Capacity Building in Land Administration, Housing and Urban Development – Maldives


Funding body:

World Bank and Maldives Housing and Urban Development Board (MHUDB)


The objective of the project was to assist the Government of the Maldives to prepare a strategy and plan of action to improve the legal and regulatory framework for land and housing markets. The assignment focused on institutional and capacity building in the areas of land management, land property rights, urban development, and housing policy and markets. The project team consisted of four international consultants led by Geoffrey Payne and sought to advise and assist in the establishment of the essential legal and regulatory structure for urban land management in the Maldives; designing reforms for regulatory administrative procedures; and, contribute to preparing a strategy and action plan for the implementation of the broad reform program. The project focused on institutional and capacity building in the areas of land management, land property rights, urban development, and housing policy and markets.

Duration: 14th April 2001 – 13th April 2003

Project outputs:

  1. Administrative and institutional reform of the legal and regulatory framework governing land administration and management including property registration and land information systems;
  2. A housing and urban development strategy for the Maldives, including urban planning and development tools and market oriented mechanisms for private sector participation; and
  3. The international training of five key executives to be nominated by GOM.

In addition, Geoffrey Payne organised a study tour of India for senior GOM executives.


The Maldives consists of 1,200 small coral islands in the Indian Ocean. The population (270,000 people) is growing at an annual rate of 2.8% and is concentrated on 200 islands. Eighty islands are used as tourist resorts, tourism being one of the country’s two main industries, the other being commercial fisheries. The main urban centres suffer from excessive overcrowding.

General institutional capacity levels, particularly in all areas of the public sector, are low and the country depends on expatriate labour force. The government recognises the urgent need for institutional capacity at the middle and upper levels of its administration, particularly in the areas of housing and urban development.

The efficiency of the current urban system is low, partly due to the unique physical environment, and partly due to an inappropriate legal framework and inefficient urban and housing policy tools. The lack of appropriate laws, regulations and procedures for land (alienation, allocation, transactions and limited uses of property rights), as well as urban planning and development control tools, inhibits effective attempts to address the pressing development needs of Maldives. The ineffective use of scarce land translates into very severe overcrowding and unaffordable housing units. Private land ownership has not yet been established in Maldives, neither is there a functioning land market with a transparent market valuation mechanism to improve resource allocation. Difficulties are encountered in registering transfers of land ownership. With the exception of a few plots of privately owned land, the state owns all the land and allocates plots to its residents free of charge. There are no set criteria or procedures for land alienation, nor are there incentives to stimulate a land market through private initiatives.

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