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'Maafaru airport will be a gift from UAE'

Farah Ahmed
25 December 2017, MVT 10:45
President Yameen during his trip to the UAE in October. PHOTO / PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
Farah Ahmed
25 December 2017, MVT 10:45

The new international airport to be developed in Maafaru in Noonu atoll is a gift from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and will signify the Maldives’ friendship with the UAE, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom revealed on Sunday.

The president made the announcement whilst speaking in Henbadhoo in Noonu atoll during his official visit to the atolls of Noonu, Baa and Lhaviyani, to mark the completion of several government-initiated development projects.

According to Yameen, the UAE had generously gifted USD 60 million to develop the airport in Maafaru, which will officially open in July 2018.

A “city hotel” will also be built alongside the airport, the president revealed.

“The airport will be a gift from [UAE] to us. It will symbolise the close friendship between their government and ours. And with the airport, a city hotel will also be built in Maafaru,” Yameen said, addressing the crowd in Henbadhoo.

“We’re hoping that an aircraft would land on this new airport before July 26,” which is the Maldives’ Independence Day.

Yameen said that talks of developing an airport in Maafaru have been going on for 10 – 12 years, and that the long wait would soon be over. He indicated that a harbour would also be built and completed on the island by the time the airport opens.

“When the international airport becomes operational in Noonu atoll next year, the people of this atoll will be able to reap the benefits of our flourishing tourism industry,” Yameen said.

The government had initially handed over the development of the airport to ‘Hameed Ismail’s Millennium Capitals’; however, the agreement was terminated and the project was handed to Dhaalu Meedhoo MP and government coalition partner Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA)’s leader Ahmed Siyam’s ‘Sun Siyam Resorts’.

The government, in March, signed the agreement with Siyam’s company to build a hotel, a runway and to develop a resort after reclaiming the area near the proposed airport, under a public-private partnership.

When Mihaaru contacted Minister of Tourism Moosa Zameer for the specifics of the airport deal, he said that the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development made the donation for the construction of the airport, and that the estimated cost of the project, with the city hotel, is USD 60 million.

He also said that the Abu Dhabi Fund will be responsible for handing over the project to a developer.

“As far as I’m aware, the bid evaluation is also complete now. What’s left is the official awarding procedure,” Minister Zameer said.

He also revealed that the agreement made with ‘Sun Siyam Resorts’ has since been terminated since a “better development opportunity came, with the amiable efforts of President Yameen.”

“There was nothing wrong with the agreement,” Zameer assured. “But since the development of the airport is being supported by foreign aid, both parties decided to terminate the agreement.”

Detailing the features of the new airport, the tourism minister said that the state-of-the-art Maafaru airport will have a two-kilometre runway and will accommodate private jets.

Zameer told Mihaaru that the president has plans to develop many high-end luxurious hotels in Noonu atoll and that a hotel is being built alongside the airport to bring these plans to life.

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