Maldives and Brunei

Treasures of the Sea – Aired August 2013

These two Asian countries – both of them small in land area but big in aspirations – have made the most of their resources to develop thriving, increasingly diversified economies.

Brunei is located on the island of Borneo facing the South China Sea, Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago. Brunei – ruled by the same family for six centuries – has vast petroleum and gas resources and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, along with free healthcare and education for all citizens. Maldives, with few resources but great natural beauty, has based its economy on tourism.

In spite of their differences, Maldives and Brunei have a lot in common.
Both are island nations with long traditions of international trade.
Both are former British protectorates with English-speaking populations.
Both are known for exceptional natural beauty and a tropical climate.
Both have created a world-class business climate and legal environment.

The Maldives is an Asian success story. An Indian Ocean archipelago of around 1,200 islands with a population of around 320,000, the Maldives is a relatively wealthy, educated, moderate Islamic republic that has a long history as a trade hub and cultural crossroads.

Building on its exceptional tourism appeal to transform itself into a high-end resort destination, the Maldives has boosted its foreign-exchange revenues and used this income to achieve significant social and economic progress.

ECONOMY
In its January 2013 conference on “Frontier Asia”, the International Monetary Fund ranked the Maldives as one of the world’s 10 high-potential “Frontier Economies”. These are developing nations characterized by increasing economic diversity and rapid GDP growth that is taking them higher and higher up the development ladder.

As a fabulously picturesque tropical island nation with great natural beauty but little industrial production ,the Maldives has long relied mainly on tourism to underpin its economy. The tourism sector now accounts for over 30% of the country’s GDP and more than 60% of its foreign-exchange revenues.

The Maldives’ financial-services sector currently has only a handful of players, but the government is working hard to attract international banks and financial-services firms to establish a presence in the islands. The aim is to boost liquidity and increase the possibilities for the private sector to receive local loan support at lower interest rates. In addition, in an effort to support small and medium-sized enterprises, the Ministry of Finance encourages microfinance organizations to set up operations in the Maldives market.

One key growth area in the financial sector is in home-financing services.
Programs like these signal a drive toward providing more competitive financial services for both local and international customers in the Maldives.

TRANSPORT AND CONSTRUCTION
As an archipelago with over a thousand islands scattered over a large area, the Maldives has always put a high priority on transport-infrastructure development. A case in point is Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the main gateway to the Maldives for global business and tourism visitors as well as a key trade link.

Meanwhile, a number of ambitious programs are in the works to improve shipping services in the islands as well as island-to-island transport.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is overseeing the construction of around 19 new harbors on different islands throughout the country, and new domestic airports are planned.

The Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC) recently began a 10-month harbor-construction project on the island of Gemanafushi in Gaafu Alif Atoll that will give the island a new 1000-foot by 300-foot in harbor.

Among its many other projects designed to upgrade life in the Maldives, MTCC has reclaimed over 100,000 hectares of land around the islands over the past 15 years, employing the latest equipment and technologies.

An inter-island bridge, more harbor-dredging and land-reclamation projects, and the creation or improvement of domestic airports are a just few of the other big-budget construction initiatives being planned. Many major construction projects in the Maldives offer outstanding opportunities for foreign investors and construction enterprises.

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
Ensuring adequate water supplies is another challenge for the Maldives, which gets its potable water mainly from stored rainwater, much of it in household tanks, as well as from the costly desalination of seawater. Malé Water & Sewerage Company, formed in 1995 and ISO certified in 2006, has a strong track record in providing reliable water and wastewater services throughout the islands.

TOURISM
The Maldives is a true tropical paradise, with white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water, spectacular sunsets and beautiful weather year-round. This is a country that definitely lives up to its tourism slogan, “The Sunny Side of Life.” Local and international enterprises have made huge investments in the Maldives’ tourism sector, and even more ambitious projects are set for the future.

Love diving? The Maldives has some of the clearest, warmest waters in the world as well as some of the richest, best preserved coral reefs, home to thousands of sea creatures. Feeling sporty? The Maldives is a natural for all kinds of water sports, from surfing, sailing and water polo to swimming and snorkeling.
And the Maldives is much more than just a fun-in-the-sun destination. Thanks to its location on historic ocean trade routes, the Maldives has developed a rich culture that visitors can explore. And that’s just the beginning.

As for places to stay in the Maldives, the islands are home to some of the most luxurious resorts and boutique hotels on the planet, along with luxury yachts that offer private cruises and a number of small guesthouses ideal for getting to know the locals. But all these accomplishments didn’t come easy.

One unique feature of the Maldives’ tourism industry is its “One island, one resort” approach. With over 100 island resorts to choose from, there is a dream island for everyone in the Maldives.

Brunei is known as the Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures, and visitors can have a big variety of memorable experiences in one small area. Highlights for visitors range from the Royal Regalia Museum, which showcases the history of the Sultanate, to Ulu Temburong National Park, where nature-lovers can experience unspoiled rainforest in the true green heart of Borneo. With rainforest covering almost 80% of the country, Brunei is a natural for eco-tourism.

Brunei’s Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque is one of the architectural wonders of the Islamic world, while Kampung Ayer, in Bandar Seri Begawan, is the world’s largest water village, where residents of wooden houses on stilts combine a traditional lifestyle with modern amenities.

Brunei is committed to preserving its unique natural and cultural heritage while boosting its tourism sector. Travelers looking for the best in facilities and services will be drawn to Brunei’s large choice of upscale hotels and resorts. In fact, Brunei has earned a reputation for offering its visitors a level of hospitality, luxury and privacy unmatched anywhere else in Asia.

Conclusion:
Maldives and Brunei: Two small countries ready to make bigger contributions to the global economy.
Two upscale tropical paradises waiting to be discovered by discerning travelers.
Two strategically located Asian business bases offering a range of high-potential investment options.
Visit beautiful Maldives and Brunei and see what they can offer you.