Maldives Economics and Business

Abbreviated as MDV by, Maldives has quickly become a middle-income country, driven by the rapid growth of the tourism and fisheries sectors.

High economic growth since the 1970s has led to a significant improvement in the standard of living in the Maldives. Since the turn of the millennium, living standards have been among the highest in South Asia. However, poverty is widespread, and around 16 percent live below the poverty line (2016).

Maldives GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

  • COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Maldives, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.

The Maldives has a developing economy based on fishing, tourism, boatbuilding and boat repair. Most of the population works with fishing, coconut harvesting and growing vegetables, melons, roots and tubers (cassava, sweet potatoes and yams) and tropical fruits.


The development of tourism started in the early 1970s and has been a success ever since. To protect the island’s culture from the negative effects of mass tourism, tourists are referred to their own so-called “hotel islands” or “tourist islands” with no other population than those working in the tourism industry.

Note: the capital city of Maldives is Malé with a population of 133 412 (Census 2014).

Tourism is the Maldives’ most important industry, and in 2016, tourism accounted for 28 percent of GDP and 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings.


Fishing is the country’s second largest industry, but overall catches have dropped significantly in recent years. Fish, mainly dried, frozen or canned, is exported to Thailand, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, France, Algeria and Japan, among others. Most tuna is fished.


The agricultural sector is small, partly because of a lack of agricultural land. Maldives is largely dependent on food imports, and also imports a variety of industrial and finished goods.


The government faces challenges such as diversifying the economy beyond tourism and fishing, reforming public finances, increasing employment opportunities and combating corruption and a growing drug problem.

In the longer term, the Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming, as the country is the world’s flatest, with 80 percent of the area one meter or less above sea level.

In 2015, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that legalized foreign ownership of land under certain conditions.

Transport and Communications

The international airport (opened in 1981) is located on Hulele Island near the capital Malé. Tourists are also flown in to the three international airports at Gan (Addu Atoll), Kadhdhoo (Haddummati Atoll) and Hanimaadho (Tiladummati Atoll). The transport between the islands normally takes place by boat and there is regular traffic between some atolls.

Maldives Economics and Business

After the agreement of 1963, by which Great Britain undertook to re-establish the authority of the government of Malé over the rebel islands in exchange for concessions to the BBC, on 26 July 1965 the islands gained independence, while remaining at the The naval base of Gan was in English until 1968. In November 1968 they assumed the republican institutional form. On 7 March 1975, the President of the Republic Amir Ibrahim Nasir deposed with a blow of force the Prime Minister Ahmed Zaki, who on 22 February had obtained the parliamentary investiture with 36 votes to 16, exiling him in an islet of the archipelago and also assuming the function of head of government.

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