Economy of Maldives: Anti-India Effect to face a tremendous setback

economy of maldives

Historical Significance: The Trade Legacy of the Maldives

Historically, the economy of Maldives gained prominence for its trade in cowries, coir rope, dried tuna fish, ambergris, and coco de mer. Ships, both local and foreign, frequented the Maldives to acquire these commodities, facilitating their distribution across borders.

In the contemporary landscape, the Maldivian economy is characterized by a diverse mix of activities, with a focus on tourism, fishing, and shipping. This economic diversity stems from the strategic geographic location of the Maldives, situated near crucial sea routes vital for China’s energy supply. Consequently, China has consistently leveraged its economic influence to strengthen its ties with the Maldivian government.


Tourism stands as the cornerstone of the economy of Maldives, contributing a substantial 28% to the GDP and accounting for over 60% of foreign exchange receipts. The robust growth of tourism has driven a remarkable 265% increase in GDP per capita during the 1980s and an additional 115% in the 1990s. Government revenue heavily relies on import duties and taxes related to tourism, constituting over 90% of the total.


Fishing ranks as the second major economic sector, and the government’s economic reform initiatives in 1989, which removed import quotas and encouraged private sector involvement, have bolstered the industry. Liberalized regulations have facilitated increased foreign investment.


Agriculture and manufacturing play a modest role, constrained by limited arable land and domestic labor shortages. The economy of Maldives heavily relies on imports for staple foods. Industries such as garment production, boat building, and handicrafts collectively contribute around 18% to the GDP.


Infrastructure development in the economy of Maldives is intricately linked to the tourism industry and its associated sectors, including transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government services. Taxes generated from the tourist industry are directed towards enhancing infrastructure and technological advancements in the agricultural sector.

This is a chart of trend of gross domestic economy of Maldives at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of rufiyaa.

YearGross domestic productUS dollar exchangePer capita income
(as % of USA)
19804407.58 rufiyaa3.11
19858857.08 rufiyaa3.85
19902,0549.55 rufiyaa4.34
19954,69611.76 rufiyaa6.29
20007,34811.77 rufiyaa6.77
200510,45812.80 rufiyaa5.33
201110,45815.40 rufiyaa7.43

Economy of Maldives sector vise distribution


The Maldives boasts a compact financial sector, with the banking industry standing as its predominant player. Oversight of the country’s seven banks falls under the jurisdiction of the economy of Maldives Monetary Authority. Notably, the economy of Maldives distinguishes itself on the global stage by maintaining a tax system devoid of income, sales, property, or capital-gains taxes, earning it the reputation of possessing the world’s simplest tax code.

In the realm of financial transparency, the economy of Maldives has drawn attention, receiving a notable “secrecy score” of 92 on the 2011 Financial Secrecy Index by the Tax Justice Network. This score, the highest in its category among actively-ranked countries, positions the economy of Maldives as a player in the global financial landscape. However, its relatively minor market share places it towards the lower end of overall weighted lists.

A consistent trend emerges wherein Beijing strategically deploys its economic influence to achieve geopolitical objectives, a pattern observable not only in small island nations like the Maldives and Sri Lanka but extending to broader Indo-Pacific regions, encompassing countries with substantial and advanced economies. This dynamic underscores the nuanced interplay between economic power and geopolitical considerations. Presently, the Maldivian government is actively addressing concerns about the potential entanglement in debt dynamics with China, reflecting the delicate balance between economic cooperation and safeguarding national interests.

Port of Male: Transformative Growth Through Asian Development Bank Support

Commencing in the 1990s, the Port of Male embarked on a substantial transformation fueled by a series of loans exceeding £10 million from the Asian Development Bank, expressly earmarked for infrastructure enhancements. The impact of this financial infusion was remarkable, as evidenced by the Asian Development Bank’s records, showcasing a significant evolution in the port’s annual throughput of freight tons.

From 1991 to 2011, the loans catalyzed a noteworthy surge, propelling the annual throughput from 273,000 to an impressive 1 million tons by 2011. Beyond the financial support, the Asian Development Bank actively contributed to capacity-building efforts, providing training programs for port authority staff aimed at bolstering operational efficiency.

In a collaborative effort with the ecomony of Maldives, the Asian Development Bank outlined the progress in a joint report, specifically addressing ship turn-around times. A striking testament to the transformative impact of these initiatives is the remarkable reduction in ship turn-around durations. What previously took approximately 10 days in 1991 was streamlined to 3.8 days by 1997 and further slashed to about 2.6 days by 2014. This multifaceted approach involving financial support and skill development underscores the Port of Male’s journey towards efficiency, increased capacity, and heightened operational agility.

econony of maldives

Environmental Challenges in the Maldives: Threats to Coral Reefs and Marine Life

The Maldives faces a growing environmental crisis with increasing apprehension surrounding the well-being of coral reefs and marine life. The primary culprits contributing to this concern include coral mining for construction and jewelry, sand dredging, solid waste pollution, and oil spills from boats. These activities have collectively wreaked havoc on the natural coral reefs, rendering several vital islands highly vulnerable to the erosive forces of the sea.

The destructive impact of sand and coral mining is particularly evident, leading to the deterioration of once-protective coral beds. This not only jeopardizes the delicate marine ecosystem but also heightens the susceptibility of key islands to sea-induced erosion. Furthermore, the escalating destruction of large coral beds due to rising temperatures is an alarming trend that adds to the environmental challenges faced by the Maldives.

The Maldives’ environmental woes extend beyond local activities to global climatic concerns. A significant turning point occurred in April 1987 when high tides inundated Malé and nearby islands. This event prompted Maldivian authorities to acknowledge the seriousness of global climatic changes. However, research conducted by INQUA in 2003 indicated a drop in actual sea levels in the Maldives during the 1970s, with forecasts suggesting minimal change in the coming century. This disparity in findings emphasizes the complex nature of climate-related challenges and underscores the importance of ongoing research and mitigation efforts.

The issue of shark fishing, prohibited by law but inadequately enforced, adds another layer to the environmental predicament. The population of sharks has seen a sharp decline in recent years, highlighting the urgent need for effective conservation measures and enforcement of existing regulations.

Additionally, the presence of the Asian brown cloud in the atmosphere over the northern Indian Ocean raises further environmental concerns. Studies reveal that this atmospheric phenomenon contributes to decreased sunshine and increased acid rain, posing additional challenges to the delicate ecological balance of the Maldives. As the nation grapples with these multifaceted environmental threats, there is a pressing need for comprehensive strategies, both locally and globally, to safeguard the unique marine biodiversity and ecosystems of the Maldives.

economy of maldives

Energy Evolution in the Maldives: Embracing Solar Power to Curb Fuel Costs

Traditionally reliant on diesel generators for its entire electricity supply, the Maldives has been actively transitioning towards sustainable energy alternatives, with a notable focus on solar power to mitigate soaring fuel expenses. A significant milestone in this green energy shift is the establishment of what is claimed to be the world’s largest oceanic floating solar plant on Dhiddhoofinolhu. Boasting a capacity of 678 kW, this solar facility not only signifies a commitment to renewable energy but also has the capability to meet peak electricity demand.

The Maldives’ Environment Ministry has taken further strides by implementing solar–battery–diesel hybrid systems across the outer islands. This strategic deployment serves a dual purpose: curbing the need for substantial subsidies on imported diesel and fostering a path toward low-carbon energy independence. By combining solar power with battery storage and diesel generators, the hybrid systems ensure a more reliable and sustainable energy supply for these remote islands, reducing both environmental impact and economic dependency on traditional fuel sources.

This shift towards solar power aligns with global efforts to embrace cleaner energy alternatives, contributing not only to the Maldives’ economic resilience but also positioning the nation as a proactive player in the pursuit of environmentally conscious energy solutions. As the Maldives continues on this path, the integration of renewable energy sources plays a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and eco-friendly future for the country.

Maldives’ Millennium Development Goal Success and Ongoing Development Challenges

In a significant achievement, the Maldives successfully reached its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by halving the proportion of people living below the poverty line, bringing it down to a mere 1% as of 2011. This accomplishment reflects the nation’s commitment to improving living standards, evidenced by the absence of starvation, a decline in HIV rates, and the eradication of malaria.

Despite these commendable achievements and sustained economic growth, the Maldives grapples with persistent developmental challenges. Notably, there is a pressing need to address income and gender disparities within the country. While the capital, Malé, has experienced substantial development, islands beyond the capital continue to face significant issues, including heightened poverty vulnerability, lower per-capita income, limited employment opportunities, and restricted access to essential social services.

A household income survey conducted in 1997-1998 revealed a considerable disparity, with the average income in Malé being 75% higher than in surrounding islands. This underscores the uneven distribution of economic benefits and highlights the urgent necessity for inclusive development policies to bridge regional disparities.

The Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, stands at 0.41 in the Maldives. This numerical representation emphasizes the existing wealth gap and underscores the importance of targeted interventions to address income inequality comprehensively.

As the Maldives continues its development journey, there is a clear imperative to build on past successes while prioritizing strategies that address persisting challenges, ensuring that the benefits of progress are equitably distributed across the entire nation. Efforts to promote inclusive development, particularly in regions outside the capital, will be pivotal in fostering a more balanced and sustainable socio-economic landscape in the Maldives.

economy of maldives

Determinants of Poverty in the Maldives: Understanding the Factors at Play

Several interconnected factors contribute to the persistence of poverty among Maldivians, shaping both the likelihood of falling into poverty and the challenges of escaping it:

  1. Geographical Disparities:
    Residents in the northern regions of the Maldives face a higher risk of remaining in poverty, primarily attributed to the lower level of development in the North. The geographic divide has implications for economic opportunities, infrastructure, and access to essential services, creating a substantial barrier to socio-economic advancement.
  2. Health Challenges:
    Poor health becomes a significant determinant of poverty, as individuals unable to work due to health issues often struggle to access adequate healthcare services. The limited accessibility to health services across the country exacerbates the economic vulnerability of those grappling with health-related impediments.
  3. Demographic Composition:
    Households with a larger proportion of young family members confront a lower overall household income. The demographic makeup, particularly a higher concentration of younger individuals, contributes to economic strain and hinders the accumulation of household resources.
  4. Female Labor Participation:
    The lower female labor participation rate emerges as a notable factor impacting household income. Households with a higher proportion of females, facing challenges in workforce participation, experience reduced income levels, reflecting broader gender disparities in economic opportunities.
  5. Geographic Accessibility to Services:
    Difficulty in accessing social services and infrastructure in the outer atolls compounds the challenge of poverty. Islands distant from the capital often grapple with issues such as limited production, underutilization of fishery resources, inadequate value chain development, and insufficient credit for small-scale producers and entrepreneurs. This geographic disadvantage perpetuates income disparities.
  6. Agricultural and Fishing Challenges:
    In the outer atolls, scarcity of land and water, underdeveloped farming practices, and the absence of support services contribute to low production levels. This, in turn, leads to diminished incomes in these regions, highlighting the intricate link between agricultural limitations and economic well-being.

Understanding these multifaceted factors is crucial for developing targeted interventions and policies that address the root causes of poverty in the economy of Maldives. Efforts to bridge geographical, health-related, demographic, and gender-based gaps will play a pivotal role in creating a more equitable and prosperous socio-economic landscape across the nation.

Q: What are the primary drivers of the economy of Maldives?

A: The key pillars of the Maldivian economy are tourism, fishing, and shipping. Tourism, in particular, is the largest contributor, accounting for a significant portion of GDP and foreign exchange receipts.

Q: How has tourism impacted the economy of Maldives?

A: Tourism has played a transformative role, driving economic growth and significantly contributing to GDP. Over 60% of foreign exchange receipts come from the tourism sector, making it a vital component of the Maldivian economy.

Q: What challenges does the Maldives face in terms of economic diversification?

A: The Maldives encounters challenges in diversifying its economy, with limited agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The nation is working to address this by encouraging foreign investment and enhancing infrastructure outside the capital.

Q: How has the Maldives addressed environmental concerns in its economic activities?

A: The Maldives is increasingly adopting sustainable practices, especially in the energy sector. Solar power initiatives and hybrid systems are being implemented to reduce dependence on diesel and promote low-carbon energy independence.

Q: What role does the banking sector play in the Maldivian economy?

A: The banking industry dominates the small financial sector in the economy of maldives. The country has a simple tax code, with no income, sales, property, or capital-gains taxes, making it attractive for financial activities.

Q: What are the main environmental challenges affecting the Maldivian economy?

A: The Maldives faces environmental challenges such as coral reef degradation, marine life threats, and climate change impacts. Efforts are being made to address these issues and sustainably manage the delicate ecosystem.

Q: How has infrastructure development been funded in the Maldives?

A: Taxes generated from the tourist industry have been crucial in funding infrastructure development. The funds are directed towards improving technology in the agricultural sector and enhancing various tertiary sectors like transport, real estate, and construction.

Q: What are the factors contributing to income inequality in the economy of Maldives?

A: Income disparities are influenced by geographic factors, health issues, demographics, and gender disparities. Efforts are needed to address these factors and promote inclusive development across the entire nation.

Q: How has the Maldives diversified its energy sources?

A: To reduce reliance on diesel generators, the Maldives has embraced solar power. Notably, the country hosts the world’s largest oceanic floating solar plant, showcasing a commitment to sustainable and renewable energy solutions.

Q: What steps has the Maldives taken to address poverty and socio-economic challenges?

A: While achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty, the economy of Maldivesis actively working to address ongoing challenges, including regional disparities, health issues, and demographic factors, to ensure inclusive development and economic well-being for all citizens.

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