Maldives has quickly become a middle-income country,
driven by the rapid growth of the tourism and fisheries
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 per cent live below the poverty
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.
COUNTRYAAH, 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
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
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