|General background: The Maldives were long
a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British
protection. They became a republic in 1968, three years
after independence. Tourism and fishing are being developed
on the archipelago.
About 1.7 times the size of Washington, DC
Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast
monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon
(June to August)
Terrain: Flat, with
white sandy beaches
Population: 320,165 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Language: Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala,
script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on Islamic law with admixtures
of English common law primarily in commercial matters;
has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: Tourism, Maldives largest
industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60%
of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90%
of government tax revenue comes from import duties
and tourism-related taxes. Almost 400,000 tourists
visited the islands in 1998. Fishing is a second leading
sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic
reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import
quotas and opening some exports to the private sector.
Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow
more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing
continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained
by the limited availability of cultivable land and
the shortage of domestic labor. Most staple foods
must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly
of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts,
accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities
worry about the impact of erosion and possible global
warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area
is one meter or less above sea level.
Communication/Telephone system: Minimal domestic
and international facilities.
Places of interest: If your idea of paradise
is a pristine tropical island with swaying palm trees,
pure white beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons,
then the Maldives will not disappoint. It's also a
major destination for scuba divers, who come for the
fabulous coral reefs and the wealth of marine life.