Government terminates Tatva waste management deal

The government has decided to terminate the agreement made with India–based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in the capital Malé and nearby areas.

A company source said that the cabinet’s Economic Council informed them last month, citing unfavorable relations with the city council and the government’s preference for a state-owned service.

Speaking to Haveeru today, Economic Council Co-Chair and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb confirmed the move to terminate the contract.

“The current government is looking to completely solve the waste management problem in the next two years. The previous government talked a lot about environmental issues but there was no actual work done to solve the issues,” said Adeeb.

The termination marks the latest in a number of terminated or renegotiated contracts signed under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, while current President Abdulla Yameen continues moves to improve the country’s investment climate.

City Mayor Mohamed Shihab informed Minivan News that Malé City Council had not been consulted over the decision despite being one of the parties involved in the project.

“The city council will continue on its waste management operations like it has been so far. The work so far has been done by MCC and not Tatva and this will not lead to any differences in the short run, however we would need to start looking into long term alternatives again,” said Shihab.

The council – dominated by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – has this year introduced trash cans and fines for littering. Persistent conflicts with the central government, however, have continued.

The agreement with Tatva was presented as a solution to the capital’s ever-pressing waste management issues, with formal plans to generate power by recycling the waste and improving existing waste management systems.

However, the agreement faced delays following the fall of the MDP government in 2012, with renegotiations initiated as the new government of Dr Mohamed Waheed sought more “mutually beneficial” terms.

Mayor Shihab told Minivan News in May that the latest delay to the project involved the failure of the finance ministry to fund the repair of equipment required as part of the deal.

Investor Confidence

Similar problems have beset other Indian investors in recent years, with a US$190 million housing project in Malé by India’s TATA group delayed for more than two years pending renegotiation of the original terms agreed with Nasheed’s MDP government.

Shortly after the project stalled in 2012, officials from Apex Realty reportedly told Indian media of fears that local politics were derailing their investments in the Maldives.

Negotiations were concluded last month and the project resumed, with the Indian High Commission in Malé confirming that the deal now had “firm assurances from both Government of Maldives and TATA Housing”.

The most prominent Indian project curtailed by the change in government was the US$511 million lease to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, terminated in November 2012 after the contract was declared void by Waheed’s cabinet.

After GMR challenged the legality of the move in a Singapore court of arbitration, the contract was deemed “valid and binding”, leaving the Government of Maldives liable for damages. Though the figure owed is yet to be determined by the court, it is expected to be considerably less than the US$1.4 billion claimed by GMR.

A 2012 report in India’s Business Standard brought forward concerns by Indian companies operating in the Maldives over political interference which they companies claimed is derailing their substantial investments in the country.

Since assuming the presidency in November 2013, Abdulla Yameen made the introduction of special economic zones the flagship of his legislative agenda, passing the SEZ Act in August.

With a minimum investment of US$150 million required for any investment projects in the special economic zones, Adeeb – also chairman of the SEZ investment board – has suggested that just one of the government’s proposed mega-projects could diversify the Maldives’ tourism-reliant economy.

While no major deals have yet been signed, a team of Chinese surveyors are expected in the country this week to carry out a survey for Malé-Hulhulé bridge – a project mooted by successive administrations.


Indian high commission welcomes renegotiation of TATA housing deal

The Indian High Commission has welcomed the successful renegotiation of the TATA Housing development project in Malé.

“The positive developments in the TATA Housing project would definitely encourage more such investments from Indian businesses into Maldives,” read a press release from the Indian High Commission today.

Work on residential apartments will now resume on the Gaakoshi and Arabiyya sites, after a two year delay as the government sought to renegotiate the original terms of the contract.

“Government of Maldives has also given a commitment to transfer back the two sites – Naadhee  and Odean, which were taken back by Government for specific purposes, and provide other timely clearances to the company,” the statement continued

The initial agreement was signed in May 2010 between the government of Mohamed Nasheed and Apex Realty Pvt Ltd – a joint venture between TATA Housing Development and SG 18 Realty.

Work commenced on the premises, but was later halted due to pending resolution of numerous contractual issues.

“Despite a two-year delay, due to certain external and unavoidable circumstances resulting in hugely enhanced cost implications, M/s Apex Realty, where Tata Housing is a majority shareholder, is committed to deliver the residential apartments to the people and government of Maldives.”

The addendum agreement was signed today between TATA Housing Managing Director and CEO Mr Brotin Banerjee and the Maldives Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

Shortly after the project stalled in 2012, officials from Apex Realty reportedly told Indian media of fears that local politics were derailing their investments in the Maldives.

“The agreement has firm assurances from both Government of Maldives and TATA Housing,” read today’s high commission statement.

Relations between the Maldives and India cooled following the premature termination of the GMR airport development deal – also signed under the Nasheed government – in late 2012.

After being reviewed in a Singapore court of arbitration, the GMR deal was recently ruled to have been legal and binding, leaving the Government of Maldives liable for damages incurred by the Indian company.

Since assuming the presidency in November 2013, President Abdulla Yameen has sought to improve investor relations, expressing his hope that Indian companies continue to invest in the Maldives.

The current government’s controversial flagship legislation – the recently passed Special Economic Zones Act – is intended to attract further foreign investment.


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.


Tata reaffirms commitment to stalled Maldives housing projects

Indian-based corporate giant Tata has said it has no intention of offloading its stake in a Maldivian joint venture overseeing several housing projects in Male’, despite local media speculation that land set aside for the company had  been sold off.

Tata this week confirmed to Minivan News that it remained invested in Apex Realty PVT Ltd, a Maldives joint venture established under the previous government between itself and developers SG18.

Tata Housing Development Spokesperson Vikram Kharvi added that the company was not considering selling its stake in the project, despite construction work having stalled on several commercial residential projects it was developing through the joint venture.

Kharvi confirmed that negotiations were ongoing with the government at present to resolve certain issues concerning the stalled developments on land provided to the company under its joint venture agreement.

He declined to clarify the exact nature of issues that had stalled the projects at time of press, forwarding specific questions on the matter to Sandeep Ahuja, Tata Housing Development’s Senior Vice President .

Minivan News was awaiting response from Ahuja at time of press.

Deputy Minister of Housing Abdulla Mutthalib confirmed to local media this week that the projects being overseen by Apex Realty had stalled due to what he said were a shortage of funds and construction materials.

Mutthalib expressed hope that the stalled projects could still be completed by year end.

“There are some constraints as they are also using subcontractors. The earlier deadlines given by the government have passed. Shortage of funds and construction material have brought both the projects to a complete standstill,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Local media also noted speculation that plots of land originally promised to Tata for its residential projects had since been purchased by local developers.

Contacted by Minivan News, Mutthalib declined to comment, adding that only Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz was able to provide information to the press.

Dr Muiz was not responding to calls at time of press.

“Political interference”

In November last year, Tata was among a number of Indian companies reported to have expressed concerns over  political interference threatening their investments.

Officials involved in the Apex Realty housing development project told Indian media in November 2012 that the government was attempting to take over a site in Male’ given to the company, with the intention of building a new Supreme Court.

The current Supreme Court building was formerly the palace of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, but became the court under his successor Mohamed Nasheed, who opted for the less ostentatious official residence of Muleaage.

A source involved in the Tata deal confirmed to Minivan News that the government had offered land on the island of Hulhumale’ to Tata as an alternative to the agreed site in Male’. However, the same source said the developers felt the change would affect the financing of the project.

The claims were made just weeks before the present government declared a concession agreement signed with infrastructure group GMR to manage and develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) “void” – terminating outright the country’s single largest foreign investment project. GMR were then given seven days to leave the country.

Tata, one of India’s most powerful corporate entities, announced its entry into the Maldives housing sector in 2011 as part of a multi-million dollar cooperation agreement with the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed to build residential and resort properties.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported at the time that the Maldives government-commissioned programme, valued at an estimated US$190 million, required Tata to develop around 350 residential flats and a number of island villa properties that would be sold both to the state and on the open market.


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.


Government has caused “irreparable damage” to investment climate: MDP

“The MDP is extremely worried about the deteriorating environment for investors and strongly condemns the continued threats posed by Dr Waheed’s administration to foreign investors,” read a press statement released by the party today.

The party’s spokesman, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, stated that public-private partnerships (PPP) initiated under the MDP government have been suspended “in the interest of preserving the status and wealth of few local wealthy businessmen.”

The current government announced the suspension of any new PPP projects shortly after assuming power. The Minister of Economic Development, Ahmed Mohamed, whose department handles foreign investment in the Maldives, was not responding at the time of press. President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was also not responding.

The MDP statement specifically mentions three projects which have encountered difficulties, claiming that they have been intentionally hindered by the current government, “causing irreparable damage to the foreign investment climate of Maldives.”

The World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Report’ shows that the Maldives has dropped one place in its overall list during the last twelve months, falling to 79th out of 183 countries ranked. In terms of protecting investors, the Maldives dropped five places in this year’s list.

Former Energy Advisor to President Nasheed Mike Mason told Minivan News in June that, before Nasheed’s controversial resignation, the World Bank had given verbal approval to a plan which would have brought an immediate US$200million of renewable energy investment to the country.

The resulting political instability caused the plan, which had been intended to wean the country off its dependency on oil imports, suspended indefinitely as potential investors backed away.

Meanwhile, proposed austerity measures sent to Parliament by the Finance Ministry last week include a three percent increase in oil import duty.

One of the most high profile foreign investments in the Maldives is the GMR-MAHB project to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA). This US$400 million deal for the upgrade and management of the airport represents the country’s biggest ever private investment contract.

The deal has foundered on a dispute over the implementation of an Airport Development Charge (ADC) of $25 per passenger which was agreed as part of the initial contract. This charge was opposed by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), now a member of the coalition government, whilst in opposition. The party last year successfully sued for the blocking of the ADC, claiming that it represented an unauthorised tax.

The case led to an arrangement with the Mohamed Nasheed administration whereby the ADC money would be deducted from the concession fee payable to the government. The subsequent shortfall in funding for the project has seen the government’s anticipated US$14.3million in fees replaced this quarter with a bill from GMR for US$1.5million.

A number of pro-government parties, including the DQP, have renewed calls for the re-nationalisation of the airport. The dispute has now been referred to a court of arbitration in Singapore.

All three projects mentioned in today’s press release involve partnerships with Indian firms, the other two being a social housing development project with the TATA group, and a solid waste management project in Thilafushi with environmental engineering company UPL.

During President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s official state visit to India in May, he confirmed that all contracts with Indian investors would be honoured and was keen to discuss further Indian investment projects in the Maldives.

The MDP statement noted that its PPP projects would have generated revenue over MVR23.1billion (US$1.5billion) for the country.

The Finance Ministry’s austerity measures are an attempt to reduce this year’s budget deficit, which is forecast to reach MVR9.1billion (US$590million).


Tata announces government link-up for residential developments

India-based construction giant Tata Housing Development has announced a multi-million dollar cooperation agreement with the Maldives government to construct residential and resort properties in the country.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reports that as part of a Maldives government-commissioned programme valued at an estimated US$190million, Tata will develope around 350 residential flats and a number of island villa properties that will be sold both to the state and on the open market.

Tata estimates that about 80 per cent of the flat developments from the project would be sold to the Maldivian government, with the remaining properties sold privately in the country. No plans were mentioned for the proposed island villas.

Tata Housing Managing Director and Chief Executive Brotin Banerjee has told media that the project is expected to be completed within two to three years, with work carried out by a company called Apex Realty, part of the SG18 Developers group.