Gov’t to Trade 12 Islands for USD 600 Million International Airport Project

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Maldivian Government and Thailand’s Pan Pacific Corp. for the construction of the Thinadhoo International Airport, a project estimated to cost USD 600 million. The private Thai company will undertake the project at its own expense.

Representing the Maldivian Government, Dr Abdulla Muththalib, Minister of Construction and Infrastructure, signed the MoU during a ceremony held at Thinadhoo School. Jirat Petnunthawong signed on behalf of Pan Pacific Corp.

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Addressing the signing ceremony, President Dr Mohamed Muizzu expressed optimism for the project’s transformative potential, predicting thousands of new jobs. However, the project’s necessity has been widely questioned. Spectators cite the proximity of the existing Kaadedhoo Airport, located a mere seven minutes away, and deem the new development an unnecessary investment.

A key aspect of the development is a land lease agreement with the Thai contractor. In exchange for the USD 600-400 million (MVR 9-6 billion) project, they will acquire 12 islands within the Gadhdhoo Atoll for resort development. The government has not yet disclosed the specific islands involved, and attempts to obtain comment from the Gadhdhoo Atoll Council have been unsuccessful.

Construction and Infrastructure Minister Dr. Abdullah Muththalib emphasized that the airport project aligns with the government’s goal of increasing tourist capacity. “A lot of beds are coming here. Resorts are coming. This contractor alone has been offered to develop 12 resorts. That’s more than 2,400 beds,” he stated.

President Muizzu envisions the project impacting the region for decades to come. “This project will hopefully be a permanent fulfillment of the hopes of the people,” he asserted.

The Thinadhoo International Airport project signals an ambitious shift in tourism development and infrastructure within the Maldives. While the economic benefits are touted, concerns linger regarding environmental impact, the questionable necessity of the project due to the existing nearby airport, and the significant exchange of islands under the lease agreement.

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