Sports development tango

While infrastructure and resources are indeed needed, and welcomed, the where and the when also needs serious consideration.

Source - Ahmed Mahloof via Twitter

Source - Ahmed Mahloof via Twitter

India’s Line of Credit (LOC) of USD1.4 billion is a loan that the government can allocate capital for different projects as they please, with proper approval from the Indian government. This includes major infrastructure projects such as the new bridge and more. Sports is a separate component that is also being covered under the LOC, and to this effect, the most recent announcement of the rebuilding of the National Football Stadium in Malé deserves mention.

The stadium has been allocated a grand total of MVR55 million in terms of the budget, which is to be spent over this year and the next. The building project is estimated to cost MVR45.5 million, with the remaining MVR10 million allocated for the following year without much description on public record. 

However, the public has questioned the wisdom of this move, as they have been questioning the Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Ahmed Mahloof over his very expensive forays in sports development over his tenure. Majeedhee Magu, the main road in Malé that splits the island into two from east to west, is already a very crowded and severely congested road, a summary of the situation all across the island. By developing a world class stadium at the spot where the current stadium stands only exacerbates the congestion issue, and internet opinion has not been kind.

In addition, it is particularly worrying that the government does not stand united on this project either. The safety of the project has been questioned by the Planning Ministry, yet the intention still remains that construction may as well begin later this year.

The general trend of thought suggest developing the national stadium in another atoll, as part of the decentralisation promise of the Solih Administration. By doing so, it would free up that space for more community positive infrastructure, such as a park or other, less invasive concept. The ‘Community Empowerment’ component has been oddly remiss in Mahloof’s football-oriented grandstanding, and this could be an opportunity to remedy that opinion.

Finally, the Indian government’s multiple joint-projects with the Maldivian administration have the chance to quite markedly improve the Maldivian situation in terms of healthcare, infrastructure, and more, but there also needs to be more transparency in these projects as well. A project is as good as the outcome, and there must be enough financial and human resources to meet the demands of running all the projects efficiently and positively. 

There is also the gnawing apprehension that if the Solih Administration gets replaced by an opposition party, such projects might lay derelict as each administration has been showing the tendency of always beginning new projects than to ensure the upkeep of the old. This has been one of the more detrimental side effects of the political system in the Maldives, but it does not need to be true all the time. 

When focusing on the sports field however, football gets a distorted, often unjustifiable levels of attention and funding in the Maldives. For a Minister such as Mahloof who takes pride in the multitudes of futsal courts all across the country, community empowerment does not warrant the support it actually deserves from community centric activities and projects. Neither does it occur that there are multitudes of other sports and skills that deserve training opportunities as well as the chance to compete on international stages, at least not as much as the public would want the government to be vigilant about it.

All in all, India's High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) projects as well as the assistance in sports development are all quite positive developments, and there remains much hope that the positive impact would spread across the nation. India has been making a push to showcase their pledges of developing the Maldives, and will continue to should diplomatic ties remain stable. In the meantime, while the Maldivian government holds all the reins of project selections, development, tendering, and the execution of such projects — all of which is overdue for a priorities reevaluation in accordance with the needs and current, and future, requirements of the voting public.

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