In ancient times the Maldives were renowned for cowries, coir rope, dried tuna fish (Maldive Fish), ambergris (Maavaharu) and Coco de mer (Tavakkaashi). Local and foreign trading ships used to load these products in the Maldives and bring them abroad.
Nowadays, the mixed economy of the Maldives is based on the principal activities of tourism, fishing and shipping.
Tourism is the largest industry in the Maldives, accounting for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. It powered the current GDP per capita to expand 265% in the 1980s and a further 115% in the 1990s. Over 90% of government tax revenue flows in from import duties and tourism-related taxes.
Fishing is the second leading sector in the Maldives. The economic reform program by the government in 1989 lifted import quotas and opened some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment.
Agriculture and manufacturing play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and shortage of domestic labour. Most staple foods are imported.
Industry in the Maldives consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts. It accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities are concerned about the impact of erosion and possible global warming in the low-lying country.
Among the 1,900 islands in the Maldives, only 198 are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, and the greatest concentration is on the capital island, Malé. Limitations on potable water and arable land, plus the added difficulty of congestion are some of the problems faced by households in Malé.
Development of the infrastructure is mainly dependent on the tourism industry and its complementary tertiary sectors, transport, distribution, real estate, construction, and government. Taxes on the tourist industry have been plowed into infrastructure and it is used to improve technology in the agricultural sector.
This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Maldives at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of Rufiyaa.
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