The new democratic government in the Maldives would look towards India for support and advice on economic and social development, Maldives’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said here on Thursday.
Speaking to The Hindu on his way to meet the Foreign Secretary and other officials in New Delhi, Mr. Naseem said that following the recent change in government, the Maldives was committed to creating a transparent economy. Decentralisation and privatisation were key priorities, he said, to tackle the huge debt that stood at nearly 54 per cent of the GDP.
“We are seeking assistance from the Indian government on the know-how and technicalities [of decentralisation]. There are also a lot of government enterprises that are white elephants. Selling off shares of these companies to the private sector and foreign players, including utility companies, transport companies, fisheries [and others] is a priority area,” he said.
The government led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had brought a sense of freedom to the Maldivians. There were teething troubles, including the issues connected with the parliamentary elections scheduled for next month, Mr. Naseem said. Parliamentarians had recessed without passing the required bills and the President was trying to go through the Supreme Court to ensure that the polls were held as scheduled. (The President is both the chief of state and head of government.)
In general, however, the Maldives was heading towards a stable multi-party political system, he said.Regional approach
In its foreign policy, the Maldives recognised the importance of a regional approach to achieve growth, and was hence focusing on India and its South Asian neighbours, Mr. Naseem said.
His delegation would request the Indian government to encourage private investment in the Maldives. He would be meeting representatives from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and was expecting a visit from CII members to the Maldives around the end of this month.
Mr. Naseem said the recent Mumbai terror attacks were of concern to the Maldives because of its vast coastline and its vulnerability to possible infiltration.
The Defence Minister would be coming soon to India to discuss security-related issues, he said.
Another team led by the Minister for Health would also look at Indian medical expertise, to provide health services in the Maldives. “Nearly 86 per cent of the people in the Maldives prisons are in for drug-related offences,” the Minister said. The government was concerned about the spread of drug abuse and said that nearly 30 per cent of the population abused drugs.
In his current visit, he had visited hospitals in Bangalore and Chennai along with the Deputy Minister for Health to look at partnerships to treat the drug abuse victims and treat the malaise in society. An agreement would be firmed up when the Minister for Health visited India later this month.
Sounding an optimistic note, Mr. Naseem said the Maldives wanted to announce to the world that it was “open again for business,” and said the main purpose of his visit was to build bridges for future cooperation.Source: www.thehindu.com