COLOMBO, June 5 (Xinhua) — Maldives government on Thursday submitted a bill to parliament on establishing special economic zones, local media said, a day after its vice president flew to China seeking investors.
Special economic zones have been identified by Maldives President Abdulla Yameen as an avenue to attract investment for the Indian Ocean group of islands that is highly dependent on tourism.
Yameen hopes to shift the country’s dependency on tourism and open the economy of Maldives to completely new dimensions and prospects.
Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed told reporters once the bill is passed, it will push much industrial developments in the north, south and other major regions of the country. This includes construction of harbors and establishment of bunkering facilities.
“As a result, other industries apart from tourism will enter into the Maldivian economy and that would mean the birth of more than just one major source of income as the other industries will begin earning too,” he said.
On Wednesday Maldives Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed departed on an official visit to China. He will attend the opening ceremony of the China-South Asia Expo and the China-South Asia Business Forum. The vice president is also scheduled to meet with the vice premier of China, Wang Yang.
Jameel told reporters before his departure he will be meeting Chinese business community in order to seek potential investors for Maldives.
The vice president stressed that he will be discussing the government’s reform agendas with the Chinese government, including housing development projects, the integrated development projects and airport development initiatives.
He said that the Chinese government has expressed its keenness in cooperating with the Maldives on these development projects.
During an investor forum in Singapore in April many countries expressed interest in investing in Maldives including Singapore, the United States, India, Germany and China.
Notable investors include U.S. investment company Blackstone, Singapore-based HPL Hotels and Resorts, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), the Carlson Group of Companies, Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, United Bunkering and Trading Group, and Singapore Enterprise.
Investors also have the opportunity to submit proposals for five mega projects, including the development of Ihavandhippolhu as an economic zone, ‘I-Heaven’ and Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the second phase of Hulhumale island, shifting of the current commercial harbor to Thilafushi and its development, and oil and gas exploration in the Maldives.