President Abdulla Yameen yesterday inaugurated the Laamu Atoll link road, revealing that the area has also been identified as a potential special economic zone.
The president stated that the road – to be built and and financed by the Chinese government – was symbolic of the close friendship between the two nations.
Meanwhile, the Maldives has officially signed up to China’s Maritime Silk Route project, with economic development minister Mohamed Saeed signing an MoU during the first meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing today.
The agreement will allow the Maldives to take an “active role” in the construction of the project as well as sharing information on national economic development plans, explained the foreign ministry.
Chinese state media have previously reported that the route will pass the intended site of the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project – or ‘iHavan’ – in the Maldives northernmost atoll.
President Xi Jinpeng has repeatedly called upon the Maldives to become involved in the project, which Xinhua has reported to have the support of over 50 countries.
One such urging came during Xi’s state visit to the Maldives in September – the first by a Chinese head of state, representing the rapidly expanding ties between the two countries.
The Laamu link road project was also unveiled during Xi’s visit. The 15.1km road will become the longest in the country, linking four of the atoll’s 13 administrative islands.
President Yameen said yesterday that the road development project was integral to realising the developmental aspirations of the atoll. He also announced that the area may be selected as a special economic zone.
A minimum investment of US$150 million is required for SEZ developments, with no zones having been announced since the act was passed in August.
The president also noted during yesterday’s inauguration ceremony that the government’s Thumburi ‘Integrated Resort Development’ project – touted as a ‘responsible’ way to expand mid-market tourism – was also located in the atoll.
Signs of burgeoning China-Maldives ties were evident elsewhere yesterday as representatives of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army met with Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim to discuss the acquisition of sea ambulances.
After pledging to provide ambulances in all 26 of the country’s atolls, the government has this year introduced services in six. Local media reported that additional vessels will be purchased with Chinese assistance.
As well as pledges to assist with the redevelopment of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and construction of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge, in the past two months China has gifted the Maldives 200,000 energy efficient lights, 200 waste bins, fresh water during the recent water crisis, and US$500,000 towards the subsequent relief fund.
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