National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam on Sunday defended the current administration’s pace of work in the face of criticism over the slow rollout of development projects.
Briefing the press at the president’s office, Aslam blamed the budget prepared by the previous administration during the transition period before President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office in November. Insufficient funds were allocated for some infrastructure projects, he contended.
“Funds for new development projects will be included in next year’s budget when this government proposes budget for the first time. The development projects included in this year’s budget will continue uninterrupted,” he said.
Work is underway on 36 projects at a cost of MVR1.1 billion (US$71 million), he noted, including the construction of harbours and roads as well as water and sewerage projects.
Aslam said the new government plans to divide the country into five primary regions and nine sub-regions in order to ensure that public services are not concentrated in the overcrowded capital Malé. Each region will have one island hub that would serve the surrounding region.
“We also identified five clusters of islands that have to be developed separately,” he added.
“All primary regions will be developed with international airports. The policy of this government is that every island should be within 20 minutes of an airport.”
The lack of public transport has been identified as one of the main development challenges, he noted. A key aim is to connect the country via a nationwide “maritime transport network.”
Work is ongoing on a national development masterplan, he continued, assuring a consultative process to make changes after it is made public within a month. The plan will include sources of funding and timelines for project completion, he said.
“The government wants to completely finish the master plan’s foundation work before the end of [the five-year presidential term] to the extent that the plan cannot be changed even if the government changes,” he said.