Symposium on Decoding Maldives’ Foreign Investment and Arbitration Law Regime: An Introduction

Maldives’ relationship with international trade and investment is as old as its history. Traditionally, Maldives has been dependent on import and export for necessities. For instance, fish and coconut have been Maldives’ traditional exports; whereas, rice, cereals and other foodstuffs have been traditional imports. Post-independence, Maldives looked for newer areas to attract the foreign capital in its market. The Maldives has received the highest foreign investment in the tourism sector and is expected to receive investments in infrastructure projects and the real estate sector. But the foreign investment sector is not limited to these major sectors. FDI is almost everywhere in the Maldives and makes up a major economic segment. A large number of international food brands such Burger King, PizzaHut, Gloria Jeans Coffees, and several other franchises (e.g. Miniso) operate on a royalty sharing basis. In recent years, other major brands such as the InterContinental Marriott International. Atmosphere Hotels, TATA Housing, etc have also invested in Maldives.

Despite its close engagement with foreign investment, Maldives is not party to any Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) [barring the Maldives-UAE BIT which has not yet come into force], nor has a uniform law to deal with references to disputes arising from foreign investment. Foreign investors are usually subject to laws and jurisdiction agreed in their respective investment agreements. In terms of engagement with foreign investors and the contribution of foreign investment to GDP, Maldives is more international than any other country. However, Maldives remains non-existent in the South Asian literature of international law. 

In this context and background, we invited contributors to reflect on some of the pressing issues of Maldives foreign investment and arbitration regime. Thus, the aim of this symposium is to begin a discourse on inherently Maldivian issues in the relationship of the State with these complex international regimes.  

The symposium begins with Mohd Imran’ historical exploration to Maldives tryst with international trade and its emergence as a country which insists on commercial diplomacy.  Harshad Pathak then discusses the possibility of having an investor-State arbitration through municipal law and suggests a model provision for Maldives foreign investment law. Mariyam Naufa, in her article, explains the influence of UK Supreme Court in infamous Maldivian case of Sun v. Hilton and offers the consequences of this judgment on foreign investors. Nizamuddin and Jamshed explore Maldives viability for joining ICSID convention. Lastly, Avantika Banerjee discusses the ineffectiveness of Maldives Environmental Impact Assessment policies relating to infrastructural development. She also discusses the complexities of Maldives environmental and existential concerns with references to national land reclamation policies.

We hope you enjoy the contributions in this symposium as much as we did in curating them.

Asna Ahmed is Dean, Faculty of Shariah and Law, Villa College, Maldives. Mohd. Imran is Lecturer, Faculty of Shariah and Law, Villa College, Maldives.