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Giving 12 islands in exchange for airport development only proposed, not confirmed

Malika Shahid
21 February 2024, MVT 15:46
Malika Shahid
21 February 2024, MVT 15:46

Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Dr. Abdulla Muththalib said that the government has not yet agreed to the contractor's proposal of 12 islands in exchange for the development of an international airport in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll Thinadhoo.

The contractor also proposed to develop the airport under contractor financing and give them 50 years to operate the airport.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, who is on a two-day visit to Huvadhoo atoll, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Thailand's Pan Pacific Company Limited to develop an international airport on the island in a ceremony held in Thinadhoo last night.

At the signing of the agreement to build an international airport in Thinadhoo.

On behalf of the government, Minister Muththalib signed the agreement worth approximately USD 600 million. The agreement was signed by CEO Jirat Petnunthawong on behalf of Pan Pacific Company.

During the ceremony, Minister Muththalib revealed that the Maldives' government will not be spending on this airport project, and that all costs will be borne by the investor. In return, the company has proposed to develop 12 resorts.

However, some media reported that the airport is being developed in exchange for the contractor also investing in the development of 12 resorts comprising of 2,400 beds.

Minister Muththalib said that only the MoU for the airport development was signed last night. He added that no additional agreements were made.

GDH. Thinadhoo International Airport drawings

"Instead of giving 12 islands, the government signed an MOU with them to go into contractor negotiations. When they sign, there will be agreements. The proposal at the moment is to create 2,400 beds in 12 islands and make the airport feasible," Muththalib said.

"No decision has been made to give anything. We went to an understanding because their initial proposal is attractive to us. It's done within the law and regulations," he said.

He said that if islands are given for the development of resorts, it will be done in a way that the state obtains taxes and rent. The next step will be to decide on how to value the acquisition cost while giving them in terms of cross-subsidy.

Minister Muththalib noted that although the atoll had three airports currently, only three resorts were located in it. This includes 522 beds. Guesthouses in the atoll total at 8, offering 116 beds. Meanwhile, the atoll has 133 uninhabited islands, he said.