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Fushidhiggaru omitted to prioritize ongoing reclamation projects

Mohamed Rehan
11 December 2023, MVT 18:22
Plots allocated from the reclaimed land of Gulhifalhu-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
11 December 2023, MVT 18:22

According to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) it removed the Fushidhiggaru lagoon reclamation project from 2024 State Budget to prioritize the ongoing reclamation projects of Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru lagoon, and the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP) initiatives in the atolls.

Both Giraavaru lagoon and Gulhifalhu are reclaimed to launch social housing initiatives on the islands. The projects were initiated during the previous government led by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The Ministry of Finance earlier proposed an allocation of MVR 400 million for Fushidhiggaru lagoon reclamation in 2024. However, the budget did not include how the government would raise or secure the funds needed for the new project.

Despite this, Fushidhiggaru lagoon reclamation, part of a 20-year development plan envisioned by President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, is one of the most important initiatives of the new government.

The initiative was also included in the roadmap of objectives for the first 100-day of President Muizzu's administration.

However, parliament's Budget Review Committee which holds MDP majority, which is also the majority party, dismissed the project on Thursday, last week.

After excluding the project, its allocation has been redistributed to other initiatives. Following the party's decision, MDP has attracted criticism as well.

During a previously held Budget Committee meeting of the Parliament-- Photo: People's Majilis

Budget Review Committee's chair and Kinbidhoo MP Mohamed Nashiz spoke with Mihaaru News on the matter, and said the party has prioritized the ongoing urban development projects of Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru lagoon along with the already launched social housing schemes.

"We held wide discussions on the matter within our MDP parliamentary group. The MPs, especially those representing Malé City, pushed for expediting the ongoing projects of Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru lagoon and issue housing and plots from them," Nashiz said.

He also highlighted the current Minister of Finance Dr. Mohamed Shafeeq had earlier emphasized the difficulty in securing funds to manage the state's cash flow.

The Budget Review Committee approved an MVR 49.8 billion state budget for next year, with the inclusion an additional MVR 306 million.

"We are not against reclamation of Fushidhiggaru lagoon, but it is important to prioritize the ongoing projects, which was coincided by [MDP members] as well," Nashiz added.

A member goes through the proposed 2024 State Budget-- Photo: People's Majilis

The previous government announced issuance of 9,001 land plots from Hulhumalé 2 and 3, Gulhifalhu, and Giraavaru lagoon, while land registries were handed over to the first batch of recipients.

Solih's administration further allotted and issued plots from the reclaimed lands as well, while land registries were given to their eligible recipients through an amendment to land regulations although the reclamation process did not conclude.

Nashiz remarked that MVR 200 million out of the allocation for Fushidhiggaru lagoon has been redirected to complete Gulhifalhu, Giraavaru lagoon, and Hulhumalé reclamation projects. The remaining MVR 200 million was added to the PSIP budget.

Budget committee member and Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef said that several initiatives across the atolls have stalled owing to cashflow restraints.

Shareef said that the MVR 200 million from the Fushidhiggaru lagoon project was redirected to PSIP, which adds an average of an additional MVR 7 million to the atolls next year, to reduce disparity between Malé region and the atolls.

"Those who are criticizing MDP for this, are in fact adversaries to the development of the atolls. We cannot accept when criticism is directed for our decision to prioritize the atolls instead of focusing a new initiative in Male' region," Shareef added.

No Comments from the Government

The reclamation of Fushidhiggaru lagoon is one of the key projects planned by President Muizzu, and also part of his 100-day objectives.

During the presidential election, Dr. Muizzu announced reclamation of 1,200 hectares in Fushidhiggaru to develop 11,900 land plots and 26,000 housing flats.

However, the government has not made any official statements about the parliament's decision to exclude the large-scale development initiative from the following year's budget, and neither has the state come forth with a decision on the project.