Parliament’s finance committee has approved President Abdulla Yameen’s proposal to relocate 704 out of 1,500 housing units, planned for the southern four atolls, to Hulhumalé.
The 1,500 housing units were originally planned to be constructed in Gaaf Alif, Gaaf Dhaal, Fuvahmulah, and Addu City with a MVR2.5 billion (US$162 million) loan secured from the Chinese EXIM bank under President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.
The request to move 704 units to Hulhumalé was first made by President Dr Mohamed Waheed in December 2012, but denied by parliament at the time.
President Yameen, who has pledged to develop a ‘youth city’ in Hulhumalé with a population of 50,000, recently requested the same change, stating there is “no need at present” to build more than 796 housing units in the southern atolls under the project.
Yameen’s request, which was approved on Monday by the finance committee, has now been sent to the Majlis floor for approval.
At Monday’s committee meeting, the proposition to approve the request was made by ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed who said it was not feasible to develop all the units in the southern atolls.
He proposed to accept the president’s request and to pass a report compiled by the previous Majlis’ finance committee, in response to President Waheed’s request in 2012.
The report states that the committee approves the decision to relocate housing units from four southern atolls to Malé because the Ministry of Housing has said in a letter that this decision was made after a ‘housing needs assessment’ in those atolls.
The 13 member committee has six members from the ruling PPM, two from the Jumhooree Party (JP) and one member from the ruling coalition party the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA).
However, the decision was met with fierce opposition from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who have four MPs in the committee.
Addu city’s Maradhoo MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef from the MDP proposed to seek further information on the issue by summoning Minister of Housing and Minister of Housing to the committee, but the motion received just three votes in favor.
Shareef accused the government of trying to isolate islands other than Malé and described the decision to relocate housing units as a betrayal of Addu people.
He said the initial plan to develop all 1,500 units in the southern atolls was also based on a feasibility study and a proposal by the MDP administration and was focused on relieving congestion in Male’ area.
Responding to Shareef’s comments, PPM’s Addu Feydhoo MP Ibrahim Didi said the government is not acting against Addu people and he has no objection to the government decision as Feydhoo does not have space for the construction of those housing units.
MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Solih said the party has no issue with the government changing projects to fit their policies, but the concern is over not knowing the details of the justification for such a change.
The issue of regional disparities in development were highlighted in the UNDP’s Human Development Index report which argued that regional inequalities remained a “major challenge” towards human development.