Friday, July 19, 2024


Indian Ocean: Maldives Releases 6 New Islands for Development

The small island country of the Maldives is renowned for its luxurious private island resorts, and this latest move by the government will add 6 more to that list.

(A Typical Small Island in the Maldives)

Half a million tourists flock to the Maldives each year, the tiny island nation which has achieved renown as one of the world’s top luxury travel destinations. Blessed with amazing tropical beauty, high-end resorts can be seen on many of its small coral islands – and frequent visits by celebrities like Kate Moss, Beyonce Knowles Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas give the Maldives an exclusive appeal. Now, with a November 22nd decision by the Maldives’ cabinet, it looks like the country will gain 6 new island resorts in the near future.

With nearly 1,200 isles and islets scattered across its 26 atolls, the country would seem to have no shortage of islands to offer developers for long-term leases (islands are restricted from outright purchase in the country). It isn’t quite so simple, however; heavy infrastructure is needed to make isolated islands habitable or support a busy tourist resort, and in the Maldives, even large islands with established populations often struggle to provide for their residents. Many smaller isles have few or no naturally-occurring fresh water sources, and necessary amenities like sewage systems can require feats of engineering and far greater expenses than on the mainland.

(Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Resort)

For a country with limited finances but attractive assets like a thriving tourism industry, sometimes a mutually-beneficial arrangement can be the best option. The government lacks the financial ability to carry out many development projects on its own, and on the other side, the country’s picture-perfect tropical islands rarely come available for lease to developers. In the case of the 6 islands being awarded by the Maldives government for resort development, public-private partnerships will be created whereby the developers must agree to carry out certain projects planned by the government.

For example, take Bodumohora Island; here, the group to which the island was awarded will be required to pay back a research investment made by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. Other groups may be tasked with building infrastructure that will benefit local communities, in a win-win arrangement for both the public and private sector. For the Maldives, this kind of careful development could be the best path forward; both creating new resorts to bring more tourists into the country, and helping the cash-strapped government raise its people out of poverty.

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