Government requests bids for Hulhumale’ bridge project

The Economic Ministry has announced the opening of a bidding process for a bridge to be built between Male and Hulhumale at a press briefing held at the President’s Office today.

“We are looking for a party to design, operate and maintain [the bridge]. This means commercial components will have to come with this,” said Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb this afternoon.

“That is how this will become sustainable. As you know, a bridge will not be sustainable in the Maldives if it relies solely on the traffic. So, this will come with commercial components. It will become a very big investment.”

An announcement calling for expressions of interest has been placed in the government gazette today, with offers requested for the building, maintenance and operation of the bridge linking the two largest urban areas in the Greater Male’ area.

Bids from domestic and international parties will be accepted until December 29.

Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed described the building of the bridge as a “challenge”, but said the task is one of the key pledges of the coalition government.

He wants bridge work to start as soon as possible, promising that when the concession is awarded, investors will not suffer damages, and that 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.

The country’s largest ever foreign direct investment deal – the US$500million lease to re-develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport – was unilaterally terminated by the government late last year.

Arbitration proceedings are continuing in Singapore, with Indian infrastructure giant GMR claiming US$1.4billion for “wrongful termination”.

Similarly, Malaysian firm Nexbis was given just two weeks to leave the country after the government terminated its deal to install and operate a border control system after the government suggested the MDP-brokered deal was causing “major losses” to the state.

The idea of a bridge linking connecting the islands of Male’ and Hulhumale’ – an artificially reclaimed island built to combat the rising population of Male  – was proposed during the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed in 2011.

The building of a bridge was to accompany the Veshi Fahi Male’ de-congestion programme – a flagship project of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government 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, consisting of Hulhumale’, Vili-Male’, Thilafushi industrial island and Gulhifalhu.

Following the ousting of Nasheed’s administration in February 2012, his successor President Mohamed Waheed announced it had been trying to get a US$150 million loan (MVR 2.31 billion) from Turkey’s Exim bank to fund the project.