The Chinese government has pledged to provide US$100 million as free grant aid to finance the construction of a US$300million bridge between capital Malé and airport island Hulhulé.
The Chinese and Maldivian governments today signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) related to financing the project and the construction stage.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, finance minister Abdulla Jihad said that the Chinese government will provide a US$170 million loan at an interest rate of two percent. The remaining US$30 million will be spent from the Maldivian state budget.
“This is an important step to make the bridge viable,” Jihad said.
The MoUs were signed following discussions between the cabinet’s economic council and a delegation from the Chinese government about finalising the design and other matters.
The director general of the department of foreign assistance at the Chinese commerce ministry, Wong Yong Puk, signed the MoUs on behalf of China.
Jihad said official agreements on finance will be signed within the next three months.
The economic council has previously said the six-mile bridge will have six lanes and will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhulé, where the airport is located.
According to the housing and infrastructure ministry, the bridge will be completed in two years.
Under the second MoU, the Chinese government agreed to find a contractor for the project and to help the government operate the finished bridge.
MOU signed today for Male’-Hulhumale’ Bridge Construction Stage Between Maldives & the People’s Republic of China pic.twitter.com/qyXwDQNUmn
— housing.gov.mv (@HousingGovMv) July 9, 2015
During a historic state visit in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the bridge will be called “the China-Maldives friendship bridge” and would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible.
An agreement was meanwhile penned during President Abdulla Yameen’s state visit to China last month for carrying out the ongoing feasibility survey of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project with Chinese grant aid.
In May, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.
The feasibility study has since been completed and handed over to the Maldivian government.
In a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12, President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.