History

The route to economic independence

Haveeru Photo/Nishan Ali
Haveeru Photo/Nishan Ali

As we celebrate the golden jubilee of Maldivian independence, it is equally important to shed some light on how the country obtained economic independence as well. Even though the independence of the country and the economic independence are closely linked, there are bits and pieces which differ – and that is the route that led to the economic independence in its utmost form.

Maldives was one of the go-to trade destinations even during the times when shells, dried fish and ropes were used as means of trade. The country was among the most ‘important’ trade destinations in the routes of African and French merchants. Maldives being considered as one of the elites of trade countries resulted in a settler community of Borah merchants during the year 1857, who then gained a foothold in the Maldivian economy – controlling the smaller and bigger trade interactions eventually.

However, the Maldives fell under a protectorate of the British Crown in 1887 due to domestic disturbances which targeted the settler community of Bora merchants – who were British subjects then. During this era, Maldives continued to be ruled under a succession of Sultans. However the Sultans failed to control their own economy as the Sultan’s authority and powers were increasingly and decisively taken over by the Chief Minister, much to the chagrin of the British Governor-General who continued to deal with the ineffectual Sultan.

With the rise of the First Republic, former PresidentMohamed Ameen Didi did everything in his power to reduce the losses suffered by the citizens of the Maldives. As such, he opened the “Bodu Store” which in turn helped the fishermen recover from the losses caused by the Borah merchants. But the task of driving out the Borah Merchants proved to be a difficult one, given the fact that the Maldivians were only able to oust them from the country about a century since their settlement.

Even after the implementation of the Constitution in 1932, several works to drive out the foreign merchants were carried without triumph. It was the then Prime Minister, Ibrahim Nasir, who saw to it that “Atoll Stores” were established in 1957 to ease the disturbances from the Borah Merchants. Eventually in 1962 the Borah merchants were banned from continuing any trade interactions in the Maldives – bringing an end to the long reign of the merchants in the Maldives.

After 105 long years, the end of the Borah merchants in the Maldives opened the country to the global market; expanding the government and private businesses of the country. Owning the biggest shipping line of the region was a pride that Maldivians indulged in.

With the flourishing new businesses in Maldives, the tourism industry picked up pace and helped establish Maldives as a brand name in the second biggest industry of the country; Tourism. Today, the country has seen massive economic development with small to large enterprises blooming under the new innovations that the country has been open to.

Today, we are not only marking the independence of the nation, nor the independence of ourselves. We are marking the independence of the economy as well, and we should take massive pride in it.

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