Saudi Arabia has assured loan assistance at a low interest rate from the Saudi Fund to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee has revealed.
Speaking to reporters at the airport yesterday after accompanying President Abdulla Yameen during a state visit to the kingdom, Dr Shainee said Saudi Arabia has offered a lower interest rate than other parties the government has approached.
“They have indicated they would give us a loan with about two percent [interest],” he said.
A Maldivian delegation would depart for Saudi Arabia in the next week for further discussions, he added.
Last month, the government revealed that the estimated cost of the INIA development and expansion project was US$845 million. The government had previously announced it was seeking a US$600million loan from China and Japan for airport development.
While a project for building a second runway has been awarded to Chinese Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), development of the airport terminal was awarded to Japanese Taisei Corporation.
The Maldives sought assistance in various fields, such as education, health, and foreign investment, Yameen said, and “constructive” discussions took place with government ministers during the visit.
During the state visit – made at the invitation of the Saudi king – President Yameen met the Saudi Arabian ministers for education, defence, petroleum and mineral resources, and finance.
The Saudi Arabian government has pledged 150 scholarships for Maldivian students to pursue higher education in Saudi institutions, he noted, stressing that relations between the countries have been significantly strengthened as a result of the visit.
Reject “foreign interference”
A joint communique issued on March 18 noted that President Yameen “held talks with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in an amicable atmosphere that reflected the bonds of brotherhood that unite the two countries and the excellent relations between them.”
“The two sides confirmed their intentions to continue fortifying their bilateral cooperation in all fields including foreign affairs, defence, Islamic affairs, judiciary, economy, commerce, investment, education, and health for the purpose of accomplishing their common interests and providing support to the issues of the Muslim nation, while rejecting any foreign interference in their internal affairs,” read the communique.
“To this end, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to open an embassy in the Republic of Maldives.”
It also stated that the two sides agreed to increase “their commercial exchange while expanding and enhancing investment between the two countries and extending invitations to their respective private sectors to explore the available investment opportunities in both countries.”
“The Saudi Fund for Development will continue to finance the development projects in the Republic of Maldives and will consider participating in the expansion of Malé airport and beache preservation in Hulhumalé,” it added.
President Yameen meanwhile “emphasised that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the primary partner of the Republic of Maldives.”
Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told the press that the Saudi government has agreed to increase the Maldives quota from 1,000 pilgrims at present to 2,000 next year.
President Yameen also requested a plot of land in Mecca to construct a hotel for Maldivian pilgrims, Shaheem revealed, the Saudi government agreed to allocate land.
Moreover, the Saudi government would assist with the establishment of an Islamic University in the Maldives, he added.
King Salman asked for an agreement to be signed between the Maldivian Islamic ministry and the Saudi counterpart in order to provide assistance in Islamic affairs, Shaheem said.
The communique also noted that the “two sides have agreed to finalise the procedures leading to the signing of an agreement in Islamic affairs between the two countries.”