Photos of Maldives

Introduction

Background

A sultanate since the 12th century, the Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887. The islands became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM dominated Maldives' political scene for 30 years, elected to six successive terms by single-party referendums. Following political demonstrations in the capital Male in August 2003, GAYOOM and his government pledged to embark upon a process of liberalization and democratic reforms, including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Political parties were legalized in 2005.

In June 2008, a constituent assembly - termed the "Special Majlis" - finalized a new constitution ratified by GAYOOM in August 2008. The first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system were held in October 2008. GAYOOM was defeated in a runoff poll by Mohamed NASHEED, a political activist who had been jailed several years earlier by the GAYOOM regime. In early February 2012, after several weeks of street protests in response to his ordering the arrest of a top judge, NASHEED purportedly resigned the presidency and handed over power to Vice President Mohammed WAHEED Hassan Maniku. A government-appointed Commission of National Inquiry concluded there was no evidence of a coup, but NASHEED contends that police and military personnel forced him to resign. NASHEED, WAHEED, and Abdulla YAMEEN Abdul Gayoom ran in the 2013 elections with YAMEEN ultimately winning the presidency after three rounds of voting. As president, YAMEEN weakened democratic institutions, curtailed civil liberties, jailed his political opponents, restricted the press, and exerted control over the judiciary to strengthen his hold on power and limit dissent. In September 2018, YAMEEN lost his reelection bid to Ibrahim Mohamed SOLIH, a parliamentarian of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who had the support of a coalition of four parties that came together to defeat YAMEEN and restore democratic norms to Maldives. In April 2019, SOLIH's MDP won 65 of 87 seats in parliament.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India

Geographic coordinates

3 15 N, 73 00 E

Area

total: 298 sq km

land: 298 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 209

Area - comparative

about 1.7 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

644 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines

Climate

tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)

Terrain

flat, with white sandy beaches

Elevation

mean elevation: 2 m

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

highest point: 8th tee, golf course, Villingi Island 5 m

Land use

agricultural land: 23.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.3% (2018 est.)

forest: 3% (2018 est.)

other: 73.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

about a third of the population lives in the centrally located capital city of Male and almost a tenth in southern Addu City; the remainder of the populace is spread over the 200 or so populated islands of the archipelago

Natural hazards

tsunamis; low elevation of islands makes them sensitive to sea level rise

Geography - note

smallest Asian country; archipelago of 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Maldivian(s)

adjective: Maldivian

Ethnic groups

homogeneous mixture of Sinhalese, Dravidian, Arab, Australasian, and African resulting from historical changes in regional hegemony over marine trade routes

Languages

Dhivehi (official, dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English (spoken by most government officials)

Religions

Sunni Muslim (official)

Age structure

0-14 years: 22.13% (male 44,260/female 42,477)

15-24 years: 17.24% (male 37,826/female 29,745)

25-54 years: 48.91% (male 104,217/female 87,465)

55-64 years: 6.91% (male 12,942/female 14,123)

65 years and over: 4.81% (male 8,417/female 10,432) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 30.2

youth dependency ratio: 25.5

elderly dependency ratio: 4.7

potential support ratio: 21.4 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 29.5 years

male: 29.2 years

female: 30 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Birth rate

15.69 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 112

Death rate

4.12 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 212

Net migration rate

-12.76 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 225

Population distribution

about a third of the population lives in the centrally located capital city of Male and almost a tenth in southern Addu City; the remainder of the populace is spread over the 200 or so populated islands of the archipelago

Urbanization

urban population: 40.7% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 2.93% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

177,000 MALE (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.27 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.19 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female

total population: 1.13 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

24.5 years (2009 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality rate

53 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 92

Infant mortality rate

total: 26.4 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 29.53 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 23.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 66

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 76.69 years

male: 74.31 years

female: 79.18 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 98.3% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.7% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

4.56 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

4.3 beds/1,000 population (2009)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 97.7%

male: 97.3%

female: 98.1% (2016)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 15.9%

male: 19.1%

female: 12.1% (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 85

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Maldives

conventional short form: Maldives

local long form: Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa

local short form: Dhivehi Raajje

etymology: archipelago apparently named after the main island (and capital) of Male; the word "Maldives" means "the islands (dives) of Male"; alternatively, the name may derive from the Sanskrit word "maladvipa" meaning "garland of islands"; Dhivehi Raajje in Dhivehi means "Kingdom of the Dhivehi people"

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Male

geographic coordinates: 4 10 N, 73 30 E

time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: derived from the Sanskrit word "mahaalay" meaning "big house"

Administrative divisions

21 administrative atolls (atholhuthah, singular - atholhu); Addu (Addu City), Ariatholhu Dhekunuburi (South Ari Atoll), Ariatholhu Uthuruburi (North Ari Atoll), Faadhippolhu, Felidhuatholhu (Felidhu Atoll), Fuvammulah, Hahdhunmathi, Huvadhuatholhu Dhekunuburi (South Huvadhu Atoll), Huvadhuatholhu Uthuruburi (North Huvadhu Atoll), Kolhumadulu, Maale (Male), Maaleatholhu (Male Atoll), Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi (South Maalhosmadulu), Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi (North Maalhosmadulu), Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi (South Miladhunmadulu), Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi (North Miladhunmadulu), Mulakatholhu (Mulaku Atoll), Nilandheatholhu Dhekunuburi (South Nilandhe Atoll), Nilandheatholhu Uthuruburi (North Nilandhe Atoll), Thiladhunmathee Dhekunuburi (South Thiladhunmathi), Thiladhunmathee Uthuruburi (North Thiladhunmathi)

Independence

26 July 1965 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 26 July (1965)

Constitution

history: many previous; latest ratified 7 August 2008

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage requires at least three-quarters majority vote by its membership and the signature of the president of the republic; passage of amendments to constitutional articles on rights and freedoms and the terms of office of Parliament and of the president also requires a majority vote in a referendum; amended 2015

Legal system

Islamic (sharia) legal system with English common law influences, primarily in commercial matters

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Maldives

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: unknown

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Ibrahim "Ibu" Mohamed SOLIH (since 17 November 2018); Vice President Faisal NASEEM (since 17 November 2018); the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Ibrahim Mohamed SOLIH (since 17 November 2018); Vice President Faisal NASEEM (since 17 November 2018)

cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by Parliament

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 23 September 2018 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: Ibrahim Mohamed SOLIH elected president (in 1 round); Ibrahim Mohamed SOLIH (MDP) 58.3%, Abdulla YAMEEN Abdul Gayoom (PPM) 41.7%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or People's Majlis (87 seats - includes 2 seats added by the Elections Commission in late 2018; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 6 April 2019 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: percent of vote - MDP 44.7%, JP 10.8%, PPM 8.7%, PNC 6.4%, MDA 2.8%, other 5.6%, independent 21%; seats by party - MDP 65, JP 5, PPM 5, PNC 3, MDA 2, independent 7; composition - men 83, women 4, percent of women 4.6%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and 4-6 justices; note - 3 justices as of late 2019)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges appointed by the president in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission - a 10-member body of selected high government officials and the public - and upon confirmation by voting members of the People's Majlis; judges serve until mandatory retirement at age 70

subordinate courts: High Court; Criminal, Civil, Family, Juvenile, and Drug Courts; Magistrate Courts (on each of the inhabited islands)

Political parties and leaders

Adhaalath (Justice) Party or AP [Sheikh Imran ABDULLA]
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party or DRP [Ahmed Thasmeen ALI]
Maldives Development Alliance or MDA [Ahmed Shiyam MOHAMED]
Maldivian Democratic Party or MDP [Mohamed NASHEED]
Maldives Labor and Social Democratic Party or MLSDP [Ahmed SHIHAM]
Maldives Thirdway Democrats or MTD [Ahmed ADEEB]
Maumoon/Maldives Reform Movement or MRM [Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM]
National Democratic Congress [Yousuf Maaniu] (formed in 2020)
People's National Congress or PNC [Abdul Raheem ABDULLA] (formed in early 2019)
Progressive Party of Maldives or PPM
Republican (Jumhooree) Party or JP [Qasim IBRAHIM]

(2020)

International organization participation

ADB, AOSIS, C, CP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICCt, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, SAARC, SACEP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador THILMEEZA Hussain (since 8 July 2019);

There is currently no Maldives Embassy in Washington, DC, but its permanent representative to the United Nations in New York is accredited currently as ambassador to the United States. Jul 27, 2020
(2020)

chancery: 801 Second Avenue, Suite 400E, New York, NY 10017

telephone: [1] (212) 599-6194 and 599-6195

FAX: [1] (212) 661-6405

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Maldives; US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Alaina TEPLITZ (since 1 November 2018), is accredited to both countries; note: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of establishing an embassy on his trip to Maldives in October of 2020

Flag description

red with a large green rectangle in the center bearing a vertical white crescent moon; the closed side of the crescent is on the hoist side of the flag; red recalls those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of their country, the green rectangle represents peace and prosperity, and the white crescent signifies Islam

National symbol(s)

coconut palm, yellowfin tuna; national colors: red, green, white

National anthem

name: "Gaumee Salaam" (National Salute)

lyrics/music: Mohamed Jameel DIDI/Wannakuwattawaduge DON AMARADEVA

note: lyrics adopted 1948, music adopted 1972; between 1948 and 1972, the lyrics were sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne"

Economy

Economic overview

Maldives has quickly become a middle-income country, driven by the rapid growth of its tourism and fisheries sectors, but the country still contends with a large and growing fiscal deficit. Infrastructure projects, largely funded by China, could add significantly to debt levels. Political turmoil and the declaration of a state of emergency in February 2018 led to the issuance of travel warnings by several countries whose citizens visit Maldives in significant numbers, but the overall impact on tourism revenue was unclear.

In 2015, Maldives’ Parliament passed a constitutional amendment legalizing foreign ownership of land; foreign land-buyers must reclaim at least 70% of the desired land from the ocean and invest at least $1 billion in a construction project approved by Parliament.

Diversifying the economy beyond tourism and fishing, reforming public finance, increasing employment opportunities, and combating corruption, cronyism, and a growing drug problem are near-term challenges facing the government. Over the longer term, Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is 1 meter or less above sea level.

Real GDP growth rate

4.8% (2017 est.)

4.5% (2016 est.)

2.2% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: CCC (2020)

Moody's rating: B3 (2020)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$10.37 billion (2019 est.)

$9.692 billion (2018 est.)

$8.964 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 162

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.505 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$19,531 (2019 est.)

$18,796 (2018 est.)

$18,058 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 92

Gross national saving

18.4% of GDP (2019 est.)

19.6% of GDP (2018 est.)

20.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 120

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 3% (2015 est.)

industry: 16% (2015 est.)

services: 81% (2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: NA (2016 est.)

government consumption: NA (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: NA (2016 est.)

investment in inventories: NA (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 93.6% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: 89% (2016 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 53.3 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 89.2 (2020)

Trading score: 55.9 (2020)

Enforcement score: 52.5 (2020)

Agricultural products

papayas, vegetables, roots/tubers nes, nuts, fruit, other meat, tomatoes, coconuts, bananas, maize

Industries

tourism, fish processing, shipping, boat building, coconut processing, woven mats, rope, handicrafts, coral and sand mining

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 7.7%

industry: 22.8%

services: 69.5% (2017 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.2%

highest 10%: 33.3% (FY09/10)

Budget

revenues: 1.19 billion (2016 est.)

expenditures: 1.643 billion (2016 est.)

Public debt

63.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

61.7% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 62

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$876 million (2017 est.)

-$1.033 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 140

Exports

$256.2 million (2016 est.)

$239.8 million (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 188

Exports - partners

Thailand 24%, United States 13%, China 12%, France 11%, Germany 11%, Italy 5%, United Kingdom 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

fish products, natural gas, scrap iron, jewelry, liquid pumps (2019)

Imports

$2.125 billion (2016 est.)

$1.896 billion (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Imports - partners

United Arab Emirates 24%, China 16%, Singapore 14%, India 11%, Malaysia 6%, Thailand 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, fruits, furniture, broadcasting equipment, lumber (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$477.9 million (31 December 2016 est.)

$575.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 153

Debt - external

$848.8 million (31 December 2016 est.)

$696.2 million (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Exchange rates

rufiyaa (MVR) per US dollar -

15.42 (2017 est.)

15.35 (2016 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 12,316

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3.14 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 186

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 611,662

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 155.95 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: upgrades to telecom infrastructure extended to outer islands; two mobile operators extend LTE coverage; tourism has strengthened the telecom market with investment and accounts for the high mobile penetration rate; mobile penetration passes 250%; launches 5G trials (2020)

domestic: fixed-line is at 3 per 100 persons and high mobile-cellular subscriptions stands at 156 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 960; landing points for Dhiraagu Cable Network, NaSCOM, Dhiraagu-SLT Submarine Cable Networks and WARF submarine cables providing connections to 8 points in Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka; satellite earth station - 3 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

state-owned radio and TV monopoly until recently; 4 state-operated and 7 privately owned TV stations and 4 state-operated and 7 privately owned radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 248,004

percent of population: 63.19% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 53,470

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 3 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 36

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,147,247 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 7.75 million (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 7 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 2 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)

Roadways

total: 93 km (2018)

paved: 93 km - 60 km in Male; 16 km on Addu Atolis; 17 km on Laamu (2018)

note: island roads are mainly compacted coral

country comparison to the world: 214

Merchant marine

total: 67

by type: general cargo 21, oil tanker 18, other 28 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 106

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Male

Military and Security

Military and security forces

the Republic of Maldives has no distinct army, navy, or air force but a single security unit called the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) comprised of ground forces, an air element, a coastguard, a presidential security division, and a special protection group (2020)

note: the MNDF is primarily tasked to reinforce the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and ensure security in the country's exclusive economic zone

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has approximately 2,500 personnel (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

India has provided most of the equipment in the MNDF's inventory (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18-28 years of age for voluntary service; no conscription; 10th grade or equivalent education required; must not be a member of a political party

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) (2020)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Maldives is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and a source country for women and children subjected to labor and sex trafficking; primarily Bangladeshi and Indian migrants working both legally and illegally in the construction and service sectors face conditions of forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, nonpayment and withholding of wages, and debt bondage; a small number of women from Asia, Eastern Europe, and former Soviet states are trafficked to Maldives for sexual exploitation; Maldivian women may be subjected to sex trafficking domestically or in Sri Lanka; some Maldivian children are transported to the capital for domestic service, where they may also be victims of sexual abuse and forced labor

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Maldives does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government adopted a national action plan for 2015-19 and is continuing to develop victim identification, protection, and referral procedures, but overall its anti-trafficking efforts did not increase; only five trafficking investigations were conducted, no new prosecutions were initiated for the second consecutive year, and no convictions were made, down from one in 2013; some officials warned businesses in advance of planned raids for suspected trafficking offenses; victim protection deteriorated when the state-run shelter for female victims barred access to victims shortly after opening in January 2014, in part because of bureaucratic disputes, which dissuaded victims from pursuing charges against perpetrators; the government did not prosecute or hold accountable any employers or government officials for withholding passports (2015)