Maldives


Maldives
Maldivian, /mawl div"ee euhn, mal-/, adj., n.
/mawl"deevz, mal"duyvz/
a republic in the Indian Ocean, SW of India, consisting of about 2000 islands: British protectorate 1887-1965. 280,391; 115 sq. mi. (298 sq. km). Cap.: Male. Also called Maldive Islands.

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Maldives

Introduction Maldives -
Background: The Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. They became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago. Geography Maldives
Location: Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India
Geographic coordinates: 3 15 N, 73 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 300 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 300 sq km
Area - comparative: about 1.7 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 644 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM contiguous zone: 24 NM
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)
Terrain: flat, with white sandy beaches
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m highest point: unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll 2.4 m
Natural resources: fish
Land use: arable land: 3.33% permanent crops: 6.67% other: 90% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: low level of islands makes them very sensitive to sea level rise Environment - current issues: depletion of freshwater aquifers threatens water supplies; global warming and sea level rise; coral reef bleaching Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago with strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean People Maldives -
Population: 320,165 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 45.3% (male 74,493; female 70,394) 15-64 years: 51.7% (male 84,548; female 81,092) 65 years and over: 3% (male 4,944; female 4,694) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.95% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 37.41 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 7.86 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.05 male(s)/ female total population: 1.05 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 61.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 62.93 years female: 64.2 years (2002 est.) male: 61.72 years
Total fertility rate: 5.38 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.05% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Maldivian(s) adjective: Maldivian
Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Languages: Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 93.2% male: 93.3% female: 93% (1995 est.) Government Maldives -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Maldives conventional short form: Maldives local short form: Dhivehi Raajje local long form: Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa
Government type: republic
Capital: Male Administrative divisions: 19 atolls (atholhu, singular and plural) and 1 other first-order administrative division*; Alifu, Baa, Dhaalu, Faafu, Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Kaafu, Laamu, Lhaviyani, Maale*, Meemu, Noonu, Raa, Seenu, Shaviyani, Thaa, Vaavu
Independence: 26 July 1965 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 26 July (1965)
Constitution: adopted January 1998
Legal system: based on Islamic law with admixtures of English common law primarily in commercial matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM (since 11 November 1978); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government elections: president nominated by the Majlis and then that nomination must be ratified by a national referendum (at least a 51% approval margin is required); president elected for a five-year term; election last held 16 October 1998 (next to be held NA October 2003) election results: President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM reelected; percent of popular vote - Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM 90.9% cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president; note - need not be members of Majlis head of government: President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM (since 11 November 1978); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: unicameral People's Council or Majlis (50 seats; 42 elected by popular vote, 8 appointed by the president; members serve five-year terms) elections: last held 20 November 1999 (next to be held NA November 2004) election results: percent of vote - NA%; seats - independents 42
Judicial branch: High Court Political parties and leaders: although political parties are not banned, none exist Political pressure groups and none
leaders: International organization AsDB, C, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77,
participation: IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: Maldives does not have an embassy in the US, but does have a Permanent Mission to the UN in New York Diplomatic representation from the the US does not have an embassy in
US: Maldives; the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka is accredited to Maldives and makes periodic visits there
Flag description: red with a large green rectangle in the center bearing a vertical white crescent; the closed side of the crescent is on the hoist side of the flag Economy Maldives
Economy - overview: Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Almost 400,000 tourists visited the islands in 1998. Fishing is a second leading sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,870 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 20% industry: 18% services: 62% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 67,000 (1995) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 22%, industry 18%, services 60% (1995)
Unemployment rate: NEGL%
Budget: revenues: $166 million (excluding foreign grants) expenditures: $192 million, including capital expenditures of $80 million (1999 est.)
Industries: fish processing, tourism, shipping, boat building, coconut processing, garments, woven mats, rope, handicrafts, coral and sand mining Industrial production growth rate: 4.4% (1996 est.) Electricity - production: 110 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 102.3 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: coconuts, corn, sweet potatoes; fish
Exports: $88 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports - commodities: fish, clothing
Exports - partners: US, UK, Sri Lanka, Japan
Imports: $372 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports - commodities: consumer goods, intermediate and capital goods, petroleum products
Imports - partners: Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Canada
Debt - external: $237 million (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: rufiyaa (MVR)
Currency code: MVR
Exchange rates: rufiyaa per US dollar - 11.770 (fixed rate since 1995)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Maldives - Telephones - main lines in use: 21,000 (1999) Telephones - mobile cellular: 1,290 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: minimal domestic and international facilities domestic: interatoll communication through microwave links; all inhabited islands are connected with telephone and fax service international: satellite earth station - 3 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 35,000 (1999) Television broadcast stations: 1 (1997)
Televisions: 10,000 (1999)
Internet country code: .mv Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 6,000 (2001) Transportation Maldives -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: NA km paved: NA km unpaved: NA km; note - Male has 9.6 km of coral highways within the city (1988 est.)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Gan, Male
Merchant marine: total: 14 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 51,532 GRT/71,298 DWT ships by type: cargo 13, short-sea passenger 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 5 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 2 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2001) Military Maldives -
Military branches: National Security Service Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 74,893 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 41,672 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $34.5 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 8.6% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Maldives - Disputes - international: none

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officially Republic of Maldives

Archipelago country, in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka.

It is a chain of about 1,300 small coral islands and sandbanks (some 200 of which are inhabited), grouped in clusters, or atolls. Area (land): 115 sq mi (298 sq km); the islands extend more than 510 mi (820 km) north-south and 80 mi (130 km) east-west. Population (2004 est.): 289,000. Capital: Male. The population is ethnically mixed; ancestors include Dravidian and Sinhalese peoples as well as Arabs, Chinese, and others from surrounding Asian areas. Languages: Divehi (official), Arabic, Hindi, English. Religion: Islam (official). Currency: rufiyaa. All the islands are low-lying, none rising more than 6 ft (1.8 m) above sea level. The atolls have sandy beaches, lagoons, and a luxuriant growth of coconut palms, together with breadfruit trees and tropical bushes. One of the world's poorest countries, the Maldives has a developing economy based on fishing, tourism, boatbuilding, and boat repairing. It is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. The archipelago was settled in the 5th century BC by Buddhists probably from Sri Lanka and southern India, and Islam was adopted in 1153. The Portuguese held sway in Male in 1558–73. The islands were a sultanate under the Dutch rulers of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during the 17th century. After the British gained control of Ceylon in 1796, the area became a British protectorate, a status formalized in 1887. The islands won full independence from Britain in 1965, and in 1968 a republic was founded and the sultanate abolished. The Maldives joined the British Commonwealth in 1982. Its economy has gradually improved, aided by the growth of tourism. In 2004 the archipelago was damaged by a large tsunami.

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▪ 2009

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 309,575, excluding 76,425 foreign workers employed on the resort islands
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and, from November 11, Mohamed Nasheed

      The adoption in August 2008 of a liberal democratic constitution marked the beginning of a remarkable political change in Maldives, which on October 8 held multiparty elections for the first time in its history. Observers from the UN, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the EU monitored the balloting, in which voter turnout was registered at about 86%. A runoff poll was held on October 28, however, after none of the six candidates secured the required 50% of the vote to win. The two candidates who secured the highest percentage of the vote in the first round—incumbent Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldive People's Party (41%) and Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (25%)—contested the second poll. In that race Nasheed, supported by the opposition, emerged victorious with 54% of the vote; President Gayoom's defeat signified the end of his 30-year rule and heralded a new era in Maldivian politics. Nasheed was inaugurated on November 11. The constitution also fixed a maximum of two five-year terms for candidates seeking election to the presidency, strengthened the People's Majlis (parliament), and ensured the independence of the judiciary.

      In December the administration of President Nasheed announced that it had initiated work toward the introduction of decentralized administration in the atolls and that it plans to establish a ferry network to connect all the country's islands. The government also intended to end import duties on essential foodstuffs and to provide a stipend to the elderly.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2008

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 305,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

 The political reform process initiated in Maldives in 2005 continued at a snail's pace throughout 2007 owing to political differences between the government of Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the opposition. The August 18 referendum on the nature of the political system was a major political exercise in which an overwhelming number of voters (about 93,000 of 150,000) chose a presidential system favoured by Gayoom over a parliamentary-type government backed by the opposition. In the wake of the first-ever bomb explosion in Male (on September 29) targeting foreign tourists, the government remained seriously concerned over the growing threat of Islamic extremism. As a countermeasure, the government began to crack down on religious groups advocating Islamic fundamentalism and militancy and declared that bearded mullahs or clerics were barred from entering the country unless invited by the authorities.

      An unprecedented tidal surge lasting for four days (May 15–18) caused heavy damage to crops and property on about half of the populated islands. Expressing his satisfaction with economic growth as a result of the remarkable performance of the tourism sector, Gayoom, in his annual opening address to the People's Majlis (parliament), promised to evolve policies and mechanisms in pursuit of social progress, prosperity, stability, and peace. The development of fisheries in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner was given priority.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2007

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 300,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      The issue of political reform topped the agenda of the Maldives government in 2006. Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom announced a road map for democratization that contained a time frame for revision of the constitution (by June 2007) and the holding of the country's first multiparty elections (in July–October 2008).

      In his annual address to the Majlis (parliament) on February 23, Gayoom declared that the government would pursue relentlessly the goal of total national recovery from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The development of fisheries, tourism, agriculture, and handicrafts was made a priority, and improvements in education and health care were also given prominence. The government made the highest-ever allocation of funds for social services in the 2006 budget. Emphasis was placed on the acceleration of economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities. Following the 2005 decision to separate the police from the armed forces, Gayoom changed the name of the National Security Service to the Maldives National Defense Force.

      As a mark of growing friendship, India gave a naval ship to Maldives when its defense minister visited Male in April. Gayoom's September 11–13 visit to China marked the high point of Maldives's diplomatic engagement. The countries signed two agreements and identified many areas of cooperation aimed at strengthening their friendship. In this context Maldives decided to establish an embassy in Beijing and appoint an honorary consul in Shanghai.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2006

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 294,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

 In 2005 Maldives faced a tough task of rebuilding after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The country lost assets equivalent to about 62% of GDP, and its economic growth declined to 1% from a 20-year average of 8%. Maldives needed $239 million for emergency relief and another $1.3 billion for reconstruction over the next five years, but the aid pledged by the international community was inadequate, leaving a $113 million shortfall. In view of the mounting cost of reconstruction, the decline in tourist arrivals, and surging oil prices, the government prepared a supplementary budget in August. Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's visit in March to India, which donated $2.4 million to help ease Maldives' budgetary restraints, was an acknowledgement of India's role in posttsunami relief work.

      The election to choose 42 members of the Majlis (parliament), originally scheduled for the end of 2004, was held on January 22. In late January Gayoom announced a 31-point proposal for a constitutional amendment to establish a multiparty democracy with more fundamental rights, a separation of powers, and a criminal justice system. Registration of political parties began after the Majlis passed legislation in June. Beginning August 12, several days of antigovernment protests demanding the president's resignation led to the arrest of more than 160 people.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2005

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 289,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      In 2004 the very survival of Maldives was threatened by the tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean in late December. Waves submerged many of the nation's low-lying coral islands, at least 50 of which were either severely damaged or completely destroyed. Only a sea wall built to protect Male saved the capital city itself from catastrophic damage. Relief workers and government officials believed that the death toll would exceed 100 persons. The economic cost of the disaster was estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, and socioeconomic development was set back “by at least two decades,” a government spokesman said.

      Earlier in the year, the government of Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had faced an unprecedented challenge from political dissidents led by former minister Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, who demanded greater democratization of Maldives. This culminated in a protest by some 3,000 people in Male on August 12–13, which the government considered as an attempt to overthrow the democratic regime and disrupt the economy. President Gayoom responded by declaring an emergency and arresting many pro-democracy leaders, including Zaki and some members of the People's Majlis (parliament) and Special Majlis. The emergency continued until October 10. It was lifted mainly under pressure from the European Union and the Maldivian Human Rights Commission.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2004

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 285,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      On Sept. 25, 2003, Maldives's 50-member Majlis (parliament) nominated, by a unanimous vote, Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to seek reelection for a sixth consecutive five-year term. A public referendum on October 17 gave him overwhelming support. The voting was overshadowed, however, by riots in Male on September 19–21. These were triggered by the death of a prisoner (allegedly from being beaten by guards) at Maafushi prison on September 19 and a shooting incident the next day against prisoners who had attacked the guards and tried to break into the armory. The rioters in Male caused damage to public property and committed arson, but government security forces quickly brought the situation under control. Gayoom appointed a five-member commission to inquire into the custodial death and arrested 11 National Security Service personnel in connection with the incident.

      On the economic front, the government pursued greater diversification and sought to develop the tourism, fisheries, and agricultural sectors. In the budget for 2003, the biggest outlays were for social development and the improvement of general services. During President Gayoom's four-day visit to Sri Lanka in May, Maldives and Sri Lanka signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on tourism development through joint marketing and investment.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2003

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 281,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      The development policy for 2002, outlined by Maldives Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in his address at the opening session of the Majlis (parliament) on February 19, placed emphasis on diversification and revitalization of the country's economy, which had grown only slowly in 2001 owing to a slump in the tourism industry. Development of human resources, improvement of child welfare, and preservation of the environment were also given priority. About 35% of the total budget was earmarked for social development and general services. Aimed at strengthening the institutions of governance, three parliamentary standing committees—on economy and environment, social affairs, and public administration—were established by the cabinet. In tune with the government policy of empowering women, a Gender Equality Council with advisory status was also established. On April 29 the Majlis enacted comprehensive legislation on the use, allocation, lease, and ownership of land.

      A four-day visit in September by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee strengthened diplomatic ties between India and Maldives. India offered to train and equip the Maldivian security forces in coastal defense and cooperate in areas such as information technology, tourism, and agriculture. Christina Rocca, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asia, was another foreign dignitary who visited Maldives, on March 13. President Gayoom served as vice president of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, S.Af.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2002

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 275,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      Sustainable development remained the single most important objective of Maldives in 2001. In his address at the opening session of the Majlis (parliament) on February 22, Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom listed poverty alleviation, rural development, and expansion and modernization of education as priority areas. Liberalization of the fishing industry and private-sector participation in development plans were also proposed. In August Gulf Craft Inc., a company based in the United Arab Emirates, was allowed to set up a boatbuilding and repair centre at Thilafushi in Male Atoll. Maldives decided to ratify an agreement establishing the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector under the control of the Islamic Development Bank. Considering the importance of foreign investment in sustaining economic progress, the government promised to take steps to inspire confidence among investors.

      An important diplomatic event was the visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji on May 16–17. An agreement on economic and technical cooperation was signed between Maldives and China. Population growth and environmental degradation were other areas of concern. On July 11—World Population Day—President Gayoom underlined the need to control the population growth in order to reduce pressure on trees, coastlines, and reefs.

Ponmoni Sahadevan

▪ 2001

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 285,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      Maldives Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom began the year by presenting the 2000 government budget to the Majlis (parliament); the president noted that the budget was balanced and economic progress was satisfactory. Total proposed government expenditure was Rf 2,991,049,432 (about $254,000,000). The biggest outlays were earmarked for the development of social services such as education and for improvement in the quality of general services.

      On October 16, World Food Day, the president urged the country to become more self-sufficient in food production. Much of the country's food requirements had been met by imports. A development project to increase the growth of banana trees in Maldives was under way, as were plans for easier access to fertilizers and an increase in agricultural workers.

      Deputy Minister Aneesa Ahmed of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Security urged women to expand the scope of their economic activities. There were two government programs under which women could obtain small business loans. She pointed out that most of the women's businesses involved either cooking or sewing and encouraged women to explore other types of work.

Anne Roby

▪ 2000

Area:
298 sq km (115 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 278,000
Capital:
Male
Head of state and government:
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      Maldives Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom addressed the opening session of the Majlis (citizens' council) on Feb. 25, 1999, outlining progress made on various development projects. In education, he reported, secondary schooling in all the atolls was provided, and the Maldives College of Higher Education was established in 1998. Health services had been expanded, and two new hospitals were opened. The country's first desalination plant to provide drinking water was expected to become operational in 1999. It was projected that telephone facilities, already in place on 172 islands, would be extended to all 201 inhabited islands by year's end.

      Maldives recorded progress on a thorny public health issue—tuberculosis patients who abandoned treatment before its completion and subsequently developed strains of TB that were resistant to drug therapy. The chiefs of the islands were given each patient's treatment schedule, and they combined handing out the pills with other traditional duties. In 1999 there were only 121 recorded TB cases in Maldives, whereas in South Asia overall more than half of all adults were TB carriers. With an average per capita income of $820, Maldives had the highest standard of living in South Asia.

Anne Roby

▪ 1999

      Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 270,000

      Capital: Male

      Head of state and government: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      Maldives began 1998 with a new constitution. Ratified on Nov. 27, 1997, it became law on January 1. The number of administrative atolls was increased from 19 to 20, and for the first time presidential elections with more than one candidate were held. Five candidates campaigned for the presidency, and in September the legislature voted for the incumbent, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had won the nationwide referendum for a new five-year term with more than 90% of the vote. It was his fifth term as president.

      In August Mohammed Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, inaugurated the new parliament building in Male. It had been built by Pakistan as a gift for the people of Maldives.

      On the tiny island of Kaashidhoo, President Gayoom on February 23 opened a climate observatory to gather data on climate changes and global warming. The low-lying Maldives, where the average altitude was only one metre (3.28 ft) above sea level, would be particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming and subsequent rising sea levels. The multinational research project was led by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

      Another project to keep Maldives above the waves was the creation of a new island near the capital island of Male. Work began in October 1997 to build Hulhumale 1.5 m (4.9 ft) above sea level. It was expected to be able to house some 125,000 people, about half the country's population.

ANNE ROBY

▪ 1998

      Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 267,000

      Capital: Male

      Head of state and government: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

      The ninth summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) was held in Male on May 12-14, 1997. Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and other heads of state of the SAARC nations resolved to improve political and economic cooperation and reiterated their commitment to eradicating poverty in the region. They also agreed upon several initiatives related to the protection of the environment, including the implemention of recommendations of two regional studies that had focused on the greenhouse effect and the causes and consequences of natural disasters. In a speech to UN delegates at the Earth Summit Plus 5 in July, Gayoom said that global warming threatened his nation's existence and called for international help in combating the problem. Researchers had recently detected a slight rise in the Indian Ocean around Maldives. In October Gayoom made a similar plea when he spoke at an executive session of the Commonwealth heads of government.

      For his efforts to give Maldives a stronger voice in the Commonwealth and the international community, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Gayoom the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG), the highest order accorded to foreign dignitaries by the British monarchy. Gayoom was the only Maldivian citizen ever to have received the GCMG order.

      Maldives made slow but steady economic and social progress in 1997. With an average per capita income of $990, Maldives had risen above the lowest-income countries. Its social indicators were modestly encouraging, with average life expectancy at 63 years and adult literacy at 93%. Just over 31% of the population was urban-based. The country spent 9.2% of its budget on education and 5% on health.

GUY ARNOLD

      This article updates Maldives.

▪ 1997

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth in the Indian Ocean, Maldives consists of about 1,200 small islands southwest of the southern tip of India. Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 266,000. Cap.: Male. Monetary unit: rufiyaa, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 11.77 rufiyaa to U.S. $1 (18.54 rufiyaa = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

      On Dec. 25, 1995, the Citizens' Majlis approved a balanced budget for 1996-97, with total revenues (and grants) estimated at 1,960,000,000 rufiyaa. A tiny economy dependent upon fishing, tourism, and a few manufactures, Maldives nonetheless had achieved steady growth over a number of years, with gross domestic product increasing in both 1994 and 1995. In recent years the government had emphasized opening up the economy to the private sector and encouraging foreign capital inflows; consequently, industrial production rose 10%, accompanied by comparable increases in exports of manufactured and processed goods. Since 1992 the increase in world commodity prices had added to the value of the nation's exports by 31-43%.

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This article updates Maldives.

▪ 1996

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth in the Indian Ocean, Maldives consists of about 1,200 small islands southwest of the southern tip of India. Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 253,000. Cap.: Male. Monetary unit: rufiyaa, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 11.77 rufiyaa to U.S. $1 (18.60 rufiyaa = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

      With government revenues of 991,100,000 rufiyaa and expenditures of 1,524,000,000 rufiyaa, Maldives was in deficit in 1994; as in past years, the shortfall was to be made up by regular injections of foreign aid. Of the population of some 250,000, just over one-fifth were economically active, with a quarter of this number involved in agriculture and fisheries. Fishing was the mainstay of the economy, with canned tuna accounting for 40% of all exports, dried skipjack tuna for 18%, and frozen skipjack tuna for another 8.9%. The other major export was apparel and clothing (21%).

      Despite its limited economic base, Maldives was relatively successful in maintaining a high level of employment; industries included boatbuilding, the production of coir yarn, mat weaving, coconut and fish processing, lacquerwork, and garment manufacturing. Tourism was becoming increasingly important, and income from this source in 1994 totaled approximately $113 million.

      Maldives continued to have no political parties or organized opposition. Nonetheless, there were signs of growing opposition to the presidential system among foreign-educated younger Maldivians as well as some government concern about the growth of religious extremism on the islands. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Maldives.

▪ 1995

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth in the Indian Ocean, Maldives consists of about 1,200 small islands southwest of the southern tip of India. Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 244,000. Cap.: Male. Monetary unit: rufiyaa, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 11.83 rufiyaa to U.S. $1 (18.82 rufiyaa = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

      Following his landslide election victory in October 1993, Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom began his fourth term in office by forming a new Cabinet of 23 members; he, however, continued to head the Ministries of Defense and National Security and of Finance. The budget for 1993-94, which was presented in December 1993, provided for a 1994 expenditure of 794 million rufiyaa, with a capital expenditure of 776.2 million rufiyaa. Social development—education, health, and welfare—absorbed 27% of budget expenditures; economic development was pegged at 30%, the largest portion of which (nearly 340 million rufiyaa) was allocated for the fisheries sector. Revenues for 1994 were estimated at 1,373,000,000 rufiyaa. Of that sum 835 million rufiyaa would be generated at home, 382 million rufiyaa from foreign loans, 136 million rufiyaa from an aid grant, and 20 million rufiyaa in food and financial aid. Although Maldives' debts were small by world standards—a mere $77.2 million—they represented nearly 75% of the gross national product, which stood at $114 million. The per capita income had risen to $500. Maldives' small population accounted for a correspondingly small-scale economy and the intrinsic limits on economic performance. There was sound progress during the year and the country remained politically stable, but Maldives would continue to require aid on a more or less permanent basis. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Maldives.

▪ 1994

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth in the Indian Ocean, Maldives consists of about 1,200 small islands southwest of the southern tip of India. Area: 298 sq km (115 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 237,000. Cap.: Male. Monetary unit: rufiyaa, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 11.89 rufiyaa to U.S. $1 (18.01 rufiyaa = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

      In October 1993, Pres. Maumoon Gayoom was reelected in a landslide to another five-year term. The victory, Gayoom's fourth, underscored the country's political stability.

      Maldives' rate of growth during the 1991-93 National Development Plan was at a healthy level of 8%. Apart from the overseas sale of frozen fish (the country's main export industry) and certain essential imports, the government pursued an open market policy. In January 1993, 25% of the shares in the state-owned Bank of Maldives were offered to the public. The islands also continued to attract tourists; 240,000 visitors arrived in 1992.

      The main political-economic government concern was the continued rise in ocean levels, which threatened to submerge the islands. Maldives obtained a wide range of aid commitments, notably from main donors China and Japan and from the U.S. and Kuwait, both of which recognized Maldives' "support" for Kuwait during the 1990-91 Gulf war. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Maldives.

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Introduction
also called  Maldive Islands , officially  Republic of Maldives  or  Divehi  Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa 
Maldives, flag of the   independent island nation consisting of a chain of about 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks (some 200 of which are inhabited), grouped in clusters, or atolls, in the north-central Indian Ocean. The islands extend more than 510 miles (820 km) from north to south and 80 miles (130 km) from east to west. The northernmost atoll is about 370 miles (600 km) south-southwest of the Indian (India) mainland, and the central area, including the capital island of Male, is about 400 miles (645 km) southwest of Sri Lanka.

Land
 The Maldive Islands are a series of coral atolls built up from the crowns of a submerged ancient volcanic mountain range. All the islands are low-lying, none rising to more than 6 feet (1.8 metres) above sea level. Barrier reefs protect the islands from the destructive effects of monsoons. The rainy season, from May to August, is brought by the southwest monsoon; from December to March the northeast monsoon brings dry and mild winds. The average annual temperature varies from 76 to 86 °F (24 to 30 °C). Rainfall averages about 84 inches (2,130 mm) per year. The atolls have sandy beaches, lagoons, and a luxuriant growth of coconut palms, together with breadfruit trees and tropical bushes. Fish abound in the reefs, lagoons, and seas adjoining the islands; sea turtles are caught for food and for their oil, a traditional medicine.

People
      The Maldivians are a mixed people, speaking an Indo-European language called Divehi (the official language); Arabic, Hindi, and English are also spoken. Islam (Islāmic world) is the state religion. The first settlers, it is generally believed, were Dravidian and Sinhalese peoples from southern India and Sri Lanka. Traders from Arab countries, Malaya, Madagascar, Indonesia, and China visited the islands through the centuries. With the exception of those living in Male, the only relatively large settlement in the country, the inhabitants of the Maldives live in villages on small islands in scattered atolls. Only about 20 of the islands have more than 1,000 inhabitants, and the southern islands are more densely populated than the northern ones. The birth rate for the Maldives is somewhat higher than the world average, but the death rate is lower. About one-third of the total population is under 15 years of age.

Economy
      One of the poorest countries in the world, the Maldives has a developing economy based on fishing, tourism, boatbuilding, and boat repairing. The gross national product (GNP) per capita is among the lowest in the world. Most of the population subsists outside a money economy on fishing, coconut collecting, and the growing of vegetables and melons, roots and tubers (cassava, sweet potatoes, and yams), and tropical fruits. Cropland, scattered over many small islands, is minimal, and nearly all of the staple foods must be imported. Fishing, the traditional base of the economy, continues to be the most important sector, providing employment for approximately one-fourth of the labour force as well as accounting for a major portion of the export earnings. Tuna is the predominant fish caught, mostly by the pole-and-line method, although a good deal of the fishing fleet has been mechanized. Most of the fish catch is sold to foreign companies for processing and export.

      The Maldives national shipping line forms the basis of one of the country's commercial industries. Tourism is a fast-growing sector of the economy. Resort islands and modern hotels in Male have attracted increasing numbers of tourists during the winter months. Industries are largely of the handicraft or cottage type, including the making of coir (coconut-husk fibre) and coir products, boatbuilding, and construction. Imports include consumer goods such as food (principally rice), textiles, medicines, and petroleum products. Fish—mostly dried, frozen, or canned skipjack tuna—accounts for the bulk of exports. The United States, Sri Lanka, and Singapore are among the main trading partners. Boats provide the principal means of transport between the atolls, and scheduled shipping services link the country with Sri Lanka, Singapore, and India. There is a national airline, and the airport at Male handles international traffic.

Government and society
      The constitution of the Maldives was adopted in 2008. The head of state and government is the president, assisted by a vice president and a cabinet. The president and vice president are directly elected by universal suffrage to a maximum of two five-year terms. The cabinet consists of the vice president, government ministers, and the attorney general. With the exception of the vice president, members of the cabinet are appointed by the president.

      The unicameral legislature, called the People's Majlis, meets at least three times per year. Its members are elected to five-year terms from Male island and from each of the 20 atoll groups into which the country is divided for administrative purposes. The number of representatives from each administrative division is determined on the basis of population, with a minimum of two per division. The 2008 constitution established Islam as the official state religion. Non-Muslims cannot become citizens, and the People's Majlis is prohibited from making any law that contravenes the tenets of Islam. Other governmental bodies include civil service and human rights commissions.

      The highest legal authority is the Supreme Court. Its judges are appointed by the president in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, a body of 10 members appointed or elected from various branches of the government and the general public. The Judicial Service Commission independently appoints all other judges. There are no judicial term limits; the mandatory retirement age is 70. All judges must be Sunni (Sunnite) Muslims. The Supreme Court bases decisions upon the constitution and Maldives law; in cases in which applicable law does not exist, Sharīʿah (Islamic law) is considered. Other courts are the High Court and trial courts.

      Most Maldivians rely on traditional medical practices when ill; Male has a small hospital. Major illnesses include gastroenteritis, typhoid, cholera, and malaria. Life expectancy is about 68 years for men and 67 for women.

      Three types of formal education are available in the Maldives, including traditional schools (makthabs) designed to teach the reading and reciting of the Qurʾān, Divehi-language schools, and English-language primary and secondary schools. The English-language schools are the only ones that teach a standard curriculum and offer secondary-level education. Students must go abroad for higher education. Only about two-thirds of the school-age population is enrolled in schools.

History
      The archipelago was inhabited as early as the 5th century BCE by Buddhist peoples, probably from Sri Lanka and southern India. According to tradition, Islam was adopted in 1153 CE. Ibn Baṭṭūṭah, a notable North African traveler, resided there during the mid-1340s and described conditions at that time, remarking disapprovingly on the freedom of the women—a feature that has been noticeable throughout Maldivian history.

      The Portuguese forcibly established themselves in Male from 1558 until their expulsion in 1573. In the 17th century the islands were a sultanate under the protection of the Dutch rulers of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and, after the British (British Empire) took possession of Ceylon in 1796, the islands became a British protectorate, a status formalized in 1887. In 1932, before which time most of the administrative powers rested with sultans or sultanas, the first democratic constitution was proclaimed, the country remaining a sultanate. A republic was proclaimed in 1953, but later that year the country reverted to a sultanate.

      In 1965 the Maldive Islands attained full political independence from the British, and in 1968 a new republic was inaugurated and the sultanate abolished. The last British troops left on March 29, 1976, the date thereafter celebrated in the Maldives as Independence Day. Ibrahim Nasr, the country's first president, was succeeded in 1978 by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was reelected to his sixth consecutive term in 2003. The Maldives became a member of the Commonwealth in 1982.

      In December 2004 the Maldives was damaged by a large tsunami (Indian Ocean tsunami) caused by a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean off Indonesia. Scores of people were killed, and much property was damaged.

      In the first years of the 21st century, Gayoom's government embarked on a long-term plan to modernize and democratize the Maldives, particularly its economy and political system. The plan also identified the country's legal system as inadequate. Beginning in 2003, wide-ranging reforms were instituted to improve human rights and the system of governance. A multiparty political system was created. In 2008 a new constitution was adopted that established greater governmental checks and balances, strengthened the powers of the legislature and judiciary, and allowed women to run for president. The country's first multicandidate presidential election was held in October of that year, and former political prisoner Mohamed Nasheed was elected president, thus ending Gayoom's 30 years in office. One of Nasheed's plans was to obtain a new homeland in the region to which the Maldive islanders could eventually be resettled, as the low-lying islands were believed to be under serious threat from rising sea levels.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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