Introduction

About MaldivesMaldives is comprised of a chain of atolls and islands scattered over the Indian Ocean. Photo: Masrah Naseem/UNDP Maldives 2012.

Maldives comprises of 26 natural atolls made up of about 1,192 islands of which 188 are inhabited. Over 80% of the land area of these islands is less than 1 meter above mean sea level. Most economic activities are centered around the capital Male’ and there is a tendency for people to migrate to the capital for better prospects, making the 2 sq km island one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Maldives has enjoyed a long period of robust economic growth following the rapid growth of its tourism and fisheries sectors. In its advancement as a middle-income country, Maldives has made significant progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and is recognized as an MDG Plus country in South Asia. This places the Maldives on good standing to work towards the Sustainable Developmental Goals and the broader Agenda 2030, and to complete what the MDGs could not achieve. 

History

Maldives is a young democracy attempting to build on considerable economic and human development gains, but simultaneously still challenged by deep socioeconomic, environmental and political issues.

With new global and national realities emerging in an era of globalization, important development challenges still lie ahead for Maldives. 

Challenges

Maldives’ fragile democracy must still be nurtured. Along with socio-economic difficulties, the country has to combat climate change. It will also have to cope with changes that come with becoming a Middle Income Country. These obstacles present a challenge in formulating national policies, strategies, the development of effective legislation, as required in the new Constitution.

Maldives has made remarkable progress towards achieving the MDGs, making it a front-runner in South Asia. It has achieved five of the eight MDGs by 2010, with substantial progress in the areas of poverty, education and health. However, progress has been relatively slower in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment (MDG3), ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG7) and developing a global partnership for development (MDG8). These are areas that need targeted focus for the Sustainable Development Goals. 

A critical social inclusion issue is the growing sense of disenfranchisement and exclusion that young Maldivians feel. Limited island economies; physical isolation; and increasingly conservative social values may affect their futures. Key constraints for women include political representation and access to decision-making structures, along with access to jobs, credit and property.

Important governance challenges remain, particularly with regard to issues of strengthening participation, transparency, accountability and rightsbased approaches to development, as well as of mainstreaming environmental sustainability.

Maldives' biodiversity faces major threats arising from habitat destruction and overexploitation. Critical environmental concerns also stem from solid waste management and water scarcity issues. At the same time, Maldives’ geographic characteristics and numerous other factors place the country at very high risk for the impacts of climate change and disaster. 

Successes

About MaldivesIn the Maldives, the average growth rate for real GDP is one of the highest in Asia. Photo: Umair Badeeu/UNDP Maldives 2007.

Maldives has performed remarkably well in the Human Development Index (HDI) in recent years, maintaining a consistently high ranking in South Asia. The Maldives’ HDI has increased steadily from 0.599 in 2000 to 0.706 in 2013 placing it 103rd of 187 countries at the top of the medium human development category and above the average for South Asia.

Despite major external shocks to the economy from the 2004 tsunami and the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased substantially in recent years, and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita almost soared by 54 percent over the past ten years from US$ 3,630 in 2004 to US$ 5,600 in 2013, largely due to the rapid expansion of tourism. Maldives has also been extending the coverage of its social services, including education and health care, to most of its population.

As part of the peaceful democratic transition, a new constitution was ratified in 2008. Subsequently, the separation of powers, a multi-party system and decentralization were introduced. 

Maldives has pledged to protect and preserve the natural environment. Tourism and fisheries, two key sectors of the economy, have already developed eco-friendly practices. To improve energy security, the Government has committed to increasing the use of renewable energies and promoting energy conservation and efficiency.

Economic diversification is leading to higher incomes. Ambitious economic strategies are being pursued, expected to positively affect the social and economic situation of the people. New policies are emerging to restructure the socio-political and economic landscape of the country.