By Zahara Zuhair
While conveying the Maldivian government’s and its people’s condolences to the Sri Lankan families of those who lost lives due to the inclement weather, Maldives High Commissioner Zahiya Zareer expressed their determination to further strengthen trade ties between Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“Today both of our countries have moved ahead in development as middle-income countries. It is clear that there is great potential for broadening our economic collaboration in many sectors. I assure you that our high commission will continue towards achieving new milestones in our trade ties,” she said. She made these remarks addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka - Maldives Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC). Even though dried tuna was their only primary export, she noted that today the trade patterns of Sri Lanka and the Maldives have gone under massive changes and the relationship has multifaceted as it is progressing on a number of trends in trade, tourism, education, social and cultural corporation. “In terms of trade I’m happy to note that Maldivian fish products (dried fish and canned fish) continue to be a dominant export to Sri Lanka. However, we have also diversified our products as well as our export markets. Today Sri Lanka exports hundreds of products to the Maldives. Most important is the agricultural products, fruits and vegetables. Also mineral water, pharmaceutical, electrical products, construction products and of course Sri Lankan tea,” she said. As statistics show, the Sri Lankan market share in the Maldivian trade has decreased a bit. She conveyed her belief on Sri Lanka having more space and opportunity to grow.
She said Sri Lanka could expand its market share by increasing the existing exports and also by introducing new products and services that would cater to the rapidly changing lifestyle of the Maldivian people.
“For example, beauty care products and services, herbal products and alternative medical services. Today such products and services are developed in Sri Lanka which has a high demand in the Maldives,” she said.
The high commissioner also said that as Sri Lanka is hosting several investment forums, if this council could provide such information to the Maldivian business community, it could probably find few investors who are interested and able to invest in Sri Lanka.
She also congratulated Sri Lanka for the recent decision of European Union (EU) to lift its ban on the local fish imports to Europe and beyond. She further said that as most developing countries, Maldivians too are moving from price consciousness to brand consciousness and therefore she said that trades from whichever country should take these factors into consideration.
Enhancing the service sector she said that according to records, 4000 Maldivian students were enrolled in various education institutions in Sri Lanka in 2015. In the health sector the number of people looking for medical treatment in Sri Lankan hospitals also has increased.
According to the CCC, arrivals of Maldivian visitors to Sri Lanka have increased from 86,359 in 2014 to 90,617