Government lacks plan to address “bad shape” of airport: dismissed transport minister

Former Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed has said criticism leveled at the government by Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla over a lack of development at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was justified considering the “bad shape” of the site.

Dr Shamheed, who served under the current government before being dismissed in November 2012, has warned that failure to outline a development plan for INIA after the government evicted the foreign investor renovating the site could be disastrous for the country.

Late last year President Waheed’s government declared void an agreement with Indian infrastructure group GMR to upgrade and develop the airport, and gave them seven days to leave the country. The deal was the Maldives’ largest single foreign investment project, valued at  US$511 million.

The Adhaalath Party was a key opponent of foreign development of the airport, demanding it be reclaimed on nationalistic grounds.

However speaking to private broadcaster DhiTV yesterday (January 28) the party’s President Sheikh Imran Abdulla claimed that there had been a worrying lack of progress in developing the site after it had been handed to the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).

Sheikh Imran, an outspoken supporter of attempts to “reclaim” the management of INIA from GMR, raised concerns that the airport was returning to the “bad condition” it was previously in, criticising MACL for lacking a vision to manage and develop the site,” according to Sun Online.

“Maldivian people had great hopes when the airport was reclaimed from GMR. It was been two months since and still, there is no vision for the airport. There is no proper plan for how it will be managed,”  he was quoted as saying.

Development plans

Former Transport Minister Shamheed told Minivan News today that he believed Sheikh Imran’s criticisms were fair, adding that if the government did have a plan for development, they had not demonstrated it so far.

“I haven’t heard what the government is planning. They seem to be managing the airport as if everything is perfect. Yet they may have to close down the site in future without further development. If [the government] has a plan they haven’t revealed it yet. All they have talked about is setting up a company to manage the site.”

According to Dr Shamheed, following the decision to terminate the GMR contract last year the government has been facing two key challenges with regard to the airport.

The first of these challenges is securing sufficient financing for completing renovation of the existing terminal and runway.  The second key issue, Dr Shamheed said, obtaining expertise and skilled developers to bring the airport in line with international standards as expected of a destination like the Maldives.

“To get the airport to the right level, they will need to bring in outside help,” he claimed. “The airport is in very bad shape right now and work is needed on the runway, all of which cannot be done without finance.”

Minivan News was awaiting a response from MACL at the time of press. Meanwhile, both current Minister of State for Transport and Communications Mohamed Ibrahim and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls.

Despite the criticisms, President Dr Mohamed Waheed today asserted that “shockingly big investments” would be coming to the Maldives in unspecified areas.

Speaking at the opening of the MACI BuildExpo 2012/2013 show at the Dharubaaruge convention hall in Male’, President Waheed claimed that despite the decision to void a sovereign agreement with GMR – a decision backed by Singapore’s Supreme Court – investor trust in the Maldives had not been diminished.

Sublease plans

Just last month, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb stated that the government was not planning to hand over full control of operations at INIA, but might sublease specific development projects to international parties through a “transparent” bidding process.

Adheeb told Minivan News that privatising the only international airport allowed it to become a monopoly which was not in the best interests of the country.

The Maldives cabinet also last month recommended forming a government-owned company to operate INIA  through a special contract with the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL).


14 thoughts on “Government lacks plan to address “bad shape” of airport: dismissed transport minister”

  1. Send these Adhaalath Mullahs packing to Afghanistan and bring back GMR. Nothing guided through divine vision was ever successful in business ventures.

  2. Adhaalath is the only party that is fair. They were with waheed when they wanted to evict GMR and now they are against him for lack of development in ariport. That's what i call fairness. This is very unlike MDP and PPM, both are personality cults of their respected leaders.

    Long live Adhaalath. We need balanced people like you guys

  3. The decision to terminate GMR contract was meant to be both symbolic and strategic. In symbolic sense to reverse one of the most significant decision by former government, the strategic angle - to shift from Indian big brotherhood to the Chinese era. But cracks in this best laid plan is now starting to show. Indian's long withstanding ties with the Maldives is far too strong and too deeply rooted to ignore. The moment VISA got tightened, Maldivians going for medicals to India came to a virtual halt. Our welfare and health is now in question. Now, India is blocking the quota for aggregates, this will increase the construction prices almost 1.75 percent (throwing off kilter many estimates done for both housing project in progress as well as resort sector). Soon, India will also tighten its grip on the debt, both in private sector as well as government. This will once again cripple many privileges we have previously enjoyed at the expense of our good relationship. This coalition government, with a baagee label and MDP behind its back, while fragmenting within itself to position individual parties for the election, does not have the clarity nor the ability to forge a strong meaningful relationship with China to ease and counter India defiance. Nor does it now have the option to revert back to being India's old friend. All in all, i advice with caution - "dont bite the hand that feed you"

  4. This is a total mess. There is no way we can survive without a proper airport. This was a legitimate infra structure investment won in an international transparent bid, regulated by the World bank... But it has been used as a political nuclear weapon by a selfish xenophobic minority and the mafia businessmen / politicians now back in charge.

    If I was a businessman looking to invest, I would go anywhere else. How can we be trusted with a money grabbing corrupt regime??

  5. apparently Mr Imrans vision did not go passed the time when GMR was kicked out, lol. Wait till they get handed a huge bill from GMR.

  6. This is what happens when religion becomes involved in politics. They ranted and raved about getting control of the airport back. When the whole reason for the contract in the first place was to use the investors money to bring it up to international standards. Bearing in mind the Maldives was close to bankruptcy and had no maoney of it's own to fullfil international avaition regulations.

    Now that GMR has been thrown out, which independant investor will risk taking on such a fool hardy gamble knowing the Maldivian government have a record for not honouring their contracts.

    People can jump up and down about how the original contract was awarded, but the facts speak louder than hearsay accusations. World Bank and IMF supported the terms of the GMR contract and it is this that future investors will see as the reason to avoid INIA.

    Very shortly Avaition regulators will carry out their annual assesment to ensure INIA complys with the terms that insurance company require for airlines to operate under. Guess what their is every chance operators will be refused permission to fly via INIA because the infastructure isn't adequate for international travel to or from where your tourist live.

    May be this was the plan along, to keep the tourists away and keep the non-muslims out of the 100% islamic country Sheikh Imran Abdulla dreams of.

  7. “Maldivian people had great hopes when the airport was reclaimed from GMR."

    We should remind the good Sheikh, that "we" are also "Maldivian people". However, we have absolutely no hopes at all regarding the airport on Hulule island.

    This is backed by historical evidence. Maldivians have had more than 40 years to develop that airport into a world class facility, but have failed miserably. You want evidence? I will give you evidence. Take a look at user reviews of this shambolic facility:

    You will see an "overall cleanliness" score of 2/5! Now, to get that kind of score after 40 years of running an airport is nothing short of a disaster!

    The reasons are quite simple. The millions of dollars that have been wasted on this place speaks volumes for the massive amount of corruption that have gone on for decades. Now that the airstrip is back in the hands of corrupt Maldivians, the place will go on deteriorating.

    When Nasir started extending the corrugated airstrip built by the British in the 70s, there was an already fully functional airport in the Maldives, i.e. Gan airport. The Royal AirForce left Gan fully functional including ground radar, flight control equipment, runway facilities including lighting.

    What did Nasir do? He sold off the ground radar and pocketed the money. He stripped off the runway lighting and cobbled together a few lights on the Hulule strip. The extent of negligence and stupidity will put a caveman to shame. That very saga continues...

  8. Funny. Political vision means that, if you abloish a system, then you should have an alternative plan too.
    Typical for extremists, Adhaalath - AND the whole of the bagees government had - only a narrow target : throw out GMR because of xenophobia, after that god will take care of everything.
    It shows once more both how extremists have only in mind how to destroy, and that religion has nothing to do with politics.
    Meantime, already now the only available cigarettes at airport are those plastic chinese stuff.
    Maldives is down the drain.

  9. The airport is the face of any country. Our face is that of a guilty school child, dirty, unwashed and caught stealing in the chocolate shop. We look like an immature delinquent of a nation to the rest of the world now.

  10. When Imran was "all out" to save this country and it's religion, from a catastrophe, it seemed that he was having revelations and thought these freaks had the "wonderful lamp"!

    It is pointless Imran trying to pull back the fart he landed. It may be injurious!!!!!

  11. You Ahmed Shamheed were accomplice yourself. YOU supported the coup to happen. YOU were minister in a regime which throwed out the Indians. YOU got done that ftf we can buy only Chinese cigarettes at the airport. And then you sunk soon in corruption. Well done, smart "dr".

  12. @Rasheed Adaalath certainly is fair. They will oppose each and everyone to suit their purpose.


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