“Ours is certainly a democratic system…”

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom rules his atoll nation with a firm hand, but has been credited with bringing unprecedented prosperity to his 250,000 subjects. Today, the Maldives has the best standard of living among South Asian countries: the highest life expectancy, near-100 percent literacy and the lowest infant mortality rate. Mr Gayoom has also tried to give the Maldives a higher international profile, and he will once again be chairing SAARC after its Summit in Male in May. Gayoom spoke to Himal South Asia recently about various issues relating to his country, including governance.

On what President Gayoom set out to do when he first assumed office in 1978 and whether he is satisfied with what has been achieved.

When I first took office as President in 1978, my main objective was to lay a strong foundation for the economic, social and political development of the country. I wanted to provide better health care, promote education, stimulate economic development and try to bridge the gap between Male and the atolls. In general, I wished to see the people enjoy a higher standard of living and a greater participation in the political process.

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Himal Southasian