At a press conference held today, President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih expressed his disappointment over the inability to complete the Thila-Male bridge project during his term in office. This comes as the first press conference after President Solih's loss in the recent presidential election held on 30th September 2023.
The Thila-Male Bridge project, envisioned to bolster connectivity between the capital Male' City and nearby islands of Villimale, Thilafushi, and Gulhifalhu, remains a testimony to the ambitious infrastructural agenda of Solih’s administration. The project, funded by a hefty $400 million loan from India, was contracted to Afcons Infrastructure, an Indian company, to oversee its development.
However, the progress has been excruciatingly slow, with only the first phase connecting Male and Villimale being in a tangible state. “I regret that the bridge project could not be completed as per the schedule. If it went as planned, it could have benefitted us positively in the elections,” lamented President Solih, who secured 47% of the votes against Dr. Muizzu who garnered a winning 54%.
The president attributed the delay to various technical hitches that plagued the project. Skepticism surrounds Afcons Infrastructure's capability, as it has no prior experience in developing sea-cross bridges on such a grand scale. These suspicions were prevalent even before the commencement of the project, raising questions on the adeptness in project execution and choice of contractor.
The Thila-Male Bridge was touted to be a game-changer for the local economy and ease of transportation between the interconnected islands. Its incompletion now casts a long shadow over the outgoing president's legacy, who’s administration has been criticized for its inability to deliver projects as promised. The reflection of this dissatisfaction was palpably seen in the election results.
Moreover, the lingering concerns over the country’s ability to repay the massive loan amidst an array of incomplete projects add to the burden of incoming leadership, while also leaving the populace in anticipation of how the new government will navigate these challenges.
This scenario opens a discourse on the accountability and strategic planning necessary for undertaking projects of such magnitude, which not only have a financial implication but a lasting impact on the political narrative as well.