President Abdulla Yameen was lying when he said there was a government-led development project on every island, a Maldives Independent fact-checking exercise has revealed.
He made the claim while on a campaign trip last month on August 8, telling people: “There is not a single island that does not have a development project. For every project done by the previous government, this government has done six more projects.”
He has made development the cornerstone of his re-election campaign, bragging about the amount of money spent on infrastructure since he took office.
His office has also publicised his achievements with a list of projects, their location and status.
But a Maldives Independent investigation shows there are dozens of islands where projects are not finished, there are delays in the work, the project does not exist, the project was completed under a previous government, there are issues with the project or the council does not use the service.
The Maldives Independent contacted 107 out of more than 180 island councils. There are 20 projects that do not exist, 51 projects with delays, 35 projects where work had stopped at the time of going to press, 41 projects with reported problems and five projects that were completed under another government. Three councils refused to give information.
Alif Alif Thoddoo’s futsal field should have taken three months from start to finish, but work stopped in early 2018. The council asked the contractor about the delay and was told it was because the materials could not be brought to the island.
The council has asked the Youth and Sports Ministry how the materials will be delivered to the island, but there has been no response.
Waste management centres on several islands are said to be complete, according to the Ravvehi website promoting Yameen’s project achievements, but the machinery needed for waste disposal has either not been provided or is now damaged.
Councillors get no response from ministries when they report issues about projects that have been completed.
Shaviyani Milandhoo’s council president told the Maldives Independent: “The school building is only there for show.” He reported water leaks in the school toilets, with flooding in classrooms and labs. The council has informed the housing and education ministries about these issues, but they have not responded.
“Teachers are afraid to speak out because they’re afraid to lose their jobs,” he added.
Yameen also stated the reason projects were costly was that they were being finished to meet deadlines.
However island councillors say that some of the projects have been delayed, or work has stopped, due to payment issues.
The council president of Haa Alif Muraidhoo said a school project – to build two classrooms and a science lab – has been ongoing for two years. The project should have been completed in a six-month period.
When the council spoke to the ministry and contractors it was informed there were payment issues.
– No bashi please –
Projects completed under previous administrations have also been listed as having been done under Yameen’s government.
These include the 167 houses that were damaged in the 2004 tsunami that were rebuilt and repaired, a project that began under Mohamed Nasheed and was finished under his replacement.
The project was complete when Yameen took office. “It cannot be said that this was finished in Yameen’s administration,” said a member of Kolhufushi council.
Some projects said to be ongoing or complete according to the Ravvehi website have not even started.
A council member from Kaafu Huraa explained that, in the five years of Yameen’s administration, there have been no development projects on the island.
“We used to be a majority-PPM island but now there is no support from us. Development projects on Huraa were done by the council. Now they are talking about starting a land reclamation project to gain support, but this is being done for political reasons.”
Councillors have also questioned what the government means by “development projects.”
A health centre restoration project on Vaavu Thinadhoo is said to be complete but a council member told the Maldives Independent that this has not been done and all the government has done is put up a signboard.
“If this is what development is then it’s something they’ve done but, in Yameen’s administration, there have been no development projects on this island.”
“The citizens don’t want bashi (a traditional Maldivian sport played exclusively by women) and volley courts,” said another council member.
Bashi courts are the most common projects on the list.
The Maldives Independent contacted the President’s Office to ask about island development but there was no comment at the time of going to press.