Search

 

Cablegate: Investment Climate Statement, 2010 - the Maldives

VZCZCXRO0958
RR RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0067/01 0290547
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290547Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1184
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUCPCIM/CIMS NTDB WASHDC
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3755
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2318
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 9340
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7595
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2653
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 9901
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0043
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 11 COLOMBO 000067

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EB/IFD/OIA AND SCA/INSB

STATE PLEASE PASS USTR

E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTDB OPIC ECON USTR EINV EFIN ETRD ELAB PGOV MV
SUBJECT: INVESTMENT CLIMATE STATEMENT, 2010 - THE MALDIVES

REF: 09 STATE 124006

1. Per reftel, below is the investment climate statement for the
Maldives for 2010. (NOTE: Certain Website addresses were split to
allow for sending via cable. The report sent in Word format has the
correct links.)

INVESTMENT CLIMATE STATEMENT - THE MALDIVES

JANUARY 2010

INTRODUCTION

The Maldives has seen significant political and economic changes in
the last two years. On October 8, 2008, the Maldives held its first
multi-party Presidential election. Parliamentary elections were
held in May 2009. The new President, Mohamed Nasheed, has vowed to
put the country's economic and fiscal matters in order. The country
launched a new constitution and a series of new laws, including the
first comprehensive employment act. The President has also pledged
to establish a transportation network linking the islands of the
country, reduce the cost of living, provide affordable housing and
healthcare, and eliminate illegal narcotics. Notably, the
government has also set itself the ambitious goal of going carbon
neutral in ten years, and the President has taken an international
leadership role on climate change issues.

The Maldives is comprised of over 1,190 islands, of which 198 are
inhabited and 95 are exclusive resort islands. The land is low
lying, with 80% of the land mass only 2 meters or less above sea
level, making the Maldives extremely vulnerable to climate change.
The native Maldivian population is approximately 310,000, of whom
103,000 live on the capital island of Male'. There are an
additional 80,000 expatriate workers. More than 680,000 tourists
visit annually. In 2009 GDP totaled around $1.3 billion, or about
$4,300 per capita (far exceeding the average of about $700 in the
rest of South Asia). From 2000-2008, real GDP growth averaged
around 6% per year except for 2005, when GDP declined following the
Indian Ocean tsunami. Economic growth has been powered mainly by
tourism and its spin-offs in the transportation, communication, and
construction sector. Fishing remains an important part of the
economy as well. However, due partially to the global financial
crisis, the country is currently facing acute economic problems. In
2009, the Maldivian economy shrank by 4 percent.

While income disparity remains high, particularly between the
capital and distant islands, the Maldives' growth has yielded
considerable social progress. The net enrollment in primary
education is close to 100 percent. Literacy rates are about 98
percent. Infant and maternal mortality are declining rapidly.

The Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 devastated many islands.
The Maldivian economy made a remarkable recovery, with a rebound in
tourism, and post-tsunami reconstruction.

In 2009, the Maldives' economy was in recession. The global
economic crisis severely hurt the Maldivian economy through a fall
in tourism receipts, external financing, and exports. As a result,
the Maldives is facing an acute currency shortage, curtailing normal
business activities. The fiscal situation also deteriorated
sharply.

In December 2009, the International Monetary Fund approved a $93
million loan for the country. The loan shores up reserves and will
help smooth adjustment. In a bid to promote exports, the U.S.
government restored the GSP trade preference program to the Maldives
in December 2009. The United States is seeking to provide various
other assistance efforts to defend against climate change, prevent
drug use, and enhance U.S. investment. The Maldives became a member
of the International Labor Organization in 2009.

The government has plans to substantially downsize the government
workforce (currently over 30,000 employees), change the tax system
to direct taxes, and privatize many industries. The government aims
to move from being a service provider to a regulator, and to enhance
the role of private sector. The government has launched a program
to establish public-private partnerships in service provision and

COLOMBO 00000067 002 OF 011


privatization of selected State Owned Enterprises. The programs
target key sectors such as transport (ferry services), real estate
(housing development), utilities (electricity, gas, water and
sanitation), healthcare, education, regional airports, regional
ports, and broadcasting and entertainment. The program is supported
by initiatives to promote foreign and local investments which
require major reform in the legal and regulatory framework of the
various sectors.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (Central Bank) expects GDP growth
around 3.5% in 2010.

The Maldives is ranked 87th out of 183 countries in the World Bank's
(www.worldbank.org) Ease of Doing Business 2010 Index, ahead of its
South Asian neighbors except Pakistan (85). The index investigates
regulations that enhance or constrain business activity. Within the
index, the Maldives ranked first in terms of paying taxes (the
Maldives has no income or sales tax) and ninth in dealing with
construction licenses. The Maldives is planning to develop a
business profits tax to reduce import duties and provide more
sustainable revenues. But in terms of registering property, getting
credit, and closing a business, the country ranked lower, at 183,
150, and 126, respectively. The low property ranking stems from the
fact that foreigners are not allowed to own property outright.
Other rankings were as follows: starting a business 49, employing
workers 41, protecting investors 73, trading across borders 126, and
enforcing contracts 92.

The Maldives is preparing for its "graduation" from Least Developed
Country (LDC) status, currently scheduled for 2011. The graduation
would reduce the country's ability to access concessionary trade and
finance programs, and threatens the demise of the fish export
industry and the curtailment of foreign aid. The Maldives is
seeking to delay the curtailment of certain benefits.

Tourism will likely remain the engine of the economy. As many as
forty new resorts could open in the next few years, with at least
two planned openings in 2009.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (www.mv.undp.org), the
World Bank (www.worldbank.org), and other multilateral and bilateral
donors are active in the Maldives. They support government efforts
to improve education, health and nutrition, housing and social
protection, basic infrastructure, environmental protection, and
improved governance, and to create employment opportunities. The
United States has friendly relations with the Maldives.

OPENNESS TO FOREIGN INVESTMENT

The Maldives began opening up to foreign investment in the late
1980s. Foreign investments in the Maldives have primarily involved
resort management, but also include telecommunications, accounting,
banking, insurance, air transport, courier services, and some
manufacturing. Invest Maldives Division (www.investmaldives.org)
and the Licensing and Regulations Division within the Ministry of
Economic Development are tasked with promoting and regulating
foreign investments, respectively, with the notable exception of the
tourism sector. The Ministry of Economic Development reviews all
proposed investments prior to granting licenses.

Foreign investment in the Maldives is governed by Law 25/79, which
provides for an agreement between the government and an investor.
The Law of Contract governs contractual relationships and a separate
law (No. 4/79) governs business and trading activities by foreign
nationals. Investment agreements are for an initial period of 5 to
10 years for investments less than $1 million, and can be renewed
thereafter. For larger projects, terms are negotiable.

The Ministry of Economic Development offers "one-stop shop" services
to investors and incentives including import duty concessions, 100%
foreign ownership, no restrictions on repatriation of earnings or
profits, and no foreign exchange restrictions. Foreign investments
are required to pay annual royalty fees to the government. The
royalty fee is 3% of gross income or 15 percent of profits,
whichever is greater, for majority foreign-owned companies. For
others, the royalty is 1.5 percent of income or 7.5 percent of
profits, whichever is greater. At present, personal income taxes

COLOMBO 00000067 003.2 OF 011


are not imposed. Banks' profits are taxed. For the first time, the
Government plans to introduce a corporate income tax (business
profits tax) and a goods and services tax in the tourism sector.
International arbitration is available for dispute settlement.
Foreign investments within the tourism sector - such as resorts -
are registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

The Ministry of Economic Development approves joint ventures in the
following sectors within ten working days of submitting required
documentation: financial consultancy, auditing, insurance, water
sports, commercial diving, domestic air transport, airline catering,
game fishing, technical support services, apparel manufacturing,
water bottling, cement, agencies, spa operators, water purification,
boat building, software development, ferry services, finance
leasing, fish processing, traditional medicine, underwater
photography, ice making, restaurants, valuation, flying schools and
IT services. Proposals for joint ventures in other sectors and
investments fully owned by foreigners are approved within 30 days.

The government hopes to privatize airports and harbors and develop
basic services such as water, sewage systems, harbors, roads and
power utilities through public/private partnerships. The Government
has started a public/private partnership program in health,
education, transport, and housing projects. However, some
state-owned enterprises, such as the electricity and water
companies, are currently losing money and they need to be made more
efficient and competitive to improve their prospects of becoming
more profitable prior to privatization.

The Ministry of Economic Development is looking for local and
foreign investors in media and broadcasting, entertainment industry,
utilities, infrastructure, health care facilities, hospital
management, regional airport management, and the development of
residential infrastructure (vacation homes).

The Ministry of Economic Development encourages investment projects
which: (1) are capital intensive; (2) enhance technology transfer;
(3) introduce new skills and offer training to local employees; and,
(4) are environmentally friendly.

The following industries offer good potential for foreign investors:


Tourism: Opportunities exist in the entire range of services,
including development and management of resorts, tourist activities,
and land and sea transportation. New resorts require a range of
equipment and products.

Value-Added Fisheries: Fish processing is open to foreign
investment, particularly for new technology and capital investment.
The government owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO)
is identified for substantial restructuring with private investment.
Areas such as fish canning, cold storage, tuna farming and
aquaculture also open for foreign investment

Financial, banking, accounting, and management consulting: the
Maldives' financial sector consists mainly of banks, one of which is
partially state-owned and four branches of foreign-owned banks. The
FISB is interested in bringing in more global banks. (Only HSBC is
currently present). The lack of adequate banking laws has deterred
entry, however. Financial services consulting and management
services are also areas that offer potential

Transportation and Shipping: The transport sector is dominated by
maritime and air transportation. However, transportation is
inadequate. There is potential to develop air and sea transport
including inter-atoll transport services, bunkering, transshipment,
and passenger cruises.

Telecommunications and information technology also offer potential
opportunities. There are currently 3 licensed operators in the
telecommunication sector. The telecommunications sector offers good
potential for equipment and technology input suppliers.

Power: Virtually all electricity is provided by diesel generators.
Tourist resorts consume about 60 percent of electricity used in the
Maldives. There is scope to provide renewable sources such as

COLOMBO 00000067 004 OF 011


solar, wind and biomass for energy needs. Studies have revealed
good potential for wind energy-based power generation with some
pilot projects underway. The Maldives has announced its objective
of being the first carbon neutral nation by 2020 which would provide
extensive opportunities for renewable power suppliers.

Retail trading is closed to foreign investment. The production of
any items that are illegal to import into the Maldives is
prohibited.

CONVERSION AND TRANSFER POLICIES

A foreign exchange shortage affecting businesses was reported in
2009. The Maldives has maintained a fixed peg of its currency with
the dollar since 2001. Due to the shortage, the Maldives Monetary
Authority (MMA) started rationing foreign exchange supplied to the
banking system in 2009. This has led to a foreign exchange
restriction and some current international transactions to be
conducted in the parallel market. MMA hopes to gradually ease the
rationing once foreign exchange market stabilizes.

Repatriation of funds and profits is allowed after local debts are
settled.

Major international currencies can be bought and sold at banks and
authorized moneychangers. Hotels and banks accept major credit
cards and travelers' checks. Foreign currency accounts are
available through banks. The U.S. dollar is the most widely used
foreign currency and is accepted by small shops and taxi drivers in
Male'.

The official exchange rate is set at 12.8 Rufiyaa to the dollar.
This rate has remained unchanged since 2001. The Maldivian
currency is non-convertible and its true value cannot be determined.
The real effective exchange rate has appreciated recently. A new
IMF program in the Maldives aims to rebuild international reserves
while preserving the exchange rate peg to the U.S. Dollar. The
heavy dependence on imports is a constraint for exchange rate
management, although historically tourism receipts helped maintain
hard currency liquidity.

Foreign reserves at the end of December 2009 were approximately $270
million compared with $241 million in 2008 and $309 million in 2007,
and were sufficient to finance 3.2 months of imports.

The government has taken initial action to introduce a new public
accounting system. A new Public Finance Law, an Audit Law and a
Civil Service Law came into force in 2006-2007. Legislation on
Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing has been
drafted. The Maldives has established a financial intelligence unit
to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

EXPROPRIATION AND COMPENSATION

According to the Law on Foreign Investment (25/79) the government
may, with or without notice, suspend an investment, either where the
investor indulges in an act detrimental to the security of the
country or where temporary closure is necessary for national
security. If, after due investigation, it cannot be concluded
within 60 days of the temporary closure that the foreign investor
had indulged in an activity detrimental to the security of the
Maldives, then the government will pay compensation. Capital
belonging to an investment that is closed for the above reasons may
be taken out of the country in a mutually agreed manner. There
appears to be little risk of expropriation in the near future.

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

The sources of law in the Maldives are its constitution, Islamic
Sharia law, regulations, Presidential decrees, international law,
and English common law, with the latter being more influential in
commercial matters. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) is
responsible for nominating, dismissing, and examining the conduct of
all judges.

A Supreme Court was established for the first time in 2008 under the
new Maldives Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest

COLOMBO 00000067 005 OF 011


judicial authority in Maldives. In addition to the Supreme Court,
there are four courts in Male': a high court, civil court, criminal
court, and a family and juvenile court. There are approximately 200
magistrate courts, one in each inhabited island. The Supreme Court
serves as court of appeal. There are no jury trials. Though legal
procedures are adequate, the judicial process is slow.

Pursuant to the new constitution, a prosecutor general was appointed
in September 2008. The prosecutor general is tasked with the
prosecution of criminal offences. The Attorney General acts as the
legal advisor to the government and represents the government in all
courts except on criminal proceedings represented by the prosecutor
general.

The law on foreign investments guarantees the security of
investments. The Maldives has no laws pertaining to arbitration.
Disputes involving investments below $1 million can be referred to
the courts in Maldives. Disputes over $1 million can be referred
for international arbitration.

Recognizing that the existing legal and commercial framework is
underdeveloped and not always fully transparent or predictable, the
government is promoting administrative reforms and formulating
regulations dealing with labor, the environment and industry. In
recent years, the People's Majlis (parliament) has enacted a number
of commercial laws, including the Law of Contract, the Negotiable
Instruments of Law, and the Companies Act. The Maldives is not a
member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment
Disputes (ICSID).

RIGHT TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP AND ESTABLISHMENT

There is little private ownership of land. Land reform currently
under consideration may result in more trade and private ownership
of property. Foreign investors are not allowed to own land, but are
granted lease rights ranging up to 25 years, which can be later
extended to 35 years for investments over $10 million, or 50 years
if 50% of the company's shares are floated on the Maldives stock
market. Leases can be renewed at the end of their terms, but the
formula for assessing compensation value of a resort at the end of a
lease has not yet been developed. The government is looking at the
possibility of extending the initial lease period from 25 years to
99 years.

Currently there is no property and real estate law or mechanism to
allow foreign persons to hold title to land. As a result, the
Maldives ranks last among 183 countries in the World Bank doing
business 2010 report's registering property indicator. Locals,
however, can hold title to land.

PROTECTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS

Currently, the Maldives lacks specific legislation to protect
intellectual property rights (IPR) and has not signed any related
international agreements or conventions. An IPR law is awaiting
parliamentary approval. The Maldives recently established an IPR
unit within the Ministry of Economic Development. The Maldives
benefits from the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision to extend
the transition period for least-developed countries (LDC) to provide
protection for intellectual property under the Trade-Related Aspects
of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement until July 1,
2013.

EFFICIENT CAPITAL MARKETS AND PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT

The financial sector in the Maldives is narrow and dominated by the
banking sector. The banking sector consists of one publicly owned
commercial bank -- the Bank of Maldives -- and branches of four
foreign-owned commercial banks. HSBC, the only global bank present,
set up operations in 2002. The Bank of Maldives faced difficulties
in 2009 and the government is seeking to restructure the bank's
portfolio, recover defaulted debt, and look at a capital infusion.
Non-bank financial institutions in the country consist of two
insurance companies, a pension fund, and a finance leasing company.
All financial institutions currently operate under the supervision
of the Maldives Monetary Authority, which acts as the central bank.
The Maldives Monetary Authority Act was amended in 2007 to ensure

COLOMBO 00000067 006 OF 011


independence of the Authority. Banking supervision has recently
been upgraded, moving toward international best practices. The
government is seeking to put in place a stronger legal framework for
the banking sector.

Most lending usually comes through the parent banks of international
commercial banks. Most foreign currency loans are made to foreign
currency-earning tourist enterprises. Local sources of finance are
limited in scope because of the small size of the capital market and
the lack of instruments that are available in more developed
nations. The government commenced treasury bill auctions in 2006.
Other types of financial instruments are not offered to the public.
The commercial banks provide short- and long-term credit to the
private sector. No specialized financial institution exists to meet
the investment needs of tourism, agriculture and fisheries.

The banking system has been hit by the shortage of external
financing and the economic slowdown. According to the IMF,
non-performing loans have increased significantly as banks have a
high exposure to the tourism sector. No problems were reported
regarding domestic liquidity of foreign banks. Nonetheless, due to
deteriorating economic conditions, private sector credit shrank in
2009 after several years of growth.

Due to the foreign exchange shortage, the Maldives Monetary
Authority started rationing foreign exchange supplied to the banking
system in 2009. As a result, a parallel market has emerged with a
small premium over the official peg. In one known case, a U.S.
company was unable to immediately receive its dollar-denominated
payment due to lack of foreign currency at banks in the Maldives.

The Maldives Stock Exchange (MSE), first opened in 2002 as a small
securities trading floor, was licensed as a private stock exchange
in 2008. The legislature passed a Securities Act in January 2006
and the government created a Capital Market Development Authority
(CMDA) to regulate the capital market. The MSE functions under the
CMDA. At present, the only investment opportunity available to the
public is a limited number of shares in the Bank of Maldives and
three other state-owned public companies.

A leasing company, Maldives Finance Leasing Company (Pvt) Ltd
(MFLC), was established in May 2002 as a collaborative venture
between five domestic public and private sector entities and two
international parties including the World Bank's International
Finance Corporation (IFC). The MFLC aims to address the demand for
long-term equipment financing from all sectors of the economy.

The Housing Development Finance Corporation is a government company
designed to provide housing loans with long repayment terms at
favorable interest rates. The company is also entrusted with
drawing up the land use policy in the Maldives.

The prevalence of state-owned enterprises in many sectors of the
economy has traditionally crowded out the private sector in the
Maldives, however the current government is working to privatize
many of them through private/public partnerships. Energy, water,
and airport sectors are going through this process now, as are
fisheries and tourism.

SOEs operate under the Companies Act with overall little government
influence. The government does approve the Boards of Directors but
the SOEs do not report to line ministers. It is generally rare that
Board seats go to senior government officials, although some
political affiliation does exist. All companies of over $1 million,
whether public or private, must submit to an independent audit. SOE
audits are sent to the Ministry of Finance and can be viewed upon
request.

Currently the Maldives does not have a sovereign wealth fund
although it is considering creating one to be used to provide
low-interest loans to support the move to carbon neutrality,
especially on resort islands.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)

There is limited but growing awareness of corporate social
responsibility among the business elite.

COLOMBO 00000067 007 OF 011

POLITICAL VIOLENCE

The Maldives has a homogeneous society of one culture, one religion,
and one language. In 2008, the Maldives held its first multi-party
Presidential elections, following a multi-year effort for
constitutional reforms. President Nasheed took office in November
2008, replacing a thirty-year incumbent. The transition to a new
government led by the former head of the opposition was peaceful.
Political rallies in the Maldives generally do not turn violent, as
sometimes occurred under the previous regime.

Religious extremism, involving espousal of fundamentalist views
incompatible with the Maldives' generally moderate Islamic
practices, is a small but growing trend. In September 2007, the
Maldives experienced its first-ever terrorist attack when a bomb
exploded in the capital of Male', injuring twelve tourists who
appeared to be the target of the attack.

CORRUPTION

Corruption, including bribery, raises the costs and risks of doing
business. Corruption has a corrosive impact on both market
opportunities overseas for U.S. companies and the broader business
climate. It also deters international investment, stifles economic
growth and development, distorts prices, and undermines the rule of
law.

It is important for U.S. companies, irrespective of their size, to
assess the business climate in the relevant market in which they
will be operating or investing, and to have an effective compliance
program or measures to prevent and detect corruption, including
foreign bribery. U.S. individuals and firms operating or investing
in foreign markets should take the time to become familiar with the
relevant anti-corruption laws of both the foreign country and the
United States in order to properly comply with them, and where
appropriate, they should seek the advice of legal counsel.

The U.S. Government seeks to level the global playing field for U.S.
businesses by encouraging other countries to take steps to
criminalize their own companies' acts of corruption, including
bribery of foreign public officials, by requiring them to uphold
their obligations under relevant international conventions. A U. S.
firm that believes a competitor is seeking to use bribery of a
foreign public official to secure a contract should bring this to
the attention of appropriate U.S. agencies, as noted below.

U.S. FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT

In 1977, the United States enacted the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
(FCPA), which makes it unlawful for a U.S. person, and certain
foreign issuers of securities, to make a corrupt payment to foreign
public officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business
for or with, or directing business to, any person. The FCPA also
applies to foreign firms and persons who take any act in furtherance
of such a corrupt payment while in the United States. For more
detailed information on the FCPA, see the FCPA Lay-Person's Guide
at: http://www.justice.gov/ criminal/fraud/docs/dojdocb.html.

OTHER INSTRUMENTS

It is U.S. Government policy to promote good governance, including
host country implementation and enforcement of anti-corruption laws
and policies pursuant to their obligations under international
agreements. Since enactment of the FCPA, the United States has been
instrumental to the expansion of the international framework to
fight corruption. Several significant components of this framework
are the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public
Officials in International Business Transactions (OECD Antibribery
Convention), the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UN
Convention), the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (OAS
Convention), the Council of Europe Criminal and Civil Law
Conventions, and a growing list of U.S. free trade agreements. The
Maldives is country is party to the UN Convention, but generally all
countries prohibit the bribery and solicitation of their public
officials.


COLOMBO 00000067 008 OF 011


OECD ANTIBRIBERY CONVENTION

The OECD Antibribery Convention entered into force in February 1999.
As of December 2009, there are 38 parties to the Convention
including the United States (see http://www.oecd.org/
dataoecd/59/13/40272933.pdf). Major exporters China, India, and
Russia are not parties, although the U.S. Government strongly
endorses their eventual accession to the Convention. The Convention
obligates the Parties to criminalize bribery of foreign public
officials in the conduct of international business. The United
States meets its international obligations under the OECD
Antibribery Convention through the U.S. FCPA. The Maldives is not a
party to the OECD Convention.

UN CONVENTION

The UN Anticorruption Convention entered into force on December 14,
2005, and there are 143 parties to it as of December 2009 (see
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/ treaties/CAC/signatories.html). The
UN Convention is the first global comprehensive international
anticorruption agreement. The UN Convention requires countries to
establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts
of corruption. The UN Convention goes beyond previous
anti-corruption instruments, covering a broad range of issues
ranging from basic forms of corruption such as bribery and
solicitation, embezzlement, trading in influence to the concealment
and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. The Convention
contains transnational business bribery provisions that are
functionally similar to those in the OECD Antibribery Convention and
contains provisions on private sector auditing and books and records
requirements. Other provisions address matters such as prevention,
international cooperation, and asset recovery. The Maldives is a
party to the UN Convention.

LOCAL LAWS

U.S. firms should familiarize themselves with local anti-corruption
laws, and, where appropriate, seek legal counsel. While the U.S.
Department of Commerce cannot provide legal advice on local laws,
the Department's U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service can provide
assistance with navigating the host country's legal system and
obtaining a list of local legal counsel.

ASSISTANCE FOR U.S. BUSINESSES

The U.S. Department of Commerce offers several services to aid U.S.
businesses seeking to address business-related corruption issues.
For example, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service can provide
services that may assist U.S. companies in conducting their due
diligence as part of the company's overarching compliance program
when choosing business partners or agents overseas. The U.S.
Foreign and Commercial Service can be reached directly through its
offices in every major U.S. and foreign city, or through its Website
at www.trade.gov/cs.

The Departments of Commerce and State provide worldwide support for
qualified U.S. companies bidding on foreign government contracts
through the Commerce Department's Advocacy Center and State's Office
of Commercial and Business Affairs. Problems, including alleged
corruption by foreign governments or competitors, encountered by
U.S. companies in seeking such foreign business opportunities can be
brought to the attention of appropriate U.S. government officials,
including local embassy personnel and through the Department of
Commerce Trade Compliance Center "Report a Trade Barrier" Website at
tcc.export.gov/Report_a_Barrier/index.asp.

GUIDANCE ON THE U.S. FCPA

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) FCPA Opinion Procedure enables
U.S. firms and individuals to request a statement of the Justice
Department's present enforcement intentions under the antibribery
provisions of the FCPA regarding any proposed business conduct. The
details of the opinion procedure are available on DOJ's Fraud
Section Website at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa. Although
the Department of Commerce has no enforcement role with respect to
the FCPA, it supplies general guidance to U.S. exporters who have
questions about the FCPA and about international developments

COLOMBO 00000067 009 OF 011


concerning the FCPA. For further information, see the Office of the
Chief Counsel for International Counsel, U.S. Department of
Commerce, Website, at http://www.ogc.doc.gov/
trans_anti_bribery.html. More general information on the FCPA is
available at the Websites listed below.

ANTI-CORRUPTION RESOURCES

Some useful resources for individuals and companies regarding
combating corruption in global markets include the following:

Information about the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA),
including a "Lay-Person's Guide to the FCPA" is available at the
U.S. Department of Justice's Website at: http://www.justice.gov/
criminal/fraud/fcpa.

Information about the OECD Antibribery Convention including links to
national implementing legislation and country monitoring reports is
available at: http://www.oecd.org/department
/0,3355,en_2649_34859_1_1_1_1_1,00.html. See also new Antibribery
Recommendation and Good Practice Guidance Annex for companies:
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/ 11/40/44176910.pdf

General information about anticorruption initiatives, such as the
OECD Convention and the FCPA, including translations of the statute
into several languages, is available at the Department of Commerce
Office of the Chief Counsel for International Commerce Website:
http://www.ogc.doc.gov /trans_anti_bribery.html.

Transparency International (TI) publishes an annual Corruption
Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI measures the perceived level of
public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the
world. The CPI is available at: http://www.transparency.org/
policy_research /surveys_indices/cpi/2009. TI also publishes an
annual Global Corruption Report which provides a systematic
evaluation of the state of corruption around the world. It includes
an in-depth analysis of a focal theme, a series of country reports
that document major corruption related events and developments from
all continents and an overview of the latest research findings on
anti-corruption diagnostics and tools. See
http://www.transparency.org/ publications/gcr.

The World Bank Institute publishes Worldwide Governance Indicators
(WGI). These indicators assess six dimensions of governance in 212
countries, including Voice and Accountability, Political Stability
and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory
Quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption. See
http://info.worldbank.org/ governance/wgi/sc_country.asp. The
World Bank Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Surveys
may also be of interest and are available at:
http://go.worldbank.org/RQQXYJ6210.

The World Economic Forum publishes the Global Enabling Trade Report,
which presents the rankings of the Enabling Trade Index, and
includes an assessment of the transparency of border administration
(focused on bribe payments and corruption) and a separate segment on
corruption and the regulatory environment. See
http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/
gcp/GlobalEnablingTradeReport/index.htm.

Additional country information related to corruption can be found in
the U.S. State Department's annual Human Rights Report available at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/.

Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization, publishes its annual
Global Integrity Report, which provides indicators for 92 countries
with respect to governance and anti-corruption. The report
highlights the strengths and weaknesses of national level
anti-corruption systems. The report is available at:
http://report.globalintegrity.org/.

CORRUPTION IN THE MALDIVES

Public sector corruption, including bribery of public officials,
remains a challenge for U.S. firms operating in the Maldives.
Reports indicate an improvement although the perception of
corruption remains high.

COLOMBO 00000067 010 OF 011

Corruption was a serious problem in the Maldives, and the new
government has vowed to fight it. The World Bank's Control of
Corruption Index for the Maldives which showed a steady decline in
recent years from +0.09 in 2003 to -0.83 in 2007 showed a marginal
improvement at -0.60 in 2008. Transparency International's
Corruption Perception Index surveyed the Maldives for the first time
in its 2007 index, ranking the country 84th with a score of 3.3 out
of a possible 10. In 2008, the Maldives slipped 31 places and
ranked 115th out of 180 countries with a score of 2.8. In 2009, the
Maldives slipped further to 130th out of 180 countries with a score
of 2.5. This may be due in part to the fact that corruption is now
openly talked about in the media as well as a "hang-over" caused by
the abuses of the previous government.

The law on prevention and punishment of corruption (2002) defines
bribery and improper pecuniary advantage and prescribes punishments.
The law also outlines procedures for the confiscation of property
and funds obtained through commission of the included offenses. An
Anti-Corruption Commission was created in December 2008 following
the passage of the Anti Corruption Commission Act. The
responsibilities of the Commission include inquiring into and
investigating all allegations of corruption; recommending further
inquiries and investigations by other investigatory bodies; and
recommending prosecution of alleged offences to the Prosecutor
General, where warranted. The Anti-Corruption Commission is
empowered to handle cases of corruption of members of parliament.
It cannot investigate corruption in the private sector.

In March 2007, the Maldives acceded to the United Nations Convention
against Corruption.

OPIC AND OTHER INVESTMENT INSURANCE PROGRAMS

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has just begun
operations in the Maldives. The Maldives is not a member of the
Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank Group.

LABOR

Skilled and unskilled labor is scarce, and expatriate labor is
allowed in order to meet shortages. There are an estimated 80,000
expatriate workers, mostly in tourism, construction, and social and
personal services. Expatriate labor is of equal cost or more
expensive than local labor. Even when salaries are set lower,
travel and other benefits typically make it more expensive overall
to hire expatriates. Since higher education options in the Maldives
are limited, young Maldivians from higher income families often
travel abroad for education.

The laws covering labor were overhauled in 2008 with the enactment
of the 2008 Maldives Constitution, the new Employment Act, and a
subsequent amendment to the Employment Act. The new constitution
recognizes workers' right to strike and establish trade unions, for
the first time. The Maldives is hoping to enact a separate trade
union law providing rules for formation of trade unions and
collective bargaining. The Maldives also needs to enact regulations
further defining the right to association.

The Employment Act provides for the establishment of minimum wages,
maximum hours of work, overtime, annual and sick leave, maternity
leave and work place safety. The Employment Act created a
48-hour/week with a compulsory 24-hour break after six days of
continuous work. Resort workers may accumulate the weekly rest day.
Overtime is available. Workers in tourist resorts may work
additional two hours a day and be paid at overtime rate. Employees
are usually authorized 30 days of annual leave, 30 days of medical
leave, 65 days of maternity leave, and 10 days of special annual
leave to "attend important obligations." Either parent of a newborn
child is entitled to one year's unpaid annual leave after the expiry
of the maternity leave period. Employers are also required to
provide a safe workplace. The law provides for entering into of
agreements between the employer and the employee which guarantees
the rights specified in the law.

Until recently, the government did not recognize the right to form
unions or the right to strike. Hence, labor actions and disputes

COLOMBO 00000067 011 OF 011


were rare. There are two employees associations, and collective
bargaining involving employees' associations in the tourism sector
began within days of the new constitution taking effect. Labor
disputes arose in some resorts when employees' associations
presented demands for wage increases and improvements in the
conditions of work and stopped work.

Traditionally, wages in the private sector have been set by a
contract between employers and employees and were based on rates for
similar work in the public sector. The new employment law
established a Pay Advisory Board to advise the Minister of Human
Resources, Youth and Employment on setting minimum wages in the
private sector.

The Employment Act granted workers the right to compensation if
fired without cause. The government has established a Labor
Relations Authority to implement the new employment law. The law
requires the Ministry of Human Resources to issue specific rules for
employment of foreign workers.

The Employment Act does not cover emergency workers, air and sea
crews, executive staff of any company and persons on on-call duty.

In December 2008, following the enactment of the new Employment Act,
the Maldives became a member of the International Labor
Organization. In December 2009, the United States restored tariff
preferences under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
The GSP facility to the Maldives was suspended in 1995 because the
Maldives did not have a mechanism to afford internationally
recognized worker rights. The Maldives is also eligible for
Overseas Private Investment Credits (OPIC).

FOREIGN INVESTMENT STATISTICS

Foreign direct investment statistics are not readily available.
Most of the FDI is in tourism, telecommunications and banking.

U.S. firms represented in the Maldives include Western Union, FedEx,
UPS, Hewlett Packard (HP), Dell, Compaq, Coca-Cola, American
Express, Hilton Resorts, Sheraton, SeaTec, Ernst and Young,
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Marriott, and KPMG.

WEB RESOURCES

Foreign Investment Services Bureau: www.investmaldives.org
International Monetary Fund: www.imf.org
World Bank: www.worldbank.org
Ministry of Planning and National Development: www.planning.gov.mv
Maldives Monetary Authority: www.mma.gov.mv
Maldives Stock Market: www.maldivesstockexchange.com.mv
United Nations Development Program: www.mv.undp.org
Butenis

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

IPPPR: The Independent Panel Calls For Urgent Reform Of Pandemic Prevention And Response Systems

Expert independent panel calls for urgent reform of pandemic prevention and response systems The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is today calling on the global community to end the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt a series of bold and ... More>>

NGO Coalition On Human Rights: Call For A Stop To Police Brutality In Fiji

A viral video has circulated online showing two police officers utilising disproportionate and excessive force in detaining the suspect, an individual half their size. In the video it shows the man’s head being pressed down on the ground, his arms being ... More>>

UN: India’s New COVID-19 Wave Is Spreading Like ‘Wildfire’, Warns UN Children’s Fund

7 May 2021 A new wave of COVID-19 infections is spreading like “wildfire” across India, leaving many youngsters destitute, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday. In the last 24 hours, India registered 3,915 coronavirus deaths and 414,188 ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UN: Economic Recovery Under Threat Amid Surging COVID Cases And Lagging Vaccination In Poorer Countries

New York, 11 May — While the global growth outlook has improved, led by robust rebound in China and the United States, surging COVID-19 infections and inadequate vaccination progress in many countries threaten a broad-based recovery of the world ... More>>

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>