Saudi Arabia pledged to provide US$50 million for a military housing project during an official visit to the kingdom this week by Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar.
According to the Maldives National Defence Force, the grant aid was pledged during Shareef’s meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman al-Saud.
Shareef returned to the Maldives last night after attending the closing ceremony of the “Northern Thunder” military exercises conducted by a Saudi-led Islamic alliance formed to combat terrorism organisations. The Maldives is among 34 mainly Muslim nations that joined the coalition in December.
Shareef also met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz as well as the leaders of Muslim nations who attended the ceremony.
A housing project to build 600 flats in the capital’s suburb Hulhumalé for soldiers and police officers was announced in 2013 by the administration of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
Jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO), the MNDF cooperative SIFCO, and Noomadi Company, construction work began in late 2014.
While the 300 police officers and 300 soldiers who were awarded the apartments have been paying monthly down-payments since late 2013, the housing units are yet to be completed.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a new park in Malé last night, President Abdulla Yameen said that the flats will be completed in the next 12 months.
Since assuming office in November 2013, Yameen’s administration has fostered closer ties with Saudi Arabia and China, seeking financial assistance and investments for infrastructure development.
In September last year, the Saudi Arabian Fund for Development granted a US$80 million loan to finance development projects in Hulhumalé.
In addition to a US$20 million grant for budget support in May, the Saudi Arabian government had also provided US$1 million as grant aid to finance the feasibility study for a transhipment port in the Maldives’ northernmost atoll.
Yameen has visited Saudi Arabia thrice while then-Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud visited the Maldives in February 2014.
Saudi Arabia and Maldives also penned an agreement hailed as a “religious bridge” to maintain religious unity in late 2015. Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad said at the time that the Saudis will help maintain the Maldives’ 100 percent Muslim status.