In the early 1990s, Maldives was ranked by the UN as one of the world's twenty-nine least developed countries. The World Bank estimated Maldives' gross national product (GNP) in 1991 at US$101 million and its per capita income at US$460. The 1993 estimated real growth rate was 6 percent. Between 1980 and 1991, GNP was estimated to increase at an average annual rate of 10.2 percent.
President Gayoom's development philosophy centers on increasing Maldives' self-sufficiency and improving the standard of living of residents of the outer islands. In 1994 a considerable gap continued to exist between the general prosperity of the inhabitants of Male and the limited resources and comparative isolation of those living on the outer islands. The Third National Development Plan (1991-93) reflected these objectives and aimed to improve overall living standards, to reduce the imbalance in population density and socioeconomic progress between Male and the atolls, and to achieve greater self-sufficiency for purposes of future growth.
The fishing and tourist industries are the main contributors to the gross domestic product (GDP). In 1992 the fishing industry provided approximately 15 percent of total GDP. Revenues from tourism were comparable to 80 percent of visible export receipts in 1992, contributing approximately 17 percent of GDP. The country had no known mineral resources, and its cropland--small and scattered over the approximately 200 inhabited islands--was inadequate to sustain a burgeoning population. Agriculture employed a little more than 7 percent of the labor force in 1990 in the limited production of coconuts, cassava, taro, corn, sweet potatoes, and fruit, and accounted for almost 10 percent of GDP. These basic foodstuffs represented only 10 percent of domestic food needs with the remainder being imported.
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