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Finance Minister, MPs spar over GMR issue

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Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer and Members of Parliament have exchanged heavy words over the Government of Maldives’ decision to terminate the lease of Velana International Airport to India’s GMR.

In 2010, under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, the airport was first put up for lease. The bid was won by a consortium between GMR Group and Malaysia Airports who provided MVR 1 billion as an upfront fee to the government for the expansion and modernization of the airport by 2014, and its operation for 25 years.

By the end of the year, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) officially handed over the aerodrome license of the airport to the newly formed GMR Malé International Airport Ltd (GMIAL). GMAIL announced that the development plans included reclaiming more land at the eastern end of the runway; where a new terminal is to be built. This terminal would consist of three separate bridged buildings. Plans for a separate cargo terminal were also announced. However, the project faced numerous delays.

In late 2012, the new government of Maldives under the administration of Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik declared that the concession agreement was void ab initio and on 27 November 2012 gave GMIAL a deadline of seven days to ‘evict the airport’. At the time the Government had reassumed control of the airport, none of the planned expansion projects had begun.

In a tweet posted late on Saturday evening, Finance Minister Ameer said the termination was ‘the biggest bar’ to development in the Maldives. In his tweet, the Minister said the Government had to pay US$ 270 million in the arbitration process, which in turn, hampered the planned projects.

If the Government had continued to work with GMR, Minister Ameer said the country would have been able to cater to 6.7 million tourists before the pandemic hit the country. He added that had the lease not been terminated, then Maldives would have seen a US$ 10 billion economy instead of a US$ 5 billion.

The then President and current Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed had also defended his administration’s decision to hand over the airport.

MP for Vilingili Constituency Ahmed Usham defended the Waheed administration’s decision to nullify the agreement. At that time, Usham was a lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office. He said the decision was one of the most critical ones taken by any administration and beneficial to all citizens.

Usham said if GMR had been allowed to continue expansion, then the opportunity to create a new terminal in the airport would have been completely shelved. Lack of a new terminal and a runway, he said, would negatively impact arrivals.

Opposition aligned MPs have also challenged Minister Ameer’s statements, adding that the issue of the airport was tied to the sovereignty of the country.

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New Japanese Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presents her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

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The new Japanese ambassador to the Maldives, Takeuchi Midori has presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at a special ceremony held earlier today at the President’s Office.

Speaking at the ceremony President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted on the Ambassador Takeuchi Midori’s predecessor Keiko Yanai’s work in enhancing bilateral relations between the two nations. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih expressed hope in continuing to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations under Ambassador Takeuchi Midori tenure.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori also spoke at the ceremony, noting that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Maldives and Japan. She expressed hope that the two nations would work together on regional and global issues.

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MMPRC & Industry Partners take part in one of the biggest Global Trade Fairs held in Spain, Fitur 2022

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/Visit Maldives) and industry partners are marketing the destination at one of the biggest global trade fairs in Spain, FITUR 2022, held in Madrid. FITUR 2022, conducted from the 19th to the 23rd of January 2022, is the global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound markets globally.

FITUR brings together travel agencies, wholesalers – tour operators, hotels & accommodation, carrier companies, leisure & culture, infrastructures, Spanish official organizations and travel media. The B2B and B2C event offer excellent business opportunities, access to qualified and relevant travel buyers, influencers, and market professionals. Over 42,000 trade visitors and more than 20,000 general public visitors are expected to attend the event, while around 2,500 journalists from 33 countries will cover the event.

The Maldives is represented at the fair by MMPRC along with 13 registered industry partners: Book Me Maldives, Intour Maldives, Lets Go Maldives, Travel Connection, Sun Ocean, Perfect Voyage, Roam Maldives, Lily Hotels, Villa Hotels & Resorts, Brennia Kottefaru, the Standard Hurawalhi Maldives, Medhufushi Island Resort and Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives.

MMPRC is participating in this global trade event to market the destination as a safe haven offering unique experiences to tourists, under MMPRC’s marketing strategy which focuses on maintaining destination momentum and increasing arrival numbers from Spain and around the globe. Through this event, we will provide the latest travel guidelines, information about the unique geographical formation of the Maldives’ scattered islands, the stringent safety measures in place in our resorts, guesthouses, liveaboards and hotels.

By the end of December 2021, Spain was the 7th top source market to the Maldives in 2021. During this period a total of 1,312,706 tourists arrived in the Maldives out of which 37,186 were from Spain. This contributes to 2.8% of the total arrival for 2021. MMPRC held several activities for the Spanish market in 2021, such as TV, social and digital media marketing campaigns, familiarization trips, and participation in FITUR 2021. More such activities will be held for this market for 2022 as well.

In 2021, MMPRC carried out over 260 different activities in 22 global markets. This includes interviews given for news, magazines and TV, marketing campaigns, webinars, familiarization trips, and participation in fairs and exhibitions. The greatest testament to the success of these activities came in December, as the Maldives secured the title of ‘World’s Leading Destination’ (among several other accolades) at the 2021 World Travel Awards, globally recognised as the hallmark of industry excellence. This is the second consecutive year that the Maldives had successfully earned this prestigious title, a shining testimony of the trust placed in the ‘magic of Maldivian hospitality’ by travelers from all over the globe.

This year also celebrates an exceptional year to visit the Maldives – the Golden Jubilee celebration of tourism in the Maldives kicked off earlier last year with plans to conduct new and exciting activities throughout the year. MMPRC has planned over 60 in-person events for the year 2022, including 11 fairs, roadshows and events scheduled for just the first quarter.

Source: http://www.visitmaldives.com

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The new Japanese Ambassador presents credentials to the President

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H.E. Takeuchi Midori, the new Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Maldives, presented her credentials to H.E. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The ceremony was held at the President’s Office this morning.

Welcoming the new Ambassador and congratulating her on her new appointment, President Solih highlighted the key role played by her predecessor, H.E. Keiko Yanai, in improving bilateral relations between the two countries. He expressed hope for continuing and further strengthening existing relations during the new Ambassador’s tenure.

Speaking at the meeting, the Ambassador highlighted that this year marks the 55th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations, expressing hope to further strengthen bilateral ties and work together on regional and global issues.

President Solih expressed his appreciation for the significant contributions made by the Japanese government across various sectors of the Maldives. The President happily noted the Japanese assistance to the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that the Covid-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan was the largest concessional loan received from Japan to combat the pandemic.

President Solih thanked the Japanese government for its ongoing development projects in the Maldives, mentioning the Sea Wall Renovation project, Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Project, and also thanked the Japanese Government for the assistance received for the development of Maldives Health Sector, Education, Sports, Agriculture and community development. He also noted the scholarship opportunities received under the Japanese Development Scholarship Programme to strengthen human resource capacity in the Maldives as some of the significant contributions.

The Ambassador expressed her desire to further address the Maldives’ developmental needs and strengthen cooperation in various sectors of the Maldives including fisheries, agriculture, environment, disaster prevention, countering Climate Change and enhancing governance. The President and the Ambassador further explored avenues for increasing cooperation between the two countries.

The Maldives and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1967.

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