After demolishing its old building in Malé and clearing out the site, the finance ministry has changed the location of its new 25-storey office complex from the capital to its suburb Hulhumalé.
The last minute change of plans was based on the advice of the authorities and technical experts, Ahmed Aiman, the ministry’s media official, told the Maldives Independent.
“The location is the only thing being changed, everything else remains the same including the design,” he said, adding that Malé’s “hectic environment” and the need to manage a large number of workers were among the reasons for the change.
“Also because of the narrow roads, traffic, congestion and schools being nearby we thought Hulhumalé is a better choice.”
In one of the largest property deals signed by the government, a US$122 million project for the office tower was awarded to Malaysia’s WZR Group on March 1.
The 25-storey glass and steel structure would be the largest office building in the Maldives. It would also house shops, offices, parking lots, a restaurant and a corporate lounge on the rooftop.
The building is estimated to be completed in 36 months.
Former Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said at the time that building will result in substantial savings for the government as a sizeable portion of the state budget is allocated for paying rent for office space.
“The amount of money received as income from the building will be used to pay the contractor,” Jihad said.
The WZR Group, which is financing the project, would be paid back over 23 years to reduce the burden on the state budget, he added.
The change of plans has meanwhile drawn criticism from opposition figures.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, MP Fayyaz Ismail of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party called the decision “ludicrous” and questioned the government’s intent.
“Questions arise when it comes to the amount spent for the project too. I think it can be done with one-third of the amount,” he said.
“There is no issue with government offices being at Hulhumalé if it is more ideal in terms of space. However, sound policies cannot be just changed overnight. Either there is a planned intention or these are not sound policies.”
According to the government, the building will be part of the second phase of the Hulhumalé urban development project. Some 240 hectares of land were reclaimed under phase two in early 2015, adding to the 188 hectares reclaimed in 2002.
Developing a ‘Youth City’ in the reclaimed artificial island is a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, whose administration plans to relocate and settle 70 percent of the Maldives’ 338,000-strong population in Hulhumalé.