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ADB’s Work in the Maldives

Overcoming Challenges Together

Upgraded concrete wharf
An upgraded concrete wharf in Dhidhdhdoo Island funded by ADB

From helping to create the country’s first university to lighting up the outer islands, the Maldives and ADB have spent the better part of 4 decades finding solutions to overcome development challenges together.

For decades, there were few options in the Maldives for people who wanted to obtain a college degree. Standards were inconsistent, degree courses were not offered. Only a small number of the most promising scholars were able to obtain government scholarships to study abroad.

The government was committed to addressing the problem. This challenge led to the first education initiative of ADB in the Maldives: the Postsecondary Education Development Project.

The project, which ran from 1999 to 2007, paved the way for the Maldives Qualifications Authority, which enabled the private sector to offer government-recognized courses and led to the creation of six private colleges. The project also helped develop courses of an international standard, and provided overseas scholarships to talented teachers to improve their skills.

The project produced a renaissance in postsecondary education in the Maldives and led to the establishment of the first university in the country, the Maldives National University, in February 2011.

“People now have confidence in higher education,” says Hussain Haleem, former deputy vice-chancellor of the Maldives National University. “We have the ability to run courses of international standard.”

Substantial benefits of greater connectivity

Launched in 2007, the Domestic Maritime Transport Project helped people access markets and social services, and contributed to economic growth. After project completion of the project, cargo and passenger volumes increased, as did sales in nearby markets.

“The vessel turnaround time has vastly improved,” said Abdul Nasir Mohamed, deputy director general of the Maldives Transport Authority. “Before, they had to queue for a week to 10 days; now it has been brought down to about 5 days or less. This also means cost reductions for the boat owners, because there are shorter waiting times for the crew they hire.”

These projects are part of a nearly 4-decade partnership between the Maldives and ADB. Since 1978, ADB has worked with the Maldives to overcome the restraints of being an isolated island country with limited resources.

"ADB has been our friend, counsel, and partner in development, and I take this opportunity to share our deep appreciation to ADB for its continued efforts toward the economic growth of the country and the region."

Abdulla Jihad
Former Minister of Finance and Treasury

A giant disaster hits a small country

In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami dealt a powerful blow to the Maldives. Nearly a third of the population was severely affected, and 39 islands were significantly damaged. Thousands of people lost their livelihoods and nearly 62% of the country’s gross domestic product—about $470 million—was lost in a matter of hours.

ADB responded to the disaster by contributing $18.13 million under the Tsunami Emergency Assistance Project. As part of the project, infrastructure in these areas was rebuilt to be of higher quality, to be more resilient, and to meet more demanding environmental standards. This included work on transport, power, agriculture, fisheries, and water and sanitation.

Young girl of Baarah Island
A girl from Baarah Island

The project included rebuilding the harbor on Dhidhdhoo Island, which now provides better service than it did before the disaster. Six island power systems were rebuilt and upgraded and now provide reliable electricity. On Guraidhoo Island, a new sewer system is protecting groundwater and improving public health. About $800,000 was disbursed to 600 fishers, and hundreds of others received training and kits with basic equipment that helped restore their livelihoods.

Despite the challenges and setbacks, the Maldives has maintained a strong economy. The country achieved a gross domestic product growth rate of 9% or more through most of the 1970s and 1980s, and reached 16.2% in 1990. Growth has since moderated, but a strong, expanding economy has been a hallmark of the country’s progress.

“ADB has been our friend, counsel, and partner in development, and I take this opportunity to share our deep appreciation to ADB for its continued efforts toward the economic growth of the country and the region,” says Abdulla Jihad, former minister of finance and treasury of the Government of the Maldives.

This article was originally published in a special edition of Together We Deliver, which tells 50 stories highlighting the importance of good partnerships in Asia and the Pacific in meeting the complex development challenges of this dynamic region.