Housing ministry extends period for accepting application forms for home ownership programme

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has decided to extend the period for submitting application forms for the government’s home ownership – or ‘Gedhoruverikan’ – programme.

In a press release today, the ministry announced that members of the public issued tokens to submit application forms on Sunday and Monday could do so from December 9 to 31.

President Abdulla Yameen has declared a two-day government holiday following the disruption to the capital’s water supply caused by a fire at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) last week.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz revealed last month that 8,700 people had submitted application forms for the housing programme while tokens have been issued to a further 17,000.

The government announced the ‘Gedhoruverikan’ social housing scheme, to provide flats for citizens of the capital and finance for construction in the atolls, in February.

Photo by: Nattu Adnan


Government ordered to pay MVR349 million in damages for terminated transport contract

The Civil Court has ordered the Maldives government to pay MVR348,995,154.60 (US$22.5million) to Dheebaja Investment Pvt Ltd for the abrupt and unlawful termination of a contract to establish ferry services in four northern atolls.

The verdict, dated October 23, said President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration had terminated a contract with Dheebaja on 30 May 2013 claiming the company had failed to fulfill terms by suspending ferry services to Baa Atoll Fulhadhoo and Fehendhoo Islands.

The transport services contract had been signed under former President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2010. Dheebaja was to provide ferry services in Noonu, Raa, Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls in exchange for 47 plots of land to build ferry terminals and tourism development.

The Civil Court found that the Waheed administration’s termination of the contract was unlawful, stating the government had violated the contract first by failing to hand over promised plots of land to Dheebaja.

The court ordered the Maldives government to pay nearly MVR349 million in damages to Dheebaja for it’s unilateral decision to terminate contract with only five days of notice. The amount is to be paid back within six months.

The Maldives is also currently facing a potentially crippling payout to India’s GMR infrastructure for the abrupt and unlawful termination of a contract to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

President Waheed had declared the US$511 million contract “void ab initio” (invalid from the outset) in November 2012 and gave GMR a seven-day ultimatum to leave the country.

However, a Singaporean arbitration court in June declared the agreement to be “valid and binding” and said the government and Maldives Airports Company Pvt Ltd (MACL) are liable to GMR for damages.

The arbitration tribunal is in the process of determining a compensation figure. Although GMR had initially sought US$1.4 billion – a figure that exceeds the Maldives’ annual budget – government sources say the figure will be between US$300million and US$600million.

The World Bank in 2013 said the payout would place severe pressure on the country’s already critically low foreign reserves.

Since President Nasheed’s controversial ouster in 2012, President Waheed and incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s administration have terminated or renegotiated several contracts signed under Nasheed.

The government, on October 22, terminated an agreement made with India based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in Malé and renegotiated a housing contract with India’s TATA group.

The US$190 million housing project had been delayed for more than two years.

Indian companies blamed the government of creating “undue challenges” for political gain to derail their substantial investments in the Maldives in a 2012 report in India’s Business Standard.

Nasheed’s government had been ousted after months of a vitriolic nationalist and anti–India campaign.

Several of Yameen’s ministers also served in Waheed’s cabinet. They include Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu, and Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Incumbent Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon served as Waheed’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs while Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed held the position of Home Minister.

Since assuming power, Yameen has strengthened trade and political ties with China and the Maldives is now a partner in China’s flagship Silk Route.


Housing Ministry opens bid for Malé roads improvement project

Housing Ministry has invited national and foreign companies to participate in a bidding process to recruit a design and management consultant for the Malé roads improvement project.

In an announcement made today, the housing ministry stated that the government has decided to address the numerous issues of the poorly constructed roads in Malé.

A large portion of the roads were severely flooded in the heavy rainstorms last week with some of the roads having to be drained using pumps by the MNDF.

The deadline for submitting bids is November 19.


Housing ministry gives unlimited tokens for apartment submissions

The housing ministry has begun giving out unlimited tokens for the submission of applications to apply for the 1500 flats being built at Hulhumalé.

Unlimited tokens are being handed out after a number of complaints from people queuing from early this morning who fell foul of the previous 175 token limit per day.

People have been queuing as early as midnight in the hope of being able to submit apartment forms the following day.

The decision by the housing ministry is expected to improve the application process, although there are a numerous administrative issues expected to complicate proceedings.


Planning department appeals to public to cooperate with census

The Department of National Planning (DNP) has called on all citizens to cooperate in a”national effort” for the 2014 census after suggestions that some groups would refuse to participate.

Assistant Director Fathimath Riyaza said that, while the department has not received any official indications from any persons of intention to boycott the census, it is aware of such sentiments.

The census – scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27 – will be the first time such national data has been collected since 2006.

Locals from the island of Vilufushi in Thaa Atoll have announced that they will be boycotting the census, due to the failure to provide permanent residents for those left homeless after the 2004 tsunami,

President of the Villufushi Island Council Ibrahim Shafiu stated that, while the decision to boycott the census was not taken by the council, it understands the reasons behind citizens’ refusal to participate.

“The general spirit among the people of Villufushi is that it is pointless to participate in the census when for years the state has failed to provide us something so crucial as a permanent address,” said Shafiu.

“We are living in 309 houses built for us by the Maldivian Red Crescent in 2009 after the tsunami disaster, but so far the government has failed to register these houses in our names,” he told Minivan News today.

Shafiu explained that the matter is currently under the jurisdiction of the ministry of housing and infrastructure after a 2012 council document outlined procedures for registering residents.

After sharing the document with the Local Government Authority, the Thaa Atoll Council, the housing ministry asked the council to halt the process while it sought advice from the attorney general, providing no other feedback.

“Over a year and a half has passed since then, and there has been no progress on this matter. I fear that this may lead to the beginning of multiple social problems on this island,” he stated.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Infrastructure Abdulla Muhthalib said that the delays in registering the houses is being caused by the “complex nature” of the matter.

According to Muhthalib, the Maldives Red Crescent (MRC) agreements state that each of the houses belongs to a number of persons who often do not share any familial relationships.

“If we register every house to the random collection of people who as per the agreement owns a part of it, it will only give raise to further problems. This makes it hard and so we have to find a way to avoid possible complications that may arise if we register the houses in this manner,” he explained.

He stated that the issue has been discussed with the Attorney General, but was unable to share details of current progress on the matter.

Fathimath Riyaza of the DNP said noted that the census was very important for the nation, and so individuals should offer their full cooperation.

“What we are conducting is a national effort done for the purpose of updating statistics, I therefore call on all citizens to cooperate with our work,” she stated.

Riyaza noted that the department had discussed the matter with the Vilufushi Island Council.

She also addressed comments on social media suggesting a boycott of the census in response to the perceived inadequate response to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

“We, too, are extremely concerned and saddened by the journalist’s disappearance. However, it is not our job to look for and find any particular person. I call on the people to refrain from connecting these two things and to give us information about themselves.”


Bill proposed to transfer land from local councils to central government

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed has proposed transferring land and lagoons under local council jurisdiction or ownership to the housing ministry.

“I am proposing amendments to the Decentralisation Act to the [People’s] Majlis today because of the disputes concerning land between councils, city councils and the housing ministry, and because the existing land law and decentralisation law does not make clear enough to us who has ownership of land,” said Riyaz while presenting the legislation (Dhivehi) at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

“Therefore, I certainly believe that the state’s property should be under one institution.”

In the ensuing debate, MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) accused the government of attempting to “destroy” decentralisation and render councils powerless.

The amendments would defeat the purpose of devolving decision-making powers, they contended, noting that articles 234 and 235 of the Constitution state that local councils shall have the authority to “raise funds” and “own property and incur liabilities”.

Riyaz  meanwhile argued that state assets should be under the control of the executive, alleging that councils with opposition majorities were deliberately obstructing development projects by refusing to provide land.

The deputy leader of the PPM’s parliamentary group claimed that some island councils have yet to arrange land for the fisheries ministry and youth ministry to build ice plants and sports arenas, respectively.

The current administration was “facing serious difficulties” in implementing its policies, he contended.

Following disputes between the housing ministry and councils, Riyaz noted that councils have recently been informed not to conduct transactions involving state-owned land or lease property without obtaining permission from the president.

In June, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure removed two parks from the jurisdiction of the MDP-majority Malé City Council, while Dharubaaruge convention centre was reclaimed by the government in May.

Riyaz also criticised the city council for leasing parks in the capital for restaurant businesses. While councils should have authority over land, Riyaz said the law should not allow that power to be misused.

“It should be done in accordance with the government’s policies,” he insisted.


During the debate, MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa said the amendments would make councils “toothless” and the decentralisation law “useless.”

Ghafoor denied Riyaz’s allegations of non-cooperation from MDP-majority councils, adding that the claims were intended to “mislead” the public.

JP MPs also noted that property and lagoons under council ownership were the only significant means available for generating an income.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam said the government was trying to “cut off the arms and legs” of councils as they would not be able to do “any work when the government steals land from small islands.”

Several MPs suggested that there were many island councils doing exemplary work for the benefit and development of their islands or atolls. All local councils should not be punished or blamed for the actions of a few, the MPs said.

JP MP Hussain Shahid suggested amending the law to allow councils to function more efficiently, arguing that the number of councillors in each island were excessive.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the MDP government, which had proposed limiting the number of councillors to “no more than 220.”

Following the release of the UNDP’s second Human Development Index report in June – which found the rest of the country lagging behind the Malé area with its ‘highly developed’ score – Salma Fikry, a prominent campaigner and proponent of decentralisation, told Minivan News that lack of political will was to blame for the disparity.

“The whole point of decentralisation is scary for the Maldivian government because they like to keep people dependent, they like to think of themselves as doing people favours,” she said.

She predicted that “three quarters of the population would probably move to the capital and the rest of the country will be taken over by the corporations.”


Housing Ministry received 5000 applications for housing loan scheme

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu has told parliament on Tuesday that the ministry had received over 5000 applications for a home construction loan scheme titled “Islamic Facility”.

Islamic Facility is a scheme under which the ministry in alliance with the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) provides loans to home owners who are unable to construct housing on their land due to financial constraints.

Under the scheme, applicants will be given loans amounting from MVR 50,000 to MVR 4,000,000, to be paid back within a maximum period of 20 years. Thirty percent of all loans issued under the scheme will be given to persons who are between 18 and 34 years of age.

Muizzu revealed in parliament today that the ministry is currently undertaking the work of verifying the submitted application forms. He stated that they will begin issuing the loans in the next 45 days.


Housing Ministry to stop leasing some Dharubaaruge halls for private functions

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has announced that it will no longer lease Rannaban’deyri Maalan, Hakuraa Maalan, and Hiriya Maalan of Dharubaaruge for any private functions.

Instead, the three halls in the national convention centre will now be leased only for the holding of political party, company, and national functions.

Dharubaaruge has been the source of jurisdictional wranglings in recent years, being forcefully taken from Malé City Council by the government earlier this year. Plans to renovate and eventually replace the convention centre were subsequently revealed to local media.

Dhoshimeyna Maalan, Faashanaa Maalan, and Billoori Maalan halls will continue to be available for private functions.


Councils ordered to seek president’s permission before leasing state lands

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has sent a letter to all local councils ordering them to refrain from making any decisions regarding state owned land without seeking prior permission from the president.

In a circular sent to the councils, the ministry stated that in accordance with the Land Act, it is the President who will decide on all matters concerning state owned land with the advice of his ministerial cabinet.

It was stated that the need to send a circular reminding councils of this had come after the president became aware of some councils continually failing to comply by the law.