Maldives became a full member of SASEC in May 2014, together with Sri Lanka, following several years as an active observer. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal formed the project-based partnership in 2001.

The Seventh National Development Plan: Maldives - Creating New Opportunities envisions a sustainable development path anchored on economic growth, social equity, environmental protection, and good governance. Its Regional Development policy aims to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development between atolls by focusing on promoting key areas in each region, and investing on the necessary social and physical infrastructure. Combining strong regional economic linkages with a developed transport network will be key to boosting the region's growth. The country follows the Maldives Economic Vision 2013-2018 in its goal of building a sustainable and vibrant economy.

SASEC Projects in Maldives

ADB-financed project and technical assistance have supported SASEC activities in Maldives to help advance the country's engagement in regional cooperation activities, including under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) frameworks. Maldives has actively participated in SASEC from 2012 to 2014 as an observer, and then as a full member. An ADB-supported national single window project (worth $11.99 million) will help develop an automated system to improve ease of doing business, in line with SASEC operational priorities for trade facilitation. Two technical assistance projects (worth $1.2 million) support Maldives in implementing its national single window environment for international trade.

Trade Snapshot

Direction of Intra-regional Trade

The value of Maldives' merchandise exports and imports trade with other SASEC member countries, using International Monetary Fund data from 2017, is captured in the tables below.

Maldives' 5rd largest import source worldwide is Sri Lanka, with imported goods valued at $160 million. Its 41st largest import source is Bangladesh, with imported goods valued at $3 million.

Maldives' 2nd top export destination worldwide is Sri Lanka, with exports valued at $19 million. Its 3rd largest export market is Bangladesh, valued at $14 million.

Maldives Trade in SASEC Subregion

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Maldives Trade - Import

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Maldives Trade - Export

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Ease of Doing Business

In 2018, ease of doing business in Maldives improved owing to the following reforms:

  • Getting Electricity: Maldives made getting electricity faster by upgrading existing electricity grid and increasing the network capacity to accommodate new connections; and
  • Paying Taxes: Maldives made paying taxes easier by introducing an online system for filing and paying taxes.

Source: Doing Business, accessed December 2018

Note: The World Bank/International Finance Corporation's annual flagship Doing Business Report measures the ease of doing business by ranking economies from 1 to 190, based on quantitative indicator sets that can be compared across economies and over time, with first place being the best and indicating a regulatory environment is conducive to business operation. Of immediate relevance to SASEC aims and goals are indicator sets on Starting a Business, and Trading across Borders.

Logistics Performance Index (LPI)

Maldives' overall rank rose 14 place to 86 out of 168 economies in 2018, from a ranking of 104 in 2016. Its 2018 overall LPI score is 2.67, up by more than a point from its 2016 score of 2.51. Its 2018 score owes itself to improvements in customs, infrastructure, international shipments, tracking and tracing, and timeliness, offsetting a dip in its logistics competence score and placing the country on top of the South Asia regional average of 2.51.

Maldives LPI 2018

Source: World Bank LPI (accessed December 2018)

Note: The LPI overall score reflects perceptions of a country's logistics based on six core dimensions: (i) efficiency of customs clearance process, (ii) quality of trade- and transport-related infrastructure, (iii) ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, (iv) quality of logistics services, (v) ability to track and trace consignments, and (vi) frequency with which shipments reach the consignee within the scheduled time. The scores for the six areas are averaged across all respondents and aggregated to a single score using principal components analysis. A higher score indicates better performance.

Economic Outlook

Asian Development Outlook

Tourism in Maldives was strong in the first half of 2019, driven mainly by a rebound from Asian markets. Tourism is forecast to remain solid in 2019 and, along with construction, will back growth through 2020. The Maldives Government is developing tourism and is aiming for 2.5 million arrivals in 2023. It is also backing infrastructure projects and aims to start new capital projects across the country. Maldives also intends to increase private sector participation in infrastructure projects.

Source: Asian Development Outlook 2019 Update (ADB)
South Asia Regional Update

In Maldives, economic growth has been supported by rising tourist arrivals and tourists' longer length of stay, along with construction and government infrastructure investment. Real GDP growth has been strong at about 7.5% in 2018. Medium term GDP growth is expected to stabilize at about 5.5% on the back of the tourism sector. Inflation in Malé decelerated to 0.2% year-on-year in January 2019 with the decrease in administered prices for staples.

Source: South Asia Regional Update, August 2019 (IMF)