The cabinet has granted the development rights at Ihavandhippolhu, under the name Maldives Economic Gateway, to the newly formed Maldives Industrial Development Free Zone, Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed confirmed in a post to social media on Sunday. The Maldives free zone company will, as such, gear up the development of a port, storage facilities and re-export zone as soon as possible, the minister said.

The Mohamed Muizzu administration had, a month ago, announced the establishment of the free zone company in line with their ‘Week 14’ roadmap to establish a transshipment port in the Malé area — in addition to Muizzu’s pledge during the presidential campaign to establish a transshipment port at Gaadhoo Island in Laamu (L) Atoll.

“Addressing the trade imbalance gap, with MVR 3.48 billion in imports and MVR 300 million in exports, represents the most practical and visionary decision a President can make,” Saeed had said earlier as he announced administration plans to significantly expand the cargo terminal at Velana International Airport (VIA) and, thus, substantially increasing the tonnage of air cargo imported into the Maldives.

Saeed had additionally gone on to highlight the administration’s vision of increasing exports, pointing to the establishment of the Maldives Industrial Free Zone Company, which would seek to exploit new economic opportunities, via its Special Economic Zone (SEZ), for re-exports. The administration’s vision of doubling the country’s GDP, from MVR 6 billion to MVR 12 billion, can be achieved through these initiatives, he had said.

The newly inaugurated state-of-the-art cargo terminal at VIA has an annual capacity of 120,000 metric tonnes and supersedes the old cargo terminal, which could handle 50,000 tonnes of cargo annually and was built approximately 40 years ago — a development that could potentially feed into a re-export venture.

Five state-owned enterprises (SOEs), made up of the State Trading Organization (STO), Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Maldives Ports Limited (MPL), Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) will be stakeholders in the newly established Maldives Industrial Development Free Zone. This will potentially allow the free zone company, according to the administration, to create synergy with other opportunities, and across sectors.