The Maldives government has been unable to answer basic questions about a US$40 million loan, including when it was granted and if the money is in place, despite ministers announcing it a month ago.
On July 16, hours after the European Union said it was imposing sanctions on the Maldives over human rights abuses, two ministers said the country was getting a US$40 million loan from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).
There was no record of a new US$40 million loan at the time of going to press from OFID, which did not confirm or deny the funding existed.
OFID’s full response to the Maldives Independent’s questions about the ministers’ remarks can be found at the bottom of this article.
It does not say if the Maldives received a US$40 million loan for the projects mentioned by the ministers, when the Maldives last received OFID funding, what this funding was for and what communication OFID had received from the Maldives about the loan statement from the ministers.
The Maldives Independent contacted the Housing Ministry and Environment Ministry with questions about the loan, including when it was granted and why there was no information about it on the OFID website, but no answers were available at the time of going to press.
Right to Information (RTI) requests were filed on Tuesday with these ministries to ask when the US$40 million loan was approved, when it was granted, why there was nothing about the loan on the OFID website, why OFID did not deny or confirm the loan’s existence, if the loan exists or the ministers lied, and the start and finish date for the projects to be funded by this loan.
– Breaking the law –
According to the Right to Information Act the ministries have 21 days, including weekends and public holidays, to respond.
A senior project coordinator at Transparency Maldives, Ahid Rasheed, previously said there was “a general tendency to restrict information as much as possible, or make it as hard as possible for the public to access information.”
Although the Maldives RTI Act is “very progressive, the enforcement and implementation is nowhere near to the spirit of that law,” he said.
Last December five government ministries broke the law by not responding to RTI requests from the Maldives Independent, which wanted to fact-check claims made by President Abdulla Yameen.
A housing ministry media official was contacted by phone and email about the US$40 million loan, but no response was given at the time of going to press.
A media official for the environment ministry said he would be able to respond after returning from an atoll tour with Yameen on Thursday.
OFID has a US$159.6 million project portfolio in the Maldives.
There are 15 projects listed and four are ongoing: two are related to sanitation, one to regional hospital development and the fourth to the development of the Maldives’ main international airport.
The water and sanitation projects began in March 2013 and December 2014, with combined funding of more than US$73 million. The ministers said the money would be used to fund harbour construction projects but no such OFID-backed projects are ongoing.
Full OFID response:
Please kindly note that OFID does not disclose information pertaining to projects under consideration.
However, we would like to take this opportunity to mention that our organization maintains a positive relationship with the government of the Maldives.
As a result of this, nearly US$160m has been committed in public sector lending, covering different areas, ranging from water and sanitation, transportation and health, to agriculture, education and telecommunications, among others.
Funding has also supported the country’s private sector. This funding includes loans and lines of credit to the Maldives Finance Leasing Company; Wataniya Telecom Maldives and Villa Shipping and Trading Company.
Under its Trade Finance Facility, OFID has participated under the International Islamic Finance Corporation’s syndication of US$25m to assist the State Trading Organization, Maldives, in importing refined petroleum products. In addition, grant funding has provided emergency aid for tsunami victims and supported healthcare programs.
As you can see, the relationship between OFID and the Maldives involves different facilities with a variety of partners. Our organization supports developing countries across the globe and new loans and grants are continually being appraised and approved.
This process is constant and dynamic. We encourage you to seek any clarification that you may need with the government source that issued the initial statement. That way, we will avoid creating any further confusion.