Housing minister hopes to sign amended TATA contract next week

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz has expressed hope that the amended contract with Indian infrastructure giant TATA Housing regarding the construction of two apartment complexes can be signed next week.

“Based on the most recent communication, we estimate that the amended contract will be signed next week, that is if no further reasons for delays come up,” Muiz told local media.

He stated that the company was expected to commence work on the two sites within a period of 45 days after the signing of the contract, and to complete the projects within a year.

The deal – first signed in 2010 – has faced repeated delays after successive governments sought amendments to the original contract.

“In addition to this project, there is also work on an additional 150 flats that need to be started,” Muizzu said yesterday.

The minister explained that previous delays in signing the agreement had occurred due to the actions of TATA Housing.

After deliberation by the cabinet’s economic council in July, the Housing Ministry had announced intentions of resuming the projects under a revised contract.

The government of Maldives contracted Apex Realty Pvt Ltd – a joint venture between TATA Housing Development and SG 18 Realty – to construct residential apartment complexes on four separate sites in capital Malé city in May 2010.

Work commenced on the Gaakoshi site and former Arabiyya School premises, but was later halted due to pending resolution of numerous contractual issues.

While reasons suggested for the delay included shortages in construction materials and the incumbent government’s reclamation of land plots included in the original deal, TATA was reported in Indian media as expressing concern that local politics were endangering their investments.

Apex Realty also released a press statement in May 2014 indicating its intention to commence work on the apartment complexes within 45 days of getting the final approval from the government of Maldives for the amended contract.

“We are committed to the Maldives project and can start the project within 45 days after the final nod is received from the Housing Ministry and contract amendment is signed,” Apex Realty Director Sandeep Ahuja stated at the time.


Police launch special operation in response to spike in theft and robbery

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) launched a special operation in the capital Malé last night in response to a spike in cases of theft and robbery in recent weeks.

At a press conference this morning, Chief Superintendent Ali Shujau explained that the number of cases reported in the past two weeks had risen sharply compared to the previous five months.

Shujau, head of the central operations command, said that burglars had taken advantage of police officers being engaged in providing security during the recently concluded AFC Challenge Cup hosted by the Maldives.

Large amounts of cash and expensive items have been stolen from apartments in the capital, he added.

Police also expected a spike in theft and robbery during the upcoming World Cup and the fasting month of Ramadan, Shujau noted, advising the public to take precautionary measures.

Police officers will conduct targeted searches of areas in Malé and search vehicles as well as suspicious individuals after midnight as part of the special operation.

Vehicle checkpoints will be set up across the capital. As apartments on the first and second floors of large buildings were being targeted, police patrols will focus on preventing theft from such residences.

The special operation is being conducted jointly by the central operations command, investigation departments, forensic directorate, traffic police, and the Specialist Operations (SO) command.

The MPS has also advised the public to hide valuables such as phones, jewellery, and wristwatches and to properly lock doors at night. Businesses were advised against keeping large amounts of cash in shops or offices.

According to statistics from the MPS, 2,484 cases of theft and 291 cases of robbery have been reported so far this year.

A 46 percent spike in cases of theft was recorded in January this year compared to the same period in 2013.

Reported instances of theft had increased dramatically in 2012 compared to the previous year. While 4,734 cases of theft were reported in 2011, the number rose to 6,572 in 2012, which represented a 38 percent annual increase.

The figure climbed to 6,681 in 2013.

Robbery and theft currently account for roughly 50 percent of crimes reported to police.


Six hundred flats awarded to police and military

Government authorities have awarded 600 apartments to Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel this week, including to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and senior police officers.

The housing development projects – providing 300 apartments for MPS, and 300 for MNDF officers – are being jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO) and the MNDF co-operative SIFCO.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the awards as a continuation of the patronage policies that prevailed under the 30 year autocracy of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the MPS’s MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments will be built.

The housing scheme was described as being important for the maintenance of the police force’s welfare by Commissioner Riyaz during the project’s foundation laying ceremony in March. Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu presented recipients with the official documents yesterday (September 2).

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told local media.

The awarding of flats marks the beginning of the POLCO project, which is seeking private investment for a further 150 apartments, said Commissioner Riyaz during Monday’s ceremony.

Last month, 50 apartments on Hulhumale’ were handed over to police officers by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who expressed hope that more housing would be made available exclusively for police and military officers.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power involving elements of the police force, 1000 officers have been promoted and 110 new officers were hired. More recruits have been sought for a “special constabulary” reserve force, a loan scheme has been established for officers, and arrangements have been made for officers and their families to receive cheap accommodations and medical treatment in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

MNDF flats

Meanwhile, the government has re-started construction of 300 housing units on Hulhumale’, specifically for MNDF officers.

President Waheed, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and senior MNDF officials laid the foundation stone for the apartment complex during a ceremony held on Hulhumale’ yesterday.

The apartments will be given to female officers who had not been previously awarded housing units, as well as to retired officers, the MNDF told local media.

Once constructed, the housing units would provide MNDF personnel and their families “adequate accommodation” as many are currently “living under a degree of hardship, having to rent their living spaces,” Waheed said during yesterday’s ceremony. Nazim added that the project would provide facilities such as playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a gym for residents.

President Waheed also awarded 50 apartments to MNDF personnel and their families last month, although seven of these flats had yet to be assigned.

Waheed noted during yesterday’s ceremony that the provision of shelter for military personnel was not an act of kindness, but rather a government obligation.

“The development and welfare of personnel should be improved in accordance with financial capability of the government, and the flats awarded today provides evidence of that fact,” Defence Minister Nazim stated at the time.

In April 2012, MNDF officers were given two years of allowances in a lump sum, which amounted to MVR 150 million (US$10 million) for the institution.

The Maldives National Defence Force was also not responding to enquiries at time of press.

“Patronage” continues: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes the award of 600 housing units to MNDF and MPS officers is a continuation of the patronage system established during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today (September 3).

The MDP previously raised concerns about whether the already constructed flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the “needy” and most deserving.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in last year’s mutiny had been rewarded with flats, claimed Ghafoor.

Last month, President Waheed requested parliament approval to obtain a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon to finance the government’s budget and manage cash flow.

The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was seeking to secure the loan as a way to “enforce” the 2013 budget approved by parliament, stated a letter from the President’s Office read during a parliament session held on August 13.