Thursday 9th Dec 2021
Dhivehi Edition
News Reports Sports Business

Minister of Finance Ameer Defends Privatisation of Velana Int'l Airport

Minister of Finance, Ibrahim Ameer, has posted a statement defending the Nasheed administration's decision to hand over of Velana International Airport to the GMR Group, an Indian conglomerate. Minister Ameer's statements come at a point when the current government has left the airport's 3.4km runway, developed in 2018 by the Yameen administration, in disuse for more than three years.
In the tweet posted last night, Minister Ameer claimed that getting the Airport back from the GMR Group was the "greatest obstacle" to the nation's propgress; and that it was the greatest economic crime that occurred in the country.
Minister Ameer had said that taking the aiport back from GMR was the single biggest obstacle to the country's progress, and that it was the greatest economic crime committed in the country. Minister Ameer had claimed that the government had had to pay USD$ 270 million to GMR to get the aiport back, and that the government had to take on the burden of developing the aiport itself by taking on a USD$1 billion loan. The weight of the massive loan prevented the government from including essential costs in the National Budget.
Minister Ameer claimed that had GMR still had the aiport, the work would of developing the airport that is still ongoing would have ended in 2014 and the Maldives would have had received 6.7 million more tourists before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister Ameer further complained about the lost job opportunities, and shared his speculation that had GMR had the opportunity to finish developing the airport by 2014: the Maldives would have become a USD$ 10 billion economy.
Minister Ameer's comments have garnered much controversy; the latter months of the short-lived Nasheed administration had seen several protests due to the government's policy of privatisation.
Despite Minister Ameer's optimistic claims, GMR had not planned to build the 3.4km runway that had been opened in 2018. Likewise, the GMR management had not begun work on developing the airport's infrastructure when the airport was handed back to the Maldivian government. Former management-level employees of Velana International Airport opined that "no major project" would have been completed by GMR by 2014.
The airport, under the Yameen administration, was developed with the construction of a new 3.4km runway; launched with the landing of an A380 in the Maldives for the first time; and a sea-plane terminal.
The 3.4km runway has not been used during the Solih administration, and much of the work that had begun in the previous administration has slowed down and and is running behind schedule.