Mr Mohamed Ali Janah, President of IFAWPCA; Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Mohamed Aslam; Minister of Tourism Dr. Abdulla Mausoom; Secretary-General of IFAWPCA; delegates of the federation; ambassadors, professionals and experts from across the industry.
And a very good morning to you all.
It is my pleasure to join you today for the opening session of the 45th IFAWPCA Convention. And I am happy to welcome you, who have travelled far and wide from across Asia and the western Pacific region, to the ‘Leading Destination of the World,’ Maldives.
This is one of the biggest such conventions to take place on the sandy shores of the Maldives. We have around 350 delegates from across the 19 member countries of IFAWPCA here today, and I take pleasure in welcoming you all to the Maldives once again.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our islands may be small, but I assure you that our construction sector is not. Holding this convention here under the palm-fringed atmosphere of Paradise Island Resort is a testament to that fact. And Maldives National Association of Construction Industry's membership at IFAWPCA since 2007 shows the growing strength and capacity of our industry, especially towards promoting the socio-economic progress of the country and the region.
Until the distant past, we relied on coral fetched from our house reefs for construction. Our roofs were thatched using palm tree fronds. We had simple structures populated with simple furniture. The ocean breeze cooled our homes. But today, the scene is very different.
Our construction industry picked up in the early 70s, and since the introduction of tourism over 50 years ago, our residential, corporate and industrial construction sectors have seen a dramatic shift. High-rises now throng the skyline of our capital Malé.
In terms of design and construction standards, local artisans, designers and contractors alike, are taking great strides alongside their international partners. Our creative skills, workmanship and innovative ideas are reflected in the concepts and new resort developments we see today. While some local companies are taking great strides on the global stage, it is important for other companies to follow suit, and join them.
The construction industry is now vital, contributing directly to the GDP. It also helps ensure socio-economic development by delivering basic infrastructure. For several years construction sector's GDP hovered around the second or third highest in the economy.
As it did the world over, our construction sector has been adversely affected by the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like any other country, we were forced to take unprecedented preventive measures, restrict people's movements and halt economic and social activities. And our heavy reliance on building and construction material imports meant the construction industry was hit hard.
However, with the support of the public and the private sectors, we were gradually able to open our shuttered borders and reopen our economy. And since then, we have been making positive progress, with activity in the construction sector expanding. But it would not have been so if not for the continued support and cooperation of the construction industry, especially members of the Maldives National Association of Construction Industry (MNACI), and other stakeholders.
As you know, the theme for this convention is "Construction with Conservation: Building a Better World," and I cannot stress enough the relevance of conservation to the Maldives. Despite the massive construction boom we are seeing here today, the Maldives has the lowest terrain of any country in the world. Most of our islands are approximately 3.5 feet above sea level, making them one of the most vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels.
The most significant contribution the construction sector can make to our fight against climate change is exploring and adopting "green construction" options. Making a choice to use our built environments as friendly to our natural environment as possible.
I want to stress the need to design our buildings and resorts with the environment in mind, use and recycle sustainable materials in construction, build smarter, and incorporate alternative energy sources whenever possible. It is not just a necessity but a means to our survival. And it should not stop with nature. Conservation should also focus on preserving our rich culture and heritage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I want to thank the Maldives' construction industry members for their continued support to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and our administration. And I want to thank Mr Janah who has been one of the great leaders of the construction industry, for your close relationship with our administration. I want to take this opportunity to assure you that our administration remains committed to working with you to ensure the continued growth of the construction sector.
Once again, I would like to thank IFAWPCA and MNACI for your immense contributions to the country's construction sector and the region's socio-economic progress. I hope this convention provides the platform you envisioned, and I wish you success in the meetings and discussions.
Thank you very much.