New Runway, Credit Line, Gan Expansion

Thursday, October 6

The new runway of the Velana International Airport was operationalised as the day’s first flight, an Emirates B777 aircraft, was welcomed with a water salute

Spanning 3,400 meters in length and 60 meters in width, the code-F runway allows VIA to accommodate A380 Aircraft and significantly increases operational capacity. 

Ahead of the tourism industry’s peak season, VIA will now be able to serve more than 20 planes an hour, up from eight at the old runway. The runway clearance time is also expected to fall from 15 minutes to less than three minutes after a flight lands. The old runway – which was built more than 60 years ago and periodically required extensive maintenance and repairs – will hereafter be used as a taxiway. 

According to VIA, the new runway “features advanced navigational technologies that will assist aircrafts in both good and adverse weather conditions.” Oil tankers will no longer be needed as fuel will be pumped from designated stations. 

Built by the Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) with Chinese loan assistance, the US$150 million runway was completed in 2018. But it could not be used for takeoff and landing as the old seaplane terminal was in closer proximity than required by international standards. The old Trans Maldivian Airways terminal was dismantled recently after a newly-built seaplane terminal partially opened in July.

Officially opened by the vice president on Thursday morning, the new seaplane terminal and dock can accommodate more than 100 seaplanes and operate 300 daily flights on average – rising to 600 during peak season – with the capacity to serve more than 6,000 tourists a day.

Also built by BUCG with 28,000 square metres of floor space, the four-storey terminal building includes offices, arrival lobbies, and 43 lounges, most of which are dedicated for resorts aside from the VIP and business lounges.

Thursday, October 6

In a bi-annual update, the World Bank projected robust GDP growth of 12.4% for 2022 driven by a strong rebound in tourism, up 4.8% from a forecast earlier in the year as the tourism industry continues to recover faster than expected. But the surge in global commodity prices has worsened the fiscal deficit and balance of payments due to higher fuel and staple food subsidies.

“The government’s proposed general GST and tourism GST rate hikes are a meaningful step towards a fiscal adjustment, but more is needed, especially on the expenditure side, including reducing the fiscal burden of state-owned enterprises and better managing the provision of several subsidised goods and services,” advised Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives.

A MVR253.9 million (US$16.4 million) project to build 200 housing units in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo was contracted to a joint venture between Sri Lankan companies Sierra Construction and Star Construction. The homes are to be completed in 540 days.

The Housing Development Corporation awarded projects to build an auto centre, workers’ accommodation, parking building and daycare centre in Hulhumalé.

Wednesday, October 5

The three-day Corporate Maldives Business Expo 2022 kicked off at the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé.

Billed as the “premier business networking and trade show” in the country, the event includes a ‘Maldives Marketeers Forum,’ a ‘Maldives Women’s Summit’ and a ‘Maldives Entrepreneurs’ Summit.’  

Wednesday, October 5

Ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the State Trading Organisation launched a special promotion for televisions and accessories until 30 November, offering 15% discounts and a free sound bar with every purchase of a 50-inch Philips LED TV.

Winners of a lucky draw will receive an  iPhone 14 Pro Max, a PS5 VR and an  MVR15,000 (US$90) gift voucher.

Tuesday, October 4

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the ultra-low-fare national airline of the UAE, commenced flights to the Maldives.

One-way fares start from US$97 with four flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Malé on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

According to the airline, the new route unlocks affordable travel options for both UAE residents and self-connecting passengers travelling from Central and Eastern Europe via the Wizz Air network.

Tuesday, October 4

A long-awaited project was tendered to develop Addu City’s Gan International Airport with an expanded terminal that could cater to 1.5 million passengers annually. The construction of roads as well as cold storage and cargo facilities are also part of the US$17 million project.

Seven companies selected in a pre- qualification process by the Indian EXIM Bank were invited to submit bids.

Modernising and expanding the capacity of the Gan airport to facilitate tourism in the southernmost atoll was a pledge of the 2018 presidential campaign.

New Maldives-based luxury airline BEOND plans to commence flights in early 2023. Following a meeting with the economic development minister, CEO Tero Taskila estimated that the new carrier will “directly create more than 200 jobs in the first year of operations.”

Monday, October 3

The Capital Market Development Authority launched a week-long campaign to mark World Investor Week.

The activities include a social media quiz with an MVR5,000 (US$324) prize, a financial literacy programme for students, and a webinar on sustainable finance.

“The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of investor education and protection,” according to the CMDA.

Monday, October 3

Sunday, October 2

Agreements were exchanged for a US$100 million line of credit extended by India “to ease and facilitate the numerous ongoing key infrastructure projects in the Maldives.”

The LoC was agreed during President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s visit to New Delhi. The additional US$100 million loan was approved to “ensure the timely completion of important projects such as the Cancer Hospital in Gan, Laamu Atoll and the expansion of Hanimaadhoo Airport.”

Other projects funded with Indian loans and grant aid include the Thilamalé bridge to connect the capital with nearby islands, the relocation of the Malé port to Gulhifalhu, and the development of airports in the north and south.

Sunday, October 2

Self-employed individuals or proprietors who lost their businesses or faced a loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic were invited to apply for grant funding or training opportunities.

The World Bank-funded ‘Covid-19 Emergency Income Support Project’ of the economic development ministry offers grants of up to MVR60,000 (US$3,890). As a condition, successful applicants must complete a training programme conducted by the ministry. Of 500 slots, 40% will be reserved for women.

Categories include home-cooking, handicraft, beauty and makeup, photography and videography, sewing or textile work, information communication technology, creative arts and music, and sports and fitness.

Applications can be submitted online through the Job Centre portal before a deadline of 31 October.

Saturday, October 1

Economic Development State Minister Neeza Imad launched the ‘Women in Sustainable Entrepreneurship (W.I.S.E)’ at Haa Dhaal Hanimaadhoo, a programme that “aims to increase the role of [Women’s Development Committees] in expanding women entrepreneurship” and “facilitate opportunities available for women entrepreneurs through the ministry and line agencies.”

The economic development ministry plans to conduct the programme in “each and every island in the coming months.”

Saturday, October 1