Maldives. The capital, Male, was shaken in early May by
several days of violent protests against sharply increased
living costs. Police repeatedly used tear gas to disperse
the protesters, who were described as essentially young
supporters of former President Maumun Abdul Gayum.
The opposition to President Mohamed Nashid, a former
prisoner of conscience during Gayum's reign, accused the
government of losing control over price developments. Food
prices had risen by 30% in a short period of time as a
result of the government's decision to allow the exchange
rate of the domestic currency to fluctuate against the US
dollar at the advice of the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) to overcome the budget deficit.
Countryaah official site, the government's first attempt to curb criticism was to
halve the import duty on diesel to lower transport and
energy costs. During the year, neighbors India and Sri Lanka
granted the country credit for food imports.
At the beginning of the year, the first local elections
in the history of the Maldives were conducted as part of the
government's efforts to decentralize decisions. All 181
inhabited islands got their own elected parishes. The voters
also appointed 19 atoll councils and two city councils.
In November, for the first time, the Maldives hosted the
South Asian Cooperation Organization SAARC Summit. The
former Maldives Minister of Justice, 36-year-old Fathimath
Dhiyana Said, was appointed Secretary of the organization at
the beginning of the year, the first woman in that position
and even the youngest.