are some long-term goals you have for the Greater Male Industrial Zone?
In the coming years, the Greater Male Industrial Zone will be charged with generating synergy between the central Male region and populous zones where there will be a definite need for industrial development. For example, Gan Atoll has an international airport at Addu City and more resorts are being built there, so more industrial capacity building will be required. I see the Greater Male Industrial Zone being moved as a brand towards these more populous areas and facilitating them with infrastructure and industrial or reinforced services.
How would you describe the nature of UAE-Maldivian relations today?
Real power has started to grow between the Middle East and Maldives during the last two years. This is actually the stepping-stone of a new future. Even during our recent state of emergency, the government maintained stability, which is what investors would want, while maintaining appropriate bilateral relations. I think this is a point in time where there’s more power and trust that is being put into our development and relations with the Middle East, achieved through confirmed effort by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.