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China funds renovation of Maldives foreign ministry



A project was launched on Monday to renovate the foreign ministry office building in Malé with grant aid from China.

Exchange of letters for the renovation project took place in December last year, a month after the new administration took office.

“Through this renovation work, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes to find a solution to its space shortage, and be better able to serve the people of the Maldives,” the foreign ministry said at the time.

Located in the capital’s northern waterfront, the office complex with its distinctive curved roofs was built 14 years ago.

The cost of the renovation project was not disclosed.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid praised Sino-Maldives ties and backed the “mutually beneficial” partnership to continue under the present administration.

The current administration came to power after criticising the mounting debt owed to China for financing the large-scale infrastructure projects under former president Abdulla Yameen and had quickly moved to repair relations with India. But Shahid said the Maldivian people were “deeply appreciative” of key developmental projects financed by China such as the expansion of the international airport and the construction of a bridge to connect the capital with the airport island.

Shahid’s assurances that China will remain “an important economic and bilateral development partner” also came after a Twitter spat between Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Chinese ambassador Zhang Lizhong about the scale of the debt owed to China.

An agreement was meanwhile signed last week between the Maldives health ministry and China’s National Health Commission to  establish a collaborative ophthalmology centre at the hospital in the capital’s suburb Hulhumalé.

“The agreement aims to improve the ophthalmologic department at Hulhumale’ Hospital and develop it for minor and major surgeries to be carried out,” the health ministry explained.

“Chinese and Maldivian ophthalmologists will provide their services at Hulhumale’ hospital. Furthermore, regular capacity building programmes will be carried out for Maldivian doctors and nurses in Hulhumalé Hospital and Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center in China.”

Eye camps with Chinese assistance were also conducted in 2015 and 2017, during which more than 1,000 people were screened and 186 cataract surgeries were carried out. Medical equipment worth MVR9.2 million was donated to Maldives after the camps.