The million dollar question: will the bridge help Maldives president secure a second term?

  • The bridge is to be opened tonight, but will be opened to the public on September 7
  • It is one of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen's pledges during the 2013 presidential elections
  • Maldives' national debt is expected to reach over MVR 50 billion by the end of the year

K. Male' | Aishath Shaany | 30-August-2018 | Thursday 13:11 | Shaaknee | Report | 2,422

Sinamalé Bridge -- Photo by: Housing Ministry

Tonight, is the night.

A historic moment for the Maldives, with the opening of the country's first-ever bridge.

And what a beautiful bridge it is; with beautiful arches, overseeing the deep blue sea and during the day time you may even see surfers enjoying the waves as you travel.

If that is not a poster for 'sunny side of Maldives' slogan, what is?

This bridge was one of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen's pledges during the 2013 presidential elections, and one of the few that he has followed through in his five-year term which ends in November 2018.

It is also one of the many accomplishments he would not have, if not for then tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb who later became his deputy. All before he was arrested for allegedly planning to assassinate the man on top.

It does not matter who launched the project- or that it was awarded to a company with a dodgy past and blacklisted by the World Bank- what matters is that Yameen's administration did it.

But the million-dollar question is, will this bridge cancel out the various criminal allegations against the incumbent president, securing him a win in September's polls?

Sinamalé Bridge

While the biggest corruption scam in the country was seen during this administration, they seem to have closed off the case by putting all the blame solely on former VP Adeeb, despite the president at one point basically admitting to having let Adeeb run the country. Remember when he came out and said he had not been receiving the police reports for months and that they had gone to Adeeb?

Those little facts do not matter, not according to the president. He recently said that there are no issues with stealing 'in advance'. A comment, just like many other, needed to be clarified by a party official. According to the clarification, what the president meant was that he 'wants' to develop the country's islands even by getting the funds in advance. Whatever that means.

Development. That is one thing the incumbent president has brought, no doubt. Especially in capital Malé and its suburban district Hulhumalé.  

His vision has always been to move 70 percent of the country's population to the capital, which was one of the main purposes of the huge reclamations projects carried out in Hulhumalé. And with the new bridge, it makes traveling between Malé and Hulhumalé easier and more efficient.

And now that the opening is here, members of the ruling party can do nothing but boast about their visionary leader. President Yameen himself has said that he was ridiculed for even talking about building a bridge between Malé and Hulhulé.

Some individuals had even begun believing this, but of course leave up to former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, described as a traitor from both sides at one point or the other, remind the people of the truth.

Via a Facebook post on Thursday, Waheed, vice president during former President Mohamed Nasheed's administration- an individual who has not had a nice thing to say about Nasheed since taking over after the alleged coup- thanked Nasheed 'for the original vision' of the bridge. He then proceeded to list out his contributions to the bridge work, revealing that three governments have had a hand in the project and ensuring he gets the credits he 'deserves'.

Waheed Hassan/ Facebook

According to the president's office, Nasheed's administration had given the go-ahead to proceed with bridge construction in December 2011, with an estimated total cost between USD 70 million to 100 million. His administration was toppled in February 2012. This has since been deleted from the president's office website.

Post on President's Office which has since bee deleted
 

However, Yameen's administration used nearly USD 200 million to complete the project, which led to more corruption allegations. He has responded to these allegations as well, saying that he has had to use more funds to complete the project at a faster pace. In other words, during his tenure.

So, President Yameen has been spending double and triple the amount required for the various development projects so as to complete them fast. Sure, and with these expensive projects, Maldives' national debt is expected to reach over MVR 50 billion by the end of the year.

And who is going to end up taking the brunt for this? The people, of course.

And Maldivians are aware of this. Which is probably why, despite half of the bridge work being completed by May 2017, the opposition ended up winning majority in the 2017 local council elections.



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