039_Global12_Spotlight_MaldivesRS_V6

Global issue 12

SpotlightMaldives fishing fleets of other nations. Vulnerability and-Tourism has been insulated from the glo bal economic crisis by a dramatic growth Chinese market was already three times the changing fortunes in arrivals from China. In June 2012, the size of the second largest, Germany. But the troubles in the domestic economy have been compounded with a sudden surge in government expenditure after the political The delicate environmental balance of the Maldives islands – whose main events of early 2012 – including promo- tions for a third of the police force, lump protection against the waves comes from the surrounding coral reefs – is sum bonuses for the military, international threatened by a wide range of man-made risks PR spending and subsidies for all and sun- dry. The increased expenditure was accom- J J Robinson panied by a plunge in revenue. A shortening of lease extension periods for resorts – as demanded by a few wealthy Maldivian re- sort tycoons – immediately took $135 mil- lion out of the 2012 budget. Foreign aid and access to concessional credit had already all but disappeared after the Maldives graduated in January 2011 from the UN’s definition of ‘least-devel- oped’ to ‘middle-income’, while the climate change adaption and mitigation grants that arrived were dependent on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s international profile and moral grandstanding on the topic. Investor confidence suffered heavily amid widespread concerns over the legiti- macy of the new government, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) began urging sharp and sudden tax increases for the tourism industry to avert a crisis as the country’s budget deficit soared towards 30 percent. “This is necessary for the nation. Immediate steps have to be taken. This is the reality, we have to face it,” explained Litter on a beach is just one visible sign of the islands’ looming environmental problems Jonathan Dunn, the IMF’s mission chief for the Maldives. It was the underwater cabinet meeting held rubbish dump at nearby Thilafushi (known So far, the new government has been by former President Mohamed Nasheed in locally as ‘Rubbish Island’), contrasting its drip-fed a series of generous $25 million 2009 that really propelled both him and the apocalyptic landscape with the postcard- credit instalments from India, and President Maldives on to the world stage as a para- perfect resort islands. Mohamed Waheed has appealed to both gon of the environmental movement. An Few made the effort to travel to other is- Saudi Arabia and China for urgent loans iconic image of Nasheed wearing a suit, sit- lands, where the reality is somewhat more and financial assistance. The latter country ting at his desk waist-deep in a lagoon was complicated. Most local beaches are scat- provided $500 million, with the promise of then co-opted by filmmakers of The Island tered with rubbish and waste, despite 74 more to come. President, released earlier this year to much waste-management facilities across the Tourism authorities have steadfastly acclaim. country lying largely unused, donated by presented an optimistic face, but cracks “If we can’t stop the seas rising, if you foreign agencies at a cost of millions of are starting to show. President Waheed’s agree to a two-degree rise in temperature, dollars. The problem is cultural, and is evi- special advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, recently you are actually agreeing to kill us. What dent in the language: the word for ‘beach’ acknowledged to local media that, after is the point in having a democracy if you in Dhivehi,gondu dhoh, also means ‘rub- February, “lenders became reluctant to in- don’t have a country?” Nasheed asks, in the bish dump’. vest, while some demanded borrowers take film’s introduction. Beach erosion is another complicated up political insurance as high as 5 percent So successful was his message that ‘The challenge. Development such as harbours, of the total borrowings, making whole Maldives: See it before it sinks’ became the water villas, land reclamation or even projects financially unfeasible, and some country’s de facto marketing slogan. Cli- something as innocuous as a wooden jetty banks completely closed their doors to us.” mate assistance funding increased as gov- alters the flow of water and can result in As time goes by, the linkage between eco- ernments sought to improve their own eco- beach erosion threatening houses and struc- nomic and political stability seems likely to credentials at home. And journalists came tures along the shore on other parts of the become even clearer.● from all corners of the globe to film Malé’s island. Some smaller local islands have globalfourth quarter 2012 www.global-briefing.org l39


Global issue 12
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