The government is seeking concessional or free aid from the Chinese government to finance “a large portion” of a project to build a bridge connecting the capital Malé and Hulhumalé, President Yameen has revealed.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday night (August 14) prior to departing for China to attend the opening ceremony of the Youth Olympic Games, Yameen explained that the Chinese government assured assistance and inquired ahead of the visit about “the most important project for our government.”
“So we discussed amongst ourselves and agreed that the most important project is the ‘youth city’ and the bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé as part of efforts to ease housing [shortage] for the people,” he said.
Yameen noted that as “all major Chinese companies are government companies” – referring to proposals submitted by Chinese companies expressing interest in the project – Chinese corporations would undertake the project with the “blessing” of the Chinese government and would be able to secure loan facilities through “generous concessional assistance”.
The government delayed awarding the project until after the China trip for this reason, he added, during which official talks would take place.
In addition to meeting the Chinese President, Yameen said the Chinese government has made “arrangements” for meetings with business leaders to discuss planned ‘mega projects.’
If the bridge project is to be awarded “under commercial terms,” Yameen said the government has “solid three proposals”.
However, Yameen expressed confidence of securing assistance for the project during the official talks.
Asked for an estimated date for commencement of the project, Yameen said that the talks so far had been “unofficial” but noted that an engineering team would arrive as soon as the Chinese government gives the “green signal” and a feasibility study would be conducted.
Yameen said he expected the project to begin before the end of the year.
Chinese assistance could be either in the form of grant aid or a loan facility from the Chinese EXIM Bank at a low interest rate, he explained.
According to the President’s Office, Yameen was greeted upon arrival at Nanjing Airport by the “Vice Governor of Jiangsu Province, Mr. Fu Ziying, Protocol Ambassador of Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, Mr. Gao Zhansheng, Deputy Secretary General of Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee, Mr. Zhou Xu and the Vice Director General of Jiangsu Province, Mr. Sun Yi.”
Yameen also attended a dinner hosted in his honour by the MIND Group last night.
In addition to the bridge project, the government also expects to upgrade the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport with a new runway and a new terminal, Yameen said.
The government has also formulated a project to provide electricity to the Greater Malé Region – including Hulhumalé, Vilimalé, Thilafushi, and Gulhifalhu – from a “single grid” and generate about 500 megawatts, he revealed.
A number of Chinese companies have meanwhile sought information regarding the ‘iHavan’ transhipment port project, Yameen said, adding that he believed various components of the project would be awarded to different parties.
Other projects that would be discussed with the Chinese include the establishment of “a data bank” through the “Smart Maldives Project,” he continued.
Referring to the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, Yameen said the government was “very interested” in participating in the initiative.
Yameen also revealed that a number of bilateral agreements would be signed during the visit, including a framework agreement on trade assistance, while Chinese assistance in providing police vehicles would be “formalised”.
Chinese news agency Xinhua reported yesterday that China’s maritime ‘Silk Route’ would pass through the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project or ‘iHavan’ in the northernmost atoll in the Maldives.
“The design of the project seeks to capitalise on the location of the atoll, which lies on the seven-degree channel through which the main East-West shipping routes connecting Southeast Asia and China to the Middle East and Europe,” reported Xinhua.
A transhipment port in the northernmost atoll would benefit from “the growing trade volumes passing through the region in the wake of strong growth in China and India,” Xinhua noted, adding that an export processing zone in iHavan would enjoy “duty free access” to South Asia through the South Asian Free Trade Arrangement (SAFTA).
“Our positions at the UN and other key multilateral forums highlight the close cooperation between our two countries,” Yameen told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
“Sino-Maldives relations have grown from strength to strength in recent decades, including high-level exchanges and mutual cooperation pacts to sustain regular exchanges.”