Maldives: Country Profile



Geography and climate

The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands which form a chain 820 km in length and 130 km in width, set in an area of 90,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean. Geologically, the chain forms a part of the Laccadive-Chagos submarine ridge, which extends into the central Indian Ocean from the south west coast of India. India and Sri Lanka are the country’s nearest neighbours, lying some 600 km and 750 km north and north east of Maldives, respectively.
The islands form 26 natural atolls, which for purposes of administration, are grouped into 20 units, also called Atolls. Most of the islands are quite small. They are low lying with an average elevation of 1.6 m above mean sea level. The islands are surrounded by shallow, crystal clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs.
The Maldives has a tropical climate. With two monsoons in the year, it is warm and humid throughout. Daily temperatures vary little. The annual mean temperature is 28.3°C with temperatures ranging from 25.1°C to 31.5°C. The average relative humidity ranges from 78% to 85%.

The People

The islands form 26 natural atolls, which for purposes of administration, are grouped into 20 units, also called Atolls. Most of the islands are quite small. They are low lying with an average elevation of 1.6 m above mean sea level. The islands are surrounded by shallow, crystal clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs. The Maldivians are racially homogeneous. The origins of the race are mixed, but are predominantly Sri Lankan and Indian.
The Census of 1995 showed that the total population of Maldives is 244,644 with a growth rate of 2.9%. The most populous of the inhabited islands and the centre of commerce is the capital, Male’. The population of Male’ in 1995 was 62,973 which is almost 26% of the total population. The country’s labour force (51,218 in 1990) constitutes over 50.06% of the working age population of 15-59 years of age. The total population is spread over 200 islands. The rest of the islands are largely, except for 73 which have been developed as tourist resorts. More islands will also be developed in the near future, in accordance with the Tourism Master Plan.
Society is very cohesive, with one culture, one language (the Maldivian language is called Dhivehi) and one religion. The people are generally enterprising and very hospitable.
Approximately 79% of the population is below the age of 35 years. The literacy rate is 92%. (Data source: statistical year book 1995)

History and Government

Historical evidence suggests that people settled in the Maldives more than 2,500 years ago, in 500 B.C. Despite frequent contact with seafarers in ancient times, the inhabitants have remained uniquely homogeneous in terms of language, religion and culture. The Maldivian state has evolved to suit the conditions in the country and the independence of the people. The political system has evolved from Sultanate to a Republic. For most of its history, the Maldives has been fortunate in being an independent country, free from foreign domination. Prior to becoming independent in 1965, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887. The Maldives was a Sultanate throughout its known history, but became a Republic in 1968. The Head of State and Chief Executive is the President, elected every 5 years by a public referendum. The Maldives is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the World Trade Organisation, and several other UN bodies.


Language

The official language is Dhivehi, which is unique to the Maldives. The dhivehi script is know as "Thaana Script". However, English is spoken by a majority of the people, and is also widely used in business andcommerce.

Currency

The local currency is the Rufiyaa (MRF). One rufiyaa is divided into one hundred Laaris. Presently the exchange rate is US$ 1= MRF 12.85. The United States dollar is the most widely used foreign currency. Other major international currencies can also be bought and sold at banks and authorised money changers in the country. Major credit cards and traveller’s cheques are accepted in resorts, hotels, banks and many retail outlets. The Maldives has never had any restrictions on currency movements and visitors and investors are free to bring in or take out foreign currency as they wish.

How to get to Maldives

The Maldives is in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The most convenient way of getting to the Maldives is by air. The International Airport is located on Hulhulhe’ Island, adjacent to Male.’The airport is strategically located close to the centre of commerce and many of the tourist resorts. Several scheduled and charter flights operate to the Maldives. Scheduled flights operate to the Maldives from Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and many European capitals. In addition, several charter operators from European and Asian cities, catering mainly to the tourist trade, also operate to the Maldives round the year.