To amend domestic regional inequalities in the Maldives, the government identified regional economic growth and diversification as key objectives of economic development in both the 6th and 7th National Development Plans. Infrastructure is to be developed in outlying atolls fostering regional centers designed to have airports, ports, and other facilities. This is expected to foster employment and income generation opportunities in the micro and small and medium enterprise (MSME) subsector.


Despite high education levels and relatively high status, especially when compared to women elsewhere in South Asia, women in the Maldives still appear to have been disadvantaged by development. Women's participation in the labor force, for example, has fallen from 63% in 1977 to 37% in 2002. Women face several types of constraints in starting up micro and small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are not necessarily experienced by men.

In support of this Private Sector Development Project, ADB identified asymmetries in access to finance, market information, and business-related expertise among MSMEs as major constraints in the MSME subsector. The lack of infrastructure to support inter-island trade and to generate cheaper power as constraints on the MSME subsector further limit economic growth in the northern and southern regions—the target areas for this project. The intended impact of this project therefore is to address some of these constraints through the following outcomes:

  • Enhanced access to finance by MSMEs by providing the Bank of Maldives with a line of credit facility to pilot credit assistance for MSMEs in designated regions, and the creation of a central movable assets registry to facilitate the use of collateral for business financing;
  • Enhanced access to markets, technology, and information, and strengthened capacity of MSMEs through the establishment of business development service centers (BDSCs) and a cost-sharing facility designed to meet their special needs, with additional capacity development of related government support agencies and chambers of commerce; and
  • Improved support infrastructure for economic development through public– private partnerships (PPPs).

Key Points

Development Aims and Impacts:

  • The project aims to enhance access to finance by micro and small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) by providing a line of credit facility to pilot schemes in designated regions, as well as enhance access to markets, technology and information, and improve the business capacity of MSMEs by establishing business development services centers. The project will also support infrastructure through public–private partnerships in the designated regions.
  • Women entrepreneurs should be able to benefit from both access to credit and market information and technologies if their specific constraints are addressed by the project.

ADB Process:

  • No targets for women’s participation have been established, but the implementing agency in consultation with ADB is committed to addressing women's concerns as the project work plans are put in place. The Government of the Maldives has existing policies to promote women’s economic opportunities, and these will be applied to the project.

This case study is part of the ADB publication Gender Equality Results Case Studies: Maldives that provide an overview of gender issues in selected sectors of developing member countries.