GMR hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new terminal

Indian infrastructure giant GMR on Monday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Hulhule’ for the new terminal of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

President Mohamed Nasheed, GMR Chairman G M Rao, Malaysia Airports Managing Director Sri Bashir Ahmad and assorted officials dug the first hole for the new terminal in front of journalists both local and Indian.

Aircraft belonging to local airlines flew overhead, with seaplanes from Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways dropping flowers onto the newly-reclaimed land.

Addressing the gathered dignitaries, officials, journalists and GMR staff, Rao said the company was conscious that INIA was the gateway to the Maldives.

Thoughout the ages the development of human civilisation had been spurred by transport links, Rao said, promising that the new airport would be a hub for economic development and modernisation.

“Since we have come here the love and affection of Maldivians has been of great comfort to us,” Rao said. “As an infrastructure developer GMR is the custodian of the asset it builds, while the asset belongs to the nation and its people. For the last year, we have fulfilled every one of our commitments to the government of the Maldives, and we intend to respect and fulfill every remaining commitment.”

Dehli Airport was ranked 101 in quality in the 40-50 million passenger category by the Airports Council International in Geneva when GMR took it over, Rao said. “Now it is ranked number four. And soon after completing the new airport at Hyderbad, it was ranked first in the 5-15 million passenger category.”

The bidding process for the airport, which has been attacked by opposition parties in the Maldives, “was awarded in a transparent manner in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank,” Rao said.

“It was a tough global competition, and [the bid] was finally awarded to GMR. It is a privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility for developing the airport, and GMR promises to deliver the airport well with the timeline.”

GMR had begun sending batches of 29 local employees every two months to India for on-the-job training, he said, and had committed to sponsoring 10 students every year to study engineering disciplines in India.

During the political crisis in Egypt earlier this year, “GMR safely transported 160 Maldivians from Bombay to the Maldives in a special aircraft, after they were evacuated from Egypt,” Rao said.

The company had also taken four teachers from Iskander school to India to see best practices in education, Rao said, adding that there were “various other initiatives in the pipeline.”

“Whatever the challenges, we are committed to delivering the promise we have made to your nation. GMR will find solution to every problem,” he said.

In his own address, President Nasheed said he wished to assure GMR that the government was “200 percent behind your contract, and every single other contract the government has signed with any other foreign party in this country. Not just contracts signed by our government, but also contracts that any ruler of the Maldives has signed with any party. We will honour it.”

The opposition aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) recently filed a successful Civil Court case against the government claiming that GMR’s charging of a US$25 airport development charge for departing passengers, as stipulated in the concession agreement, was illegal. GMR took a stock price hit on the Mumbai stock exchange following the announcement.

GMR was also the subject of protests last weekend and a proposal in parliament for local businesses to be “defended” from the airport developer. The Alpha MVKB duty free shop at the airport was forcibly vacated by GMR and Customs officials eight months after GMR’s original notice. Rulings from the Civil and High courts upheld GMR’s right to terminate the shop’s contract, however company CEO Ibrahim ‘MVK’ Shafeeq launched the protest under the slogan ‘Go GMR Go!’.

Speaking to Minivan News, Rao said that the ADC was part of the agreement with the Maldives, and noted that President Nasheed had said the government would honour the agreement.

As for the stock market impact, “We are not working for the stock market, and we are very confident in the government of the Maldives.”

He noted that the developer had had similar experiences with unhappy concessionaires when redeveloping Delhi Airport, and that this was part of the transition process that would be vindicated when the new terminal was opened.

President Nasheed meanwhile also addressed the gathering in Dhivehi, stating that it he wished to impress upon his people “the magnitude” of the occasion in their language.

There were, he said, “people [in the country] who want to go back to the time when the islanders remained locked in their islands, with no [communications or transportation network].”

If the citizens wanted to have the development they desired, Nasheed said, “we have to be connected and think broadly, take ideas outside our islands, outside our atolls, and outside the borders of the Maldives.

”Today you all have heard about the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il – that is because you are connected to the outside world.”

“No sincere person” could speak out against developing the airport, Nasheed said.

“More than one million tourists visited the Maldives this year to spend their holiday on the beach – that beach is what we sell in the Maldives. But many years have passed since this airport was first built, and day by day the need to improve the airport and its services has kept increasing.”

Arriving tourists were spending in some cases over US$1000 per night for a bed, and should enter the country through an adequate airport, he said: “the tourists begin their holiday at the airport.”

Nasheed expressed surprise at the hostility to the airport development charge, noting that only a few Maldivians frequently travelled outside the country.

“Why should anyone be worried about paying US$25 to develop the airport from the money they spend on their weekend in Sri Lanka?” he asked.

He noted that the Maldives had always welcomed foreign investors, and that there was no harm in them doing so.

“The gov understands the need for foreign investment and we are aware of the role that foreign investors play in development of this country,” Nasheed said.

“A fair amount of our assets are foreign owned, even now, and today I am happy to say we are again increasing our list of assets by one with the groundbreaking ceremony we are having today.”

The new terminal is due to be completed in June 2014, and will be run by GMR under a 25 year concession agreement extendable for a further 10 years. GMR holds a 77 percent stake in the venture, with the remaining 23 percent held by Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB). The US$400 million project is the single largest foreign investment in the history of the Maldives.


18 thoughts on “GMR hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new terminal”

  1. Mr president. I salute you. I will vote for you next round too.

    And not because of the terminal works, but because you have dared to step up against Camel-dung licking Bedouin-wannabe's.

    I know it is the most difficult challenge you have faced, much more so than e 30y old regime. This time you are facing an ignorant camel-herd, led by conniving scoundrels and oil-money.

  2. Imran, if a country is to be run against the sentiments of its people it must be done through arms and terror.

    If that is what President Nasheed and his supporters propose, history has proven time and time again that such a rule only lasts a short time.

    You are right, Nasheed is unlucky. He is beset by an economic situation which is worsening by the day. However, from the outset he slipped up by failing to iron out a plan and a policy to address those issues. Now with each subsidy that the Nasheed government directs at pleasing voters results on additional strains on the dollar and rising inflation.

    I think there is no use for argument here. The Nasheed government has failed and it is only a matter of time till Nasheed is unseated. We all need to rethink our options and prepare for the future.

    May god bless you Imran.

  3. tsk tsk! are you implying that you are better at money matters then the IMF? When International bodies are saying Nasheed is handling the economy well given the current circumstances and the dire situation the country was in when he took over the presidency, why do armchair economists say otherwise.

  4. The airport today is an embarrassment. Well done Anni for having the foresight and vision to modernize our country. These petty complaints will all be forgotten when this is completed.

  5. @Leena

    Can you provide evidence of this glorious backing of the IMF towards Nasheed's economic policy? IMF, by their very nature, carry out regular monitorings of a country when that country has asked for assistance. I believe that has been going on in the case of the Maldives too.

    I'm not sure that the Maldivian government has had any monetary assistance from IMF recently. What we know for fact is that the Indian government has bailed out Nasheed's government multiple times already. The details of these bail outs are a mystery to us, the general public; we do not know what the interest rates are on the loans given by the Indians and any other terms of such loans.

    Another glaring fact is that the government has failed to rein in control of expenditure and this is a key requirement of IMF. There's a gaping hole of MRf 4 billion in next year's budget. How does the government intend to fill that hole? With vapour ware and wishful thinking would be my guess. You can see the desperation in the top brass, when they start selling off real estate as was announced by the Tourism Ministry very recently. This was a policy much loved by Gayyoom when he was desperately short of cash and MDP were vociferous opponents of such policies. Anyone care to remind Nasheed of this?

  6. @Leena

    International bodies like the Transparency International says the current maldives government is one the most corrupt in the world - Governments of countries like Bangladesh & India are ranked less corrupt than Maldives. We are ranked same as Somalia & below Mugabe' government.

    I will not vote for Anni in the next election.

  7. Haveeru reports that Heavy Load was awarded the project to supply equipment and setup the stage for this ceremony.

  8. Mr President you suck! I will not vote for you and I regret that I did before! Your economic policy, health policy and education policy have failed!

  9. Minivannews, you really need to mark the articles with a time stamp when revisions are made.

    I'm yet to come across with such unprofessional reporting and writing such as yours.

    I've told my nieces and nephews to visit your website to see examples of how NOT to write.

  10. 25 Dollars per passenger x 7 million tourists per year = 175 million USD per year, from this Tax alone GMR will receive.

    What a rip off !

    Maldivians are all idiots !

  11. 7 million tourists per year. Musalhey where do they stay. Last statistics released show it as 7 hudred thousand. Its just a zero yeah. Sounds like you are from Qaumee party. They always do these intentional slips to confuse the Maldivians.

  12. @ Leena : If the IMF is there to judge other economies. Who is doing the checking on IMF ?

  13. IMF advise doesn't necessarily give good advise for economy . For example, take Argentina. They followed as IMF instructed but their economy worsened and went into a crisis. Anni has sold our biggest nation to Indians at the biggest corrupt deal in our history. He should be prosecuted for this. Our economy, education, health is failing. He definitely will not get my vote!!

  14. Leena, the IMF helps countries adjust their economies and modernize their fiscal policies in ways that would favor flow of FDI.

    The Maldives history with the IMF is not quite as straightforward as you might think. They praised the implementation of a taxation regime, however they have put on the promised financial package to the Maldives due to the Maldives incapability to decrease state expenditure.

    Also this increase in State Expenditure is directed at recurrent expenses and injections of liquidity into the economy. Hardly anything is spent on capital investment that would generate further revenue. This situation creates strains on the US dollar exchange rate which in turn drives up consumer prices. Nothing has been included in the 2012 budget to address this issue. We all believe that we are commenting on certain issues with a lot of passion and commitment.

    However faith, passion and emotion only helps to deliver a message. It does not ensure the veracity of such statements.

  15. Come on GMR we need u, dont leave us, we want to develop our Airport, like the way people wanted. dont listen to few Crazy Fox comments.


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