Maldives economy slows in 2007: central bank

MALE, Jan 14, 2008 (AFP) – Economic growth in the Maldives slowed to 6.6 percent in 2007, the islands’ central bank said Monday as high oil prices and a drop in the fish catch impacted on the economy. Economic growth, down from a staggering 19 percent in 2006, was however better than the 5.5 percent expansion forecast by the International Monetary Fund.

The Maldives Monetary Authority, the islands’ central bank, also predicted the economy will surge by 9.5 percent in 2008, led by a booming tourism and construction industry.

Tourism, which accounts for about a third of an economy of just under a billion dollars, was forecast to reach 600,000 visitors in 2007 after already grown 13 percent to 553,900 visitors from the January to October period.

The government has announced plans to build 10 regional airports to support 35 new island resorts that are being developed.

About 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is a string of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator. Some 199 are inhabited with over 80 islands developed as high-end tourist resorts.

The Maldives Monetary Authority said advance lease rentals from the new resorts enabled the sea-leve