Business Politics

Minister defends price tag of Chinese-funded bridge

The opposition has long criticised the cost of the current administration’s administration’s flagship projects as wildly inflated, alleging graft and misuse of public funds.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has defended the price tag of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge following comparisons to Dubai’s US$107.3 million Shindagha Bridge project.

The opposition has long criticised the cost of the current administration’s flagship projects as wildly inflated, alleging graft and misuse of public funds.

“While Dubai’s 13km Shindagha Corridor costs $1.36 billion, the Shindagha Bridge part of the project is 295m, and this 295m costs US$107 million,” the housing and infrastructure minister tweeted Thursday.

“The length of CMFB is 1.39km and the cost is $198 million. Of this $113mln is a a free aid.”

Aside from the grant aid, the project is funded with a US$71 million loan from the Chinese EXIM Bank and US$12 million from the Maldives state budget, Muizz said.

The government hopes to open the bridge before presidential elections in September. Muizz said last week that installation of all bridge deck beams from the airport island’s side has been completed.

The connection of the Malé side approach bridge deck to the main pier will be completed by the end of May, he said.

The contractor enlisted for the bridge project, CCCC Second Harbour Engineering, was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices during a road improvement project in the Philippines.

The bidding process was conducted by the Chinese government.

On Thursday, the Malé Water and Sewerage Company signed a contract with China Harbour Engineering Company for the installation of a water pipeline and fibre optic cable through the CMFB.

The project is expected to be completed by September 2018.

Both the opposition and international financial institutions have warned that the Maldives is accumulating dangerous levels of debt to finance an unprecedented infrastructure scale-up, which includes the expansion of the Velana International Airport and the country’s first overwater bridge to connect the capital with a new urban centre under development in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed artificial island.

Earlier this month, the central bank’s governor reiterated concern over depleted foreign currency reserves as a study from a US think-tank found that Chinese lending was putting the Maldives at risk of debt distress.

In December 2016, the Anti-Corruption Commission ruled out wrongdoing after allegations of inflated costs for a 25-storey hospital tower built in Malé. The US$140 million project was awarded to Singapore’s Chang Hua without an open bidding process in March 2015.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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