The Airport Development Project in the Maldives has become a protracted narrative, extending back to 2016. Despite the repeated assurances from successive presidents to deliver a definitive resolution to the congestion issues plaguing one of the world's premier destinations, the project, now entering its seventh year, continues to evade its much-anticipated completion.
Formally entrusted to the Saudi Bin Laden Group in 2016, with a financial commitment of MVR 5.3 billion, the project aimed to revolutionize the Maldivian airport landscape by introducing a new terminal equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. This ambitious vision encompassed the creation of 40 departure gates, 38 immigration counters, and aero bridges, all geared towards addressing the challenges faced by travelers grappling with the cramped confines of the airport, especially during peak holiday seasons when congestion reaches its peak.
The initial signs of tangible progress emerged in 2022, offering a glimpse of the project's potential realization. However, recent revelations following an inspection visit by President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu cast a shadow over the optimistic outlook, exposing substantial hurdles that threaten to impede the project's timely conclusion.
Dr. Muizzu, during his inspection, pinpointed critical tasks that demand immediate attention to adhere to the project's scheduled completion in mid-2025. Foremost among these concerns is the service road, a vital link connecting various new facilities, which has not been formally handed over to the Bin Laden Group. Dr. Muizzu underscored the urgency of this step, emphasizing that the development of the service road alone could consume up to 10 months, highlighting its pivotal role in adhering to the project timeline.
In addition to the service road, Dr. Muizzu shed light on an oversight in the project scope regarding the duty-free area within the international terminal. This essential component, fundamental to the seamless functioning of the airport, was conspicuously absent from the initial handover to the Bin Laden Group or any other parties involved. Dr. Muizzu stressed the critical importance of rectifying this omission to ensure the comprehensive completion of the development project.
Moreover, the inspection brought to light unresolved details concerning the width of the airport apron, further underscoring the necessity for meticulous planning to perfect the project.
In response to these formidable challenges, President-elect Dr. Muizzu conveyed a resolute commitment to invest additional effort in expediting the project's completion. While the Saudi Government had previously allocated USD 100 million, a substantial contribution, Dr Muizzu stated that Abu Dhabi has agreed to fund USD 80 million from the Abu Dhabi Development Fund towards the completion of the airport development project, as discussed during Dr. Muizzu's recent visit to the country.