President pledges to write off fines for traffic violations

President Abdulla Yameen has pledged to write off fines accumulated for traffic violations and illegal parking.

Speaking at a function with youth supporters last night, Yameen observed that the fines for some motorcycles impounded at the tow yard has reached up to MVR80,000 (US$5,188), which most youth were unable to afford.

“We have submitted a bill to the People’s Majlis to write off debt or arrears built up like this. So from the day this bill passes, those youth will no longer be in debt,” he declared to loud cheers.

Yameen said the pro-government majority will pass amendments to the land transportation law before Ramadan or during the current session of parliament.

MP Ahmed Nihan, parliamentary group leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had revealed last month that President Yameen was considering writing off traffic fines.

The capital does not have the parking capacity for the increasing number of motorcycles, Nihan said, and many young people owed money to the state as fines for illegal parking.

According to a 2011 report by the Environment Protection Agency, one in six residents of the capital own a motorcycle.

The president made the pledge during a “meeting with youth” at the carnival area of Malé. President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News yesterday that the event was arranged for the president to share information about his youth-related programmes “and for the youth to share their views straight with the president.”

Yameen’s 2013 presidential campaign had focused heavily on youth empowerment with pledges to create 94,000 jobs and build futsal pitches and sports arenas across the country.

The opposition has, however, accused the government of failing to fulfil its pledges, imprisoning opposition leaders to pave the way for autocratic rule, and maintaining illicit connections with criminal gangs. The government denies the allegations.

“Greener pastures”


In his speech last night, Yameen said youth were “neglected,” used as “weapons” by politicians, and had fallen prey to drug abuse before he assumed office in November 2013.

The current administration was elected with the support of youth, he continued, who voted for housing, jobs, and sports facilities.

Yameen urged young people in remote islands to migrate to the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé, which the government is planning to develop as a ‘Youth City’ with the capacity of housing three-fourths of the country’s population.

Youth must abandon small islands that lack economic prospects or job opportunities, he advised, and move to “greener pastures.”

If 85 percent of the government’s targeted 94,000 jobs are filled by youth, Yameen said they would be able to afford rent or mortgage payments for the new housing units to be built in Hulhumalé.

He vowed that construction on the Malé-Hulhulé bridge will begin this year.

“Then even [opposition Maldivian Democratic Party supporters] will also go for rides on the dream bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé,” he said.

Plans for youth empowerment include the ‘Get Set’ youth entrepreneurship programme and “integrated tourism” projects aimed for small and medium-sized businesses, he said.

Yameen said young entrepreneurs who were previously excluded from the lucrative tourism industry due to high barriers of entry will be able to invest in one component of the ‘guesthouse island projects,’ such as water sports or restaurants.

The government is also planning to privatise rehabilitation centres as part of its efforts to “redeem” drug addicted youth.

Yameen urged youth to “say no” to those who encouraged them to commit crimes.

Maldivian youth is the “dynamo of the engine of the Maldivian state” and the “development partners” of the current administration, Yameen said.

“If you want to want to carry this partnership forward, the basis of the bond or contract that is established is sincerity. Both sides must fulfil what they agree to do,” he said.


Maldives backs new Chinese investment bank, pursues free trade deal

The Maldives is to back a Chinese-initiated international finance institution to be called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while ministers have confirmed a free trade agreement is being pursued.

At a press conference today, the economic council revealed that the Maldives had asked to be included as a founding member of the proposed bank alongside the existing 21 countries, which includes both China and India.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee also revealed that China was to become the Maldives first free trade partner, demonstrating the pair’s excellent bilateral relations.

The requests were put forward during a recent visit to China by the Economic Council where discussions were held on proceeding with Chinese-assisted projects, while the Maldives officially signed up to the Maritime Silk Road project.

The AIIB, which is to start up with a proposed US$100 billion capital, is purposed with financing infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region.

The bank has been described by some media outlets as having been set up with the intentions of increasing Chinese influence in Asia at the expense of the IMF, ADB, and the World Bank.

The economic council today confirmed that the Maldives has officially agreed to participate in China’s silk road trade route – the third country to do so, although Chinese state media has reported more than 50 states as expressing interest.

The two countries have also agreed to engage upon free trade in the future, explained the council.

“The biggest advantage of the free trade will go towards fishermen. With free trade and the 12 percent export duty will be gone, thus the 12 percent becomes profit for fishermen,” said Shainee.

When questioned about the potential economic disadvantages which might occur because of a free trade agreement, Minister at the President’s office Mohamed Shareef said that both governments will make sure that the agreement leads to a ‘win-win’ for the countries.

“I want to mention that the free trade talks were initiated by the Maldives,” said Shareef. “China is willing to give us a lot of leeway into how we structure the agreement.”

Shareef also said – citing Chinese sources – that the Maldives is the number one South Asian destination for Chinese tourists at the moment. Chinese tourists currently make up around one third of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives.

The economic council also stated that work on the proposed new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) is to begin in the next six to seven months and that the request for the loan to finance the project has been submitted to the Chinese Exim bank.

The council members also reiterated the importance of the proposed Malé-Hulhulé Bridge, saying that there is good progress and that the government is aiming to open it by the year 2017.

Related to this story

Silk road deal to be concluded in China-Maldives economic committee

Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for Maldives involvement in 21st century maritime silk road

President Yameen slams “Western colonial powers,” declares foreign policy shift to East

Agreements on bridge and airport penned during Chinese president’s visit


Pre-feasibility study MoU signed with Chinese government

The Maldives has signed an MoU with the Chinese government regarding a pre-feasibility study of the proposed Malé-Hulhulé bridge.

The agreement was signed by Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizz and Yung Wan Xion, principal of the Chinese Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs.  ­

Dr Muizz thanked the Chinese government for the generous support and said that the Maldives was giving utmost priority to the project in order to complete it.

In October, a Chinese team of engineers reportedly conducted a survey on the feasibility of the bridge while also researching the best pier points for the bridge, while Chinese government officials announced they would “favorably consider” financing the project.

Speaking to Haveeru at the time, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said the survey was to be finished in a period of four months, with costs being covered by  US$4 million in aid from the Chinese government.

Opposition Maldives Democratic Party of Maldives (MDP) has, however, criticised the government’s inclusion of high amounts of funds allotted for the bridge feasibility study in the upcoming three years.


Survey team for Malé-Hulhulé bridge arrives in Maldives

A Chinese survey team arrived in the Maldives today (October 25) to conduct a detailed survey for the Malé-Hulhulé  bridge project.

The team which was due to arrive on Thursday (October 23) and start the survey work yesterday is now believed to be starting work on the technical survey in the coming week.

The survey will determine the pier points for the proposed bridge which will link the capital island Malé with the airport island of Hulhulé.

Tourism Minister and Economic Council Co-Chair Ahmed Adeeb told Haveeru last week that the survey is to be completed in the time frame of four months and is conducted with the aid of the Chinese government amounting to US$4 Million.

Adeeb also said that the construction of the bridge, which Chinese President Xi Jinpeng has suggested be called the ‘China-Maldives friendship bridge’, is scheduled to start next year with aims of completion by 2017.


Bridge survey to start on Friday, says Adeeb

A surveys for the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project will begin on Friday, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has revealed.

After signing an MoU regarding promotion of the ‘mega project’ during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng last month, a team from China will arrive on Thursday to carry out the survey.

“After that, we will obtain the required finance for project and start practical work on the bridge,” said Adeeb, also Chair of the cabinet’s Economic Council.

“I see the survey starting within one month from signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese government as a huge victory,”  he told Haveeru.

The survey will determine the pier points for the proposed bridge which will link the capital island Malé with the airport island of Hulhulé.

The project has been mooted by successive governments, with previous plans considering a bridge connecting the airport island with the Rahlugandhu area on the south-eastern corner of Malé, the artificial beach area, or the northen harbour via Funadhoo island.

Local media have confirmed that Chinese aid will cover the expense of the survey – reported to cost $3-4 million.

The government has insisted that the project can be completed within two years, with the Ministry of Economic Development suggesting it will help to ease urban congestion in the capital island – one of the most densely populated in the world.

President Abdulla Yameen confirmed that China had pledged to support the bridge project during his official state visit in August, promising a feasibility study before the end of the year.

During the historic visit of President Jinpeng last month – the first by a Chinese head of state to the Maldives, the leader suggested the finished project might be named the ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’.

Diplomatic ties between the two nations have grown in the wake of the large numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives – now thirty percent of total arrivals.

While visiting the Maldives, President Xi reiterated his calls for the Maldives to become involved in the creation of a 21st century maritime silk road linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

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.

An preliminary contract agreement on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport – based on Hulhulé island – was also signed between the two nations during September’s visit.


Malé-Hulhulé bridge will be opened in 2017, says tourism minister

Work on the proposed bridge linking capital Malé and Hulhulé is to begin next year with aims of opening the bridge in 2017, says Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

An MoU was signed yesterday between the Chinese and the Maldivian governments concerning the promotion of the bridge during the first ever presidential visit by a Chinese President to the Maldives.

Speaking to Haveeru, Adeeb said that President Abdulla Yameen plans for the bridge to be open in 2017.

The project is linked to President Yameen’s plans for a ‘youth city’ in Hulhumalé, which is reported to include youth-specific housing, international class sports facilities, a theme park, yacht marina, and a tourism district for a population of 50,000.

“President Yameen has a lot of ambitions for Youth City. Creating lots of job opportunities along with housing is amongst the aims President Yameen has for the city. All of this is connected via the bridge. So God willing, the bridge project will be completed,” said Adeeb.

Chinese President Xi Jinpeng suggested the name ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’ to be given to the bridge in recognition to the strong diplomatic relations between the two states.


China pledged assistance for bridge project, says President Yameen

The Chinese government has pledged assistance in building a bridge connecting the capital Malé and Hulhumalé, President Abdulla Yameen told the press last night upon returning from a visit to China.

“[Chinese President Xi Jinping] said let us form an economic council or committee. So we have come after determining representatives from our side on the joint committee,” Yameen told reporters at the airport.

Once the high-level joint commission is set up, Yameen said a feasibility study would be conducted with a team of Chinese engineers due to arrive this year.

The team would study the strength of ocean currents, he explained, which was necessary to determine the “strength of the structure” of the bridge as well as an estimated cost.

“When that is completed, the Chinese government informed us during the meetings that one of the contractors [that have expressed interest] would then begin work,” he said.

“So God willing, we hope work could begin very soon.”

The Chinese ambassador is due to arrive in the Maldives in a few days with a list of Chinese representatives on the joint commission, he revealed.

Yameen also said the likelihood of the bridge project being awarded to a Chinese company was “99 percent” and that “a large portion” of the project would be financed through free or concessional aid from China.

The Chinese president was meanwhile briefed about other ‘mega projects’ the government plans to commence, Yameen said, adding that “major Chinese contractors” would undertake the projects.

The Chinese government could ensure that loan facilities sought from the Chinese EXIM bank would be provided at a very low interest rate, he explained.

Meetings also took place between the Maldivian delegation and “large Chinese civil works companies,” Yameen noted.

Based on assurances from Xi Jinping, Yameen expressed confidence of receiving significant assistance from the Chinese government for the bridge project.

The Chinese government also provided MVR250 million (US$16 million) as grant aid during the president’s trip.

Diplomatic cooperation

Discussions also focused on “important matters for China in international diplomacy,” Yameen revealed, referring to the the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, which he said was intended to foster economic relations and increase trade between China and Asia-Pacific nations.

“We requested participation in the Silk Road initiative and were immediately welcomed,” he said.

Yameen said he also invited the Chinese president to visit the Maldives for next year’s 50th anniversary of independence and Xi Jinping “promptly” accepted the invitation.

“So we believe [Sino-Maldives] relations are very good and [the Chinese government] was very well-prepared for our visit,” he added.

Yameen said the Maldives would back China in the international arena as the two countries shared “the same principles on a number of issues, especially concerning the Indian Ocean region, human rights and many such matters.”

He stressed, however, that the “main focus” of the discussions was the development projects envisioned by the government.

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, Yameen said Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.

On relations with Japan, Yameen noted that a project for the construction of a new terminal at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) would be jointly undertaken by the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) and two Japanese companies.

“No country has expressed concern so far and I don’t believe they will either,” he said.


China lends Maldives 100 million Yuan as free aid

The Presidents Office has announced China’s decision to lend 100 million Yuan (around MVR250 million or US$16 million) as free aid to the Maldives.

The agreement was signed yesterday (August 16), after President Abdullah Yameen departed on an official visit to China to attend the opening ceremony of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, and to hold discussions with Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

In addition, an agreement was made to provide the Maldives Police Service with 150 motorcycles.

According to the statement, the grant aid is to be used for developmental projects in the Maldives.

At separate meetings held on Saturday afternoon, discussions were focused on the investment opportunities in Maldives, and the mega development projects proposed by the government.

Furthermore, Yameen met officials from Tuniu, one of China’s top travel agencies, and attended a lunch hosted by the group.

China Bridge

During the discussion on Saturday, Xi also conveyed his government’s ‎commitment to propel bilateral relations with the Maldives onto a higher ‎plane.

In addition, Yameen outlined the key ‎developmental projects envisaged for commencement in the time ahead, and ‎emphasised that no project is as important or pertinent as the Male-Hulhulé bridge.

Yameen expressed his satisfaction that the ‎interest of corporate China towards the bridge project and other key ‎economic manifesto projects. He went on to note that he desired in time, for ‎the new bridge to be known as the “China Bridge” to symbolise the friendly ‎ties between the two countries. ‎

Xi thanked Yameen for briefing him on his ‎economic agenda and assured that he would alert Chinese authorities to ‎collaborate closely with the Maldives in ensuring the key development ‎projects, including the bridge can be implemented with due urgency.

Silk Road

Yameen noted that the Maldives had always been a ‎standing supporter of the one-China policy and the Five Principals of ‎Peaceful Coexistence governing relations between states. He also commended President Xi on his 21st Century ‎Maritime Silk Road. ‎

In return, Xi noted that the Maldives would feature among ‎the countries that are included within the Silk Road sphere.

Referring to the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, Yameen told reporters prior to the trip that 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.


President seeks Chinese free aid for Hulhumalé bridge project

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. ‎

Silk Route

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.”