Climate change trust fund money not delayed, says surprised EU

The European Union has claimed that funds allocated to the Maldives by the EU for climate change adaptation earlier this month have not been delayed, following reports in newspaper Miadhu Daily.

Miadhu reported that the Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed, requested the €6.5 million from the EU directly without going through the proper channels of communication, slowing the process.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 6 April between the Maldivian government, the EU and the World Bank. The money will be allocated to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes, which are to be proposed by the government and managed by the World Bank.

Vice President Waheed said the allegations are “part of a smear campaign. It’s come after I spoke out the other day. So it has no basis whatsoever.”

Dr Waheed said the time schedule for the utilisation of the funds, which states that all projects must be submitted by 15 January 2011, shows “we are perfectly on schedule.”

He said he doesn’t “really understand where this is coming from, but I believe it’s a political stunt, played by someone in this country to basically discredit me. You can ask the EU representative in Sri Lanka.”

The Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives stated today that “the delegation is pleased to confirm that the EU has contributed EUR 6.5 million (approximately US$8.8 million) to the multi-donor Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund.”

They noted arrangements for the programme include a Climate Change Advisory Council, of which Vice President Waheed is the chair, which will “provide strategic direction to the climate change activities under the Trust Fund ensuring that activities are aligned with the government’s Strategic Action Plan and climate change priorities.”

There will also be a Technical Committee composed of technical experts of the government, private sector and leading civil society organisations. This second committee will be responsible for “reviewing and recommending technically well-sound project proposals for financing and monitoring the overall progress of the programme.”

Programme Manager for the trust fund at the EU’s High Commission to the Maldives and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Harshini Halangote, told Minivan News “we have already committed this money” and assured the trust fund has been made available to the government.

“The government is solely responsible for proposing to the World Bank on the government’s priorities,” she said, noting the money is “solely for climate change purposes.”

She said the government’s proposals will then be looked into by the World Bank and the EU for approval.

Halangote added the Vice President would “not request for it personally,” noting there is a governance structure which has been passed and looked at by the government which outlines the proper channels of communication.

“Minister of Finance Ali Hashim, who signed the MoU, is aware they do have the money,” she said.

Halangote added “the project can run as fast as they want it to,” and said there was no truth in the allegations that the funds had been delayed.

Delhi-based Environmental Specialist for the trust fund, Priti Kumar, said “there has been no delay. When the World Bank starts a long-term project like this, you can’t expect a trust fund to be allocated within 21 days [since the signing of the MoU].”

She said the EU and World Bank “want the money to be utilised in a very useful manner” which is not influenced by politics.

She noted the Climate Change Advisory Council “is working quite well” and projects are being developed already.

She added although “everything is on track,” it will take “a few months for everything to be streamlined” as the trust fund involves a large sum of money.

Deputy Minister for Environment, Dr Mohamed Shareef, said the money “is available” and the ministry has “proposed several projects.”

He said the money “had been delayed for a bit, but international bureaucracy also takes its time.”

Dr Shareef said the ministry hopes there will be some projects starting by the end of this year and said he had been told “there will be more funds available” in addition to the original €6.5 million.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Ahmed Assad, said he is “not aware of any [delays]” and has not been “informed of any issues” regarding the trust fund.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, told Minivan News yesterday that the funds had been “delayed for too long,” but today said he no longer wished to give details on the matter.


Vice President launches mLearning

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed launched Wataniya Telecom Maldives’ mobile learning service yesterday afternoon at the Holiday Inn.

The mLearning system, called Education Anywhere, is an initiative from Wataniya, Mobitel Sri Lanka and the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Colombo.The system has been successfully implemented in the University.

mLearning is an interactive tool that uses the internet to create a virtual classroom anywhere there is a Wataniya broadband connection.

Dr Waheed said the service would open more opportunities in higher education for many students who cannot afford to attend classes, or who cannot leave home for other reasons.

He added the government was looking into the possibility of introducing a similar programme for the health and education sectors.


Australia and the Maldives strengthening diplomatic relations

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed met with Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Kathy Klugman, where they discussed the challenges faced by the Maldives and ways in which Australia could assist the government.

Dr Waheed said some of the biggest challenges are employing well trained staff at drug rehabilitation centres, building safer prisons and the lack of job opportunities for Maldivian youth.

Klugman said there are different works being carried out by the Australian government in the Maldives, especially volunteer training programmes in different atolls.

She also mentioned several Australian scholarships for Maldivian students, and said these scholarships present a good opportunity for training in the area of drug rehabilitation.

The meeting took place a day after the first-ever Australian diplomatic event in the Maldives at the Holiday Inn on Sunday, where President Mohamed Nasheed thanked the Australian people and government for their assistance to the Maldives.

He also commended Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for his help in making the Copenhagen Accord a reality and for his honesty and good work as a politician.

Klugman also spoke at the function. She congratulated the government on the transition to democracy and assured further assistance from Australia to the Maldives, especially in the education sector.


Saudi Prince arrives in Maldives

Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud arrived in the Maldives on 15 April, where he was greeted at Malé International Airport by President Mohamed Nasheed, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed and a procession of traditional guards.

Meeting at the President’s Office, President Nasheed thanked Prince Al-Saud for visiting the Maldives and said the visit would enhance relations between the Maldives and Saudi Arabia.

President Nasheed said Saudi Arabia was an important development partner for the Maldives and thanked the Saudi government for all their assistance.

Prince Al-Saud thanked President Nasheed for his hospitality.


Vice President attends Hulhumalé Health Centre 6th anniversary ceremony

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed participated in the celebration of the 6th anniversary of Hulhumalé Health Centre held at Ghazee School on 9 March.

Dr Waheed spoke of the 2010 World Health Day theme, “Urbanisation and Health,” noting it is “timely and highly relevant.”

He said controlling pollution and improving sanitation go a long way to mitigating health risks, and added that community support was needed to create a healthier environment.

Vice President Waheed congratulated the staff at Hulhumalé Health Centre and spoke of improving the quality of services provided at the health centre.


Vice President launches teaching aid donation programme

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed attended the pre-inaugural ceremony of the 2010 Science Exhibition at Aminiya School.

Dr Waheed launched a teaching aid donation programme at the school which has been initiated by Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Holiday Inn Malé.

Dr Waheed said he was encouraged that the private sector took initiative to support education in the Maldives and hoped the science fair would encourage students to learn more about science.

He added that teachers should encourage inquiry-based learning in all subjects.

The 2010 Science Exhibition will be held later this year in June.


Vice President urges companies to fulfil social responsibilities

Speaking at the 15 anniversary function of Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) at the Fen Building, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed urged all business organisations in the Maldives to give special attention to fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.

Dr Waheed said, as the largest water provider in the country, the MWSC was undertaking a great responsibility.

He called on the company to fulfill its social responsibility and keep in mind the greater benefit of the people, while still working to maximise its profit.

Dr Waheed said clean drinking water and more affordable and accessible services for the less fortunate of the country should be given special consideration.

He said access to clean drinking water and adequate sewerage facilities was a Constitutional right of Maldivians, and it is the state’s responsibility to provide these services.

Dr Waheed said the MWSC had been providing clean water for half the population, and added the government established provincial utilities companies to provide for the rest of the population.

Dr Waheed also presented the company’s annual employee awards.


Vice President meets with Saudi Fund and IBD

As part of his ongoing visit to Saudi Arabia, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed met with Deputy Chairman of Saudi Fund for Development Dr Yusuf Al-Bassam on 21 March.

Dr Waheed briefed Dr Al-Bassam on the upcoming Donor Conference and asked for the participation of the Saudi Fund.

Dr Al-Bassam assured the vice president of the assistance of the Saudi Fund and added the Fund would also assist the government in its tsunami housing projects.

Dr Waheed met with the President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani at the IDB headquarters yesterday.

He then met with senior officials of the IBD Group to discuss the Donor Conference and the introduction of Islamic banking in the Maldives.

The IBD assured their participation in the Donor Conference and said they were willing to work with the government in realising its key development areas.

Vice President Waheed also visited Mecca and performed Umra.


Vice President meets Saudi Crown Prince and members of RCCI

As part of his official visit to Saudi Arabia, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed met with the Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz.

Vice President Waheed said the Maldives and Saudi Arabia had always had close bilateral ties, and they discussed ways of improving relations between the countries.

Dr Waheed briefed the Crown Prince on the upcoming Donor Conference and asked the Saudi government to participate.

The Crown Prince assured Vice President Waheed that his country would participate in the conference and would continue to assist the Maldives.

Dr Waheed then met with the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI).

The meeting was hosted by Chairman of RCCI Dr Abdulrahman bin Ali Al-Jeraisi.

Vice President Waheed briefed the RCCI on the conference and said Maldives was specifically looking for investors in the areas of housing, infrastructure, utilities and renewable energy.

Saudi Minister of State for Finance and Treasury Ahmed As-ad was also present at the meeting and said it was important to establish a trade link between the two countries.