Housing Ministry to resume stalled Tata housing project

The government expects to sign a revised agreement with Tata Housing Developing Corporation next week to resume stalled housing projects in the capital Malé, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz revealed at a press conference yesterday.

The terms of the agreement were revised on the advice of the cabinet’s economic council after agreeing to some of Tata’s conditions, Muiz explained, and have now been forwarded to the Indian real estate developer for final approval.

“We have agreed that work must begin in two sites in Malé within 45 days of signing the amendments [to the contract],” Muiz said, referring to the Gaakoshi plot and former Arabiyya School premises.

Muiz further revealed that the government has also agreed to give back the vacant ‘Naadhee’ plot in Malé and approve construction on the site.

The site was taken over by the administration of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed with the intention of building a new Supreme Court complex on the premises.

While the previous administration had offered a plot in Hulhumale’ as an alternative, the developers felt the change would affect financing of the project.

The multi-million dollar housing project – a combination of commercial and social housing through a Public-Private Partnership model – was signed in May 2010 by the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed with Apex Realty Pvt Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) or joint venture formed between Tata (65 percent) and SG18 Developers (35 percent).

Providing affordable housing to resolve the acute housing shortage in the capital was a core pledge of the Nasheed administration as well as the current Progressive Party of Maldives-led (PPM) government.

Contractual dispute

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed MuizThe Naadhee plot on Sosun Magu was among four plots of land in the capital awarded to the Tata subsidiary for construction of flats.

The Waheed administration’s decision to take over the plot was the source of the dispute with Tata, Muiz conceded yesterday, which has now been resolved after the economic council decided to give back the plot in accordance with the terms of the original agreement.

The government has agreed to purchase 20 percent of the flats constructed on the plot, he noted.

Discussions were meanwhile ongoing between the Supreme Court and the President’s Office on a new site for the apex court’s building, he said.

The flats in Gaakoshi and the old Arabiyya School site would have to be completed in 10 months and a year respectively, Muiz continued, while Tata has also agreed to construct 150 flats in Hulhumale’.

In May, Apex Realty announced that the company was prepared to resume work on the project as soon as the agreed upon amendments were incorporated into the contract.

“Apex Realty officials have undertaken multiple rounds of meetings with the economic council of the cabinet and the Ministry of Housing to find a mutually acceptable solution to contractual issues,” the company said in a press release.

“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,” said Mr Sandeep Ahuja, Director at Apex.


President reveals vision for foreign investment at Hulhumalé project launch

President Abdulla Yameen inaugurated a project yesterday for the construction of 3,000 housing units in Hulhumalé by a joint venture company, Sealife Global Inc – formed by two Dubai companies with a local partner.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, President Yameen said his administration’s vision was to develop a “youth village” in Hulhumalé with a population of 50,000 people.

“The youth village will not involve only housing [projects]. It will also include other projects related to the youth village such as the creation of light industries to provide job opportunities, as well as arrangements for food and beverages required by modern youth and restaurant facilities for [fast food],” he said.

Yameen said he hoped the government would be able to realise this vision during its five-year term.

During the launch, Yameen also outlined his vision for “freeholds” for foreign investors who will feel the Maldives to be a “second home” in which to conduct long-term projects.

The vision for the youth city meanwhile includes a “technopolis park” as well as entertainment and sports facilities, he said, in addition to facilities for the tourism and fisheries industries.

The government would also prioritise the inclusion of housing projects in Malé and Hulhumalé as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) component when leasing islands for resort development, Yameen said.

Hulhumalé will become “a paradise on earth” for migrants from across the country, he said.

The construction of a bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé would further open up economic opportunities in the reclaimed island city, Yameen said.

In February, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed pledged to complete the bridge project in two years.

Plans of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for the second phase of Hulhumalé development were also being revised to achieve the new administration’s goals, Yameen said, which included providing affordable housing to residents of the capital without adequate shelter.

“Any government upon assuming office will attempt to make the best use of a country’s resources. Everything is subject to change. Charts will change when they are redrawn,” he said.

The 243 flats – ranging from one to four bedroom apartments – to be constructed in the first phase of the new project will be targeted to mid to high-income families, explained Sealife Global’s Managing Director Ahmed Moosa.

The six towers or 10 to 12-storey buildings will include other facilities and services such as a swimming pool and gymnasium, he added. The joint venture company would also construct a 12-storey office complex on the site.

“Adventurous path”

Addressing foreign guests in English, President Yameen said he was pleased to “see you actively engaged in our socio-economic development.”

“I hope this project is going to be rewarding in terms of both profitability as well as catering to the need of the Maldivian people,” he added.

The government was committed to “improving the well-being of Maldivian youth,” he continued, adding that youth were presently deprived of the “opportunity to be gainfully employed and also the opportunity of shelter.”

The government therefore welcomes any project that caters to these “dual needs,” he said.

“We are embarking on a very adventurous path at this point in time,” he said, noting that economic development was essential for maintaining the current environment of peace and stability.

“What we would like to confirm for the foreign investors who come to the Maldives is that foreign investors should feel that Maldives is your second home here,” he said, adding that “a landmark law” will be passed in the next Majlis to strengthen the foreign investment regime.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous. So have faith and trust in us,” Yameen said.

Legislation will also be proposed to the next parliament to create special economic zones, he continued, which would be “likened to cities in Dubai or the Emirates” and “the [business] environment we have in Singapore.”

The new laws would enable investors to have “freeholds” in the country and allow investors “to engage in really, really long gestative projects,” he said.

Yameen assured foreign investors that “your money is safe with us.”

“So I reach out to proprietors and investors in Dubai, in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar and also the Emirates – please, here you have an island, here you have a country where you can invest and where you can be content with your investments,” he said.

“We are embarking on an era of growth,” he said, adding that 52 percent of the country’s population was comprised of young people.

Yameen noted that Hulhumale’ was a vision of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“He wanted to find breathing space for the overly congested people in Malé. Nobody at that time would have thought that Hulhumalé is going to be the city it is now. There is tremendous opportunity in Maldives and there is tremendous love in us for the Arab-Muslim entrepreneurs. So please come and invest in the Maldives,” he entreated.


Parliament rejects government’s proposed changes to housing project

Parliament yesterday (December 24) voted to reject government-proposed changes to a project to construct 1,500 housing units that is being funded through a loan from the Chinese EXIM bank.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid cast the tie-breaking vote after the vote on approving a Finance Committee report recommending the approval of changes proposed by the government was tied 33-33.

The government had proposed shifting 704 housing units to Hulhumale’ from four southern atolls as originally planned under the US$154.3 million project.

The loan was approved by parliament on December 29, 2011, but submitted for approval again by the new administration with the proposed changes.

During the debate on the committee report, government-aligned MPs representing constituencies in the southern atolls objected to scrapping planned housing units in Addu City and Fuvahmulah.

Meanwhile, parliament also rejected a motion submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir accusing President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik of violating MPs’ privileges.

Jabir claimed that President Waheed had told islanders during a tour of Ghaaf Dhaal atoll that they should obstruct their MP from visiting the island.

The motion was defeated 39-25 with one abstention. Following the vote, Dr Waheed tweeted: “Appreciate the trust shown in me by the majority of Parliamentarians today. I thank you all.”


Cabinet opts to expand foreign investment oppurtunities

Cabinet ministers have opted to try expanding the number of investment opportunities available in the Maldives in order to generate interest from foreign enterprises.

Following discussions on a paper presented to the cabinet by the Ministry of Economic Development, a decision was taken yesterday to create a “scheme of action” outlining how to attract and handle foreign investments being made in the Maldives, according to the President’s Office website.

The cabinet was also said to have agreed on the need for a specific investor focus around the provision of basic needs, updating public services and developing the country’s economic landscape.

As a result of the investment plan, the islands of aakan’doodhoo and Firun’baidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll and Maakuredhdhoo in Noonu Atoll are expected to be leased out for long-term agricultural projects.

The cabinet’s decision comes as Indian media earlier this month raised concerns that enterprises including TATA and infrastructure group GMR – both presently operating in the Maldives – were struggling to overcome political interference they claim is derailing their substantial investments in the country.

GMR, contracted to develop and manage a new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’ in the largest foreign investment project ever seen in the country, is facing opposition from some government-aligned parties over allegations about the validity of its contract.

GMR has denied the allegations, adding that all relevant documentation was overseen at the time by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Last month, Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir criticised attempts to “politicise” the dispute between the government and India-based GMR over an agreement to develop INIA – fearing a negative impact on foreign investment.

However, the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) has stated that legal wrangling between the government and India-based developer GMR over the multi-million dollar airport development would not harm confidence in the country’s “challenging” investment climate.


Agreement signed with India for US$40 million line of credit

An agreement has been signed with the Indian Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank) for a US$40 million line of credit for 500 housing units to be built with assistance from the Indian government.

According to the Maldives High Commission in New Delhi, India, the agreement was signed Friday with the High Commission’s Councillor Aishath Azima signing on behalf of the Maldives and Chairman T. C . A Ranganadhan on behalf of the bank.