Talking about housing issues, the cost of housing, walkable roads and lack of availability in the Male’ City is like reading the same thing over and over again on a daily newspaper. These are everyday issues that are talked about non-stop in the Maldives, because these are the issues that never get resolved even when it affects the majority of people living in the city.
With Male’ City being the main hub of good schooling, hospitals and jobs, people from the islands have been migrating to the city for years. With the lack of development and resources available in their own islands, people were left with no choice if they wanted a better future for themselves and their kids, leading to Male’ becoming more and more crowded by the day. While the densely packed city keeps getting worse each passing year, with little to no real development in the islands, the trend of moving for a better life continues in the Maldives.
And while everyone moved to the capital for a better future, the majority prefer living on their own islands in their own homes, but these are the sacrifices being made every day for the younger generation.
While citizens of the Maldives continue to face this struggle every single day, islands and land are being leased to develop businesses, resorts and other tourist facilities, and to an outside who has never been to the Maldives it might not even appear like the citizens are fighting over land and housing in this country.
One good example of this issue would be the motion that was submitted to the Parliament of the Maldives on Tuesday 7th February 2023 regarding the issue of leasing land to foreigners for 99 years. The issue was raised by Maduvvari MP Adam Shareef, who discussed some important points when bringing up this motion.
This motion was provoked by the announcement by Housing Development Corporation (HDC) announcing on February 2, 2023, that land from Thilafushi “Zone A” was up for auction and while Maldivians would be able to own the land, if a foreigner applies for this land they will be eligible to be leased for 99 years.
In his petition, MP Shareef pointed out the fact that during a time when local business owners were struggling to find land to run their own business, leasing out land for 99 years to foreigners to run their business in the Maldives was an act that is seriously unfavourable to local Maldivian business owners.
While Maldives National Party (MNP) strongly expressed their concern over this issue, the Parliament rejected the motion as it did not receive majority support.
This a surprising turn of events considering Male’ City and Kaafu Atoll face major land shortages, which have been causing several issues for years. And while MPs and the Parliament are elected by the people in order to make decisions that are for the benefit of this nation and its citizens, it appears that even after the first sitting of the Parliament for this year they have strongly failed their voters, yet again.
While this is no surprise, the issue surrounding leasing land to foreign business owners to run their businesses in the Maldives after sacrificing the same rights for local business owners is a serious matter we should all think about.
The Industrial zone in Thilafushi and the island itself was and is undergoing development through significantly huge amounts of external loans, but it appears that even after putting the country in so much debt it might be some foreign companies getting undue advantages with owning land and competing with local businesses, with access to relatively expensive financing from the Maldives financial sector.