Government says “iconic” Malé-Hulhulé bridge can be finished in two years

Describing the project as “iconic for the whole region”, the Economic Development Minister last night pledged that the Malé – Hulhulé bridge project would take two years to complete.

“Looking at the bridge project, out of the 19 companies that had expressed interest, 7 were international parties,” Mohamed Saeed is reported to have said during a ceremony held to celebrate 100 days of President Abdulla Yameen’s government.

Deputy Minister of Housing Abdulla Ziyadh – whose ministry will become actively involved as soon as a contractor is selected – explained that the government is currently evaluating the received bids.

First touted as a campaign pledge of thirty-year President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008, the idea of a bridge connecting the congested island of Malé with its relatively spacious suburbs was also an aim of Gayoom’s successor Mohamed Nasheed.

The Nasheed government had put to contract out to tender in late 2011 shortly before its ousting in February 2012.

The current government called for expressions of interest in the project in early December 2013, with the window for interested parties to come forward closing on January 14.

The public private partnership contract will require a company to engage in the design, build, financing, maintenance and operation of the bridge.

“Primary objective of the Government is to bring a relief to the socio-economic issues arising from the urban congestion that is present in Malé,” the Ministry of Economic Development has explained.

Former Minister of Economic Development Mahmoud Razee – a member of Nasheed’s cabinet – told Minivan News today that a bridge would improve local commerce as well as reducing traffic congestion in Malé.

“There will be a mediation of the traffic because what happens in Malé – in the afternoons and evenings – a lot of the traffic is leisure traffic as motorcycles are out on the road, not to go to any particular place but for the sake of having a ride. If these are connected, the area they are able to mill around is increased by several kilometers,” he explained.

The former minister noted that an extension of the bridge westward to connect with Gulhi Falhi and the industrial island of Thilifushi would bring down the cost of warehouse space in the capital.

The final location of the bridge has yet to be announced by the government. Options considered in the past involved connecting Hulhulé with Malé at the tsunami monument area, or from the northern harbour via Funadhoo island.

Razee also echoed the comments of the current Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb who has acknowledged that the project is not viable without commercial components.

Mohamed Saeed was reported as suggesting last night that the bridge would be equipped with facilities to generate between 4 and  6 megawatts of renewable energy.

While Razee was skeptical of this proposal, he suggested that bridge could be used to lay cables between islands, reducing the need for expensive undersea cables to transfer production capacity across the Greater Malé area.

Saeed has previously described the building of the bridge as a “challenge”, but said the task is one of the pledges of the coalition government.

When the concession is awarded, Saeed has pledged, investors will not suffer damages, and the project will receive “protection” from the Maldives constitution.

Investor confidence in the Maldives had been negatively impacted under the Presidency of Dr Mohamed Waheed, with the Yameen presidency targeting its restoration as a key foreign policy aim.

During last night’s ceremony, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed launched a book detailing the key elements included in the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ ‎manifesto, and the government’s achievements in its first 100 days.


Foreign investment key to address dollar supply issues: economic development minister

Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed has claimed in local media that the value of the US Dollar against the Maldivian Rufiyaa is not expected to fall in the “near future”, citing the need for a new long-term financial strategy.

Criticising the previous government’s decision to amend local dollar exchange rates – capped at Rf12.85 until April last year –  in an attempt to alleviate black market trading of foreign currency, Ahmed claimed a new approach to foreign investment was needed to alleviate the supply situation.

“After Ramadan, we will announce several new projects. This would be a solution to the dollar problem,” he told local news service Sun Online yesterday.

Ahmed also hit out at the previous government’s decision to discontinue charging import duty to instead impose a General Goods and Services Tax (G-GST). The tax, which was passed by parliament last year rose to six percent from 3.5 percent yesterday while import duties were lowered or eliminated for a range of commodities starting January 1, 2012.

The Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) was meanwhile raised to six percent for 2012 as stipulated in the GST Act.

Despite Ahmed’s criticisms, two former economic ministers serving within the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed last month that they were confused by the seemingly contradictory measures of increasing import duties whilst reducing GST.