Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam declared on Monday, that although it would take eight more months to complete the flats being developed under the 'Hiyaa Project', the government will begin issuing the recipients' list by the end of July.
Responding to public criticism over the delays in handing over the 7,000 flats constructed in the second phase of reclaimed suburb Hulhumale', Aslam asserted, during a press conference, that the government was "not stuck" on the project.
Attributing the project's four months delay to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the minister stated that talks between the current administration and the contractor revealed that, at the earliest, a further eight months would be needed to completely wrap-up development.
Initially, the administration of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, which spearheaded the Hiyaa Project, had contracted China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) to finish development by December 2019. The then-government planned to distribute the Hiyaa apartments without the finishing works, and had publicised the list of flat recipients.
However, the current administration announced after being elected that it would take a loan to complete the finishing works prior to handover. Despite the decision and various deadlines offered since, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih most recently declared that the government would revert to the original plan in order to prevent further delays.
During the press conference, Minister Aslam stated that even without the finishing works, the work would still span over eight months, as power and water supply are yet to be installed in the flats.
He highlighted that it would take seven or eight months for State Electric Company (STELCO) and Male' Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) to permanently provide electricity, and water and sewerage services to Hulhumale's second phase.
"Thus, tenants can only begin living in these flats eights months later", he said.
The minister's remarks come after HDC's recent statement that the flats would be ready by the end of 2020.
In addition to the controversy over the finishing works, the Hiyaa handover was further delayed following allegations of corruption and unjust distribution by the previous administration, which prompted the present government to form a committee to probe the issue.
In response to questions regarding the committee's delay, Minister Aslam disclosed that the committee was making a separate evaluation of the 25,000 application forms submitted for the Hiyaa flats, which was unrelated to the list of recipients publicised by the previous government.
According to the minister, the committee has completed 21,000 form evaluations and visited 40 percent of the applicants to assess their current living situations.
He declared that the committee will complete assessment of the remaining 60 percent and begin issuing the list of recipients by the end of this month.
"The committee has informed that it will begin announcing the categories separately by the end of July. The full list of 6,720 eligible recipients in all the categories will be announced by September", he said.
The Hiyaa Project comprised the development of 7,000 flats, in the form of 16 towers of 25-storeys each, in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale's second phase. It was undertaken with a USD 437 million loan from the EXIM bank of China along with a sovereign guarantee from the government, at an interest of six percent. A period of five years to repay 15 percent of the loan, and 15 years to settle the remaining amount was granted to the Maldivian government.
HDC estimated that a minimum of five individuals would reside in each flat, amounting to 100 people on a single floor, 2,400 in every building and total 38,400 in all 16 towers.
The Hiyaa project had drawn harsh criticism from the present administration, which was the main opposition during Yameen's tenure, over the project's costs, design, and move towards further centralisation of the Maldivian population.