Fenaka Corporation commissioned to build sewerage system for Kudahuvadhoo housing units

Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted Fenaka Corporation to establish a sewerage system in the housing units under construction in the island of Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll.

The 53 units are dedicated to providing housing for residents of Kudahuvadhoo who were relocated from the small island of Vaanee in the same atoll.

The agreement for the project was signed by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz and Fenaka Corporation Managing Director Mohamed Nimal at a meeting on Wednesday (July 16).

Under the agreement, Fenaka has to complete setting up the sewerage system within a period of 120 days. The project is financed by the state budget and is estimated to cost MVR4.01 million (US$26,0052).

Appearing for minister’s question time at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament, Muiz informed MPs that the housing units would be awarded to the former residents of Vaanee after formalities are completed by the Kudahuvadhoo island council and Dhaalu atoll council.


Majlis approves reallocation of flats from southern atolls to Hulhumalé

The People’s Majlis voted 38-31 yesterday to grant a request by President Abdulla Yameen to reallocate 704 flats to Hulhumalé from a 1,500-housing unit project planned for four southern atolls.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) voted in favour while opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs voted against the proposal.

On June 11, President Yameen asked parliament to review a decision by the 17th People’s Majlis in December 2013 to deny the president’s request.

The year before, the previous parliament had also denied his predecessor President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s request to revise the housing project to shift 704 housing units to Hulhumalé.

In December 2012, parliament rejected the proposed change with former Speaker Abdulla Shahid casting a tie-breaking vote after the vote was tied 33-33.

An MVR2.5 billion (US$162 million) loan was secured during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2011 to construct 1,500 housing units in Gaaf Alif, Gaaf Dhaal, Fuvahmulah and Addu City.

In a letter seeking parliamentary approval for the revision – which was read out at the parliament sitting on July 2 – President Yameen stated that the government had conducted a “needs assessment” and determined that there was “no need at present” to build more than 796 housing units in the southern atolls.

Yameen also contended that “micro-level decisions regarding loans” should be made by the executive, adding that an affordable housing scheme was essential to develop Hulhumalé with a large enough population to provide education and healthcare services and create job opportunities.

Developing a ‘youth city’ in Hulhumalé with a population of 50,000 was a campaign pledge of President Yameen, whose vision for the artificial island includes the creation of light industries and a “technopolis” park as well as sports and entertainment facilities.

The president’s request was forwarded to the public accounts committee (PAC) earlier this month, which approved it over the objections of opposition MPs on the committee and sent a report (Dhivehi) to the Majlis floor for final approval. The report was compiled by the PAC of the previous parliament.

Pro-government MPs had rejected MDP MPs Ibrahim Shareef’s proposal to seek further information after summoning Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz and voted in favour of a proposal by PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed to pass the previous report.

Parliamentary approval for revising the terms of a loan is required under amendments approved to the Public Finance Act in 2010.

Regional disparity

During the final debate on the report at Tuesday’s sitting, MDP MP for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency in Addu City, Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, alleged that the contractors stood to gain an additional US$21 million by shifting the flats to the Malé region.

“Who on the committee looked into what happens to this US$21 million?” the retired brigadier general asked, characterising the move as a “betrayal” of the people of the southern atolls.

He explained that the cost of a flat decreases from US$150,000 to US$75,000 when it is built in Hulhumalé.

Due to the low value of land outside the central region, Didi said people in the outer atolls were unable to secure housing loans and appealed to pro-government MPs to vote against the proposal on behalf of their constituents.

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim also alleged “serious corruption” in tendering the construction work to a contractor as the cost of building a flat should not exceed US$75,000 on average.

Flats for tsunami victims in the south were built with loan assistance from the Saudi Fund and elsewhere for about US$50,000, he added.

The JP MP for Maamigili called for investigations by the Auditor General’s Office and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), questioning the US$150 million price tag for 1,500 flats.

Independent MP for Gaaf Dhaal Madaveli, Muaz Mohamed Rasheed, said his constituents were “very concerned” with the decision to reallocate the flats from the south.

If the flats are to be built in Hulhumalé, Muaz suggested that citizens of southern atolls should get preference in the awarding process.

However, despite the misgivings, Muaz said the government should be able to make revisions in the interests of loan repayment. While he attended yesterday’s sitting, Muaz did not participate in the vote.

PPM MP for Gaaf Alif Gemanafushi, Jameel Usman, noted that a large number of citizens from the atolls resided in the capital and were in need of housing, to whom President Yameen wished to provide low-cost housing.

MDA MP Ahmed Amir meanwhile cautioned that further delays caused by parliament could jeopardise the loan, which was secured on favourable terms at a “very low” interest rate.

The PPM-led government’s manifesto included land reclamation of several islands in the outer atolls, Amir said, where housing units would also be built.

UNDP Human Development Index released last month highlighted regional disparities and inequalities in the Maldives as a “major challenge” towards human development.

“Where one is born within the Maldives determines many of the opportunities and choices available to a person,” the report concluded.


Six hundred flats awarded to police and military

Government authorities have awarded 600 apartments to Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel this week, including to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and senior police officers.

The housing development projects – providing 300 apartments for MPS, and 300 for MNDF officers – are being jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO) and the MNDF co-operative SIFCO.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the awards as a continuation of the patronage policies that prevailed under the 30 year autocracy of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the MPS’s MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments will be built.

The housing scheme was described as being important for the maintenance of the police force’s welfare by Commissioner Riyaz during the project’s foundation laying ceremony in March. Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu presented recipients with the official documents yesterday (September 2).

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told local media.

The awarding of flats marks the beginning of the POLCO project, which is seeking private investment for a further 150 apartments, said Commissioner Riyaz during Monday’s ceremony.

Last month, 50 apartments on Hulhumale’ were handed over to police officers by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who expressed hope that more housing would be made available exclusively for police and military officers.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power involving elements of the police force, 1000 officers have been promoted and 110 new officers were hired. More recruits have been sought for a “special constabulary” reserve force, a loan scheme has been established for officers, and arrangements have been made for officers and their families to receive cheap accommodations and medical treatment in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

MNDF flats

Meanwhile, the government has re-started construction of 300 housing units on Hulhumale’, specifically for MNDF officers.

President Waheed, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and senior MNDF officials laid the foundation stone for the apartment complex during a ceremony held on Hulhumale’ yesterday.

The apartments will be given to female officers who had not been previously awarded housing units, as well as to retired officers, the MNDF told local media.

Once constructed, the housing units would provide MNDF personnel and their families “adequate accommodation” as many are currently “living under a degree of hardship, having to rent their living spaces,” Waheed said during yesterday’s ceremony. Nazim added that the project would provide facilities such as playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a gym for residents.

President Waheed also awarded 50 apartments to MNDF personnel and their families last month, although seven of these flats had yet to be assigned.

Waheed noted during yesterday’s ceremony that the provision of shelter for military personnel was not an act of kindness, but rather a government obligation.

“The development and welfare of personnel should be improved in accordance with financial capability of the government, and the flats awarded today provides evidence of that fact,” Defence Minister Nazim stated at the time.

In April 2012, MNDF officers were given two years of allowances in a lump sum, which amounted to MVR 150 million (US$10 million) for the institution.

The Maldives National Defence Force was also not responding to enquiries at time of press.

“Patronage” continues: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes the award of 600 housing units to MNDF and MPS officers is a continuation of the patronage system established during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today (September 3).

The MDP previously raised concerns about whether the already constructed flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the “needy” and most deserving.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in last year’s mutiny had been rewarded with flats, claimed Ghafoor.

Last month, President Waheed requested parliament approval to obtain a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon to finance the government’s budget and manage cash flow.

The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was seeking to secure the loan as a way to “enforce” the 2013 budget approved by parliament, stated a letter from the President’s Office read during a parliament session held on August 13.


Winners of flats under Veshi Fahi Male’ programme announced

The government has published in the government gazette a list of winners of flats in Male’ and Hulhumale’ under category B of the first phase of the Veshi Fahi Male’ housing programme.

Following evaluation of 7,000 application forms, 471 applicants were chosen under category B, reports Haveeru.

According to the Veshi Fahi Male’ office, the list would be finalised after processing complaints. The deadline for submitting complaints is November 29, the office said.

On Sunday, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik attended a ceremony to mark the completion of 1,000 housing units in Hulhumale’ constructed with a preferential loan from China.

President Waheed expressed gratitude to the Chinese government and the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).

The Veshi Fahi Male’ de-congestion programme was a flagship project of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) under its manifesto pledge to provide affordable housing.

The project was launched on November 10, 2010 to ease congestion in the capital and develop the Greater Male’ Region, composed of Hulhumale’, Vili-Male’, Thilafushi industrial island and Gulhifalhu.

Approximately 125,000 people are believed to reside in about 16,000 households in Male’; the total number of households in the Maldives is estimated to be 46,000.