Maavashu MP Mohamed Saeed speaks during a parliamentary session. Photo/Majlis

Thilamale bridge won't be built; will be biggest disaster: Saeed

Indian newspapers and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Shapoorji Pallonji Group is selling some businesses, including Afcons, to manage debts.

13 April 2023

By Ahmed Mizyal

Former economic minister Mohamed Saeed said on Wednesday that the Thilamale bridge will not be built and this will be the biggest disaster for Maldivians in recent times.

Saeed's comments came in the wake of Indian parent company's decision to sell its subsidiary Afcons Infrastructure Limited, which had been contracted to develop the Greater Male Connectivity Bridge.

At Wednesday's parliament sitting, Saeed pointed out that something very dangerous is going on. He said there have been reports in the local press that the Indian company, which was awarded the major project to build the Thilamale bridge, has gone bankrupt.

"Afcons is bankrupt and their assets are being sold at throwaway prices, at auctions," Saeed said.

"I call on the government of Maldives and all those responsible for the state's finances not to release any funds to Afcons."

Expressing concern over the issue, Saeed said the Thilamale bridge would not be constructed and Afcons did not even have the technology to do so.

"At the same time, the biggest problem faced by the people in the recent history of the country is that the construction of this bridge has not been completed. This is a much more serious issue than the GMR case," Saeed said.

The development of Velana International Airport was awarded to India's GMR company in 2010 during former President Mohamed Nasheed's tenure.

Nasheed's government collapsed and then Vice President Mohamed Waheed took over and in July 2012 the GMR deal was scrapped. President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's government, which came to power in 2013, immediately awarded GMR USD 271 million in compensation as was set by Singapore arbitration. GMR went to arbitration to raise the figure to USD 1.2 billion.

Indian newspapers and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Shapoorji Pallonji Group is selling some businesses, including Afcons, to raise USD 2.5 billion and use it to reduce the group's debt and fund other projects.

Afcons have been using the huge loans given to Maldives by India to carry out large-scale projects. These include:

  • Thilamale Bridge, one of the biggest projects undertaken by the current government. It is part of a MVR 8.2 billion loan from Exim Bank of India

  • Addu Road Construction Project; it is a MVR 1.1 billion project

Following the decision to sell Afcons, Saeed also urged the finance ministry not to release any dues to the company.

"What I am saying is that the Finance Ministry should not release the funds due to Afcons. And to start the process of cancelling the bridge contract with immediate effect," Saeed said.