The MVR 400 million allocated for the reclamation of the Fushidhiggaru Lagoon was omitted from the 2024 National Budget, which the Parliament budget committee approved on Thursday.

The committee voted on a motion to remove the allocation, which was backed by a majority of the members present during Thursday’s meeting.

The project was to form the backbone of President Mohamed Muizzu’s housing policy while also being set to be the most significant project undertaken by his administration.

The project, as it was originally budgeted and planned, was to have been allocated MVR 1.4 billion, over the next three years, for the reclamation and related works.

The budgeted allocations, which was planned to be implemented under the Ministry of Housing, Land and Urban Development, would have been spread out as MVR 400 million in 2024, MVR 600 million in 2025 and MVR 350 million in 2026, with the project set to begin within the administration’s first 100 days in office.

The funds for the project had been spread over various budget items while MVR 10 million had been allocated for the legal efforts to reclaim the part of the Maldive’s ocean territory that had been allegedly “ceded” to Mauritius in the delimitation of the maritime borders between the Maldives and Mauritius by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The work to appeal the ITLOS decision is also set to begin within the first 100 days of Muizzu’s presidency.

In April 2023, the ITLOS decided on the delimitation of the disputed waters between the Maldives and Mauritius, based on the principle of equidistance, which considers the distance from each country’s coastline in allocating territory. It is a pledge of the Muizzu administration to propose a review of the ITLOS decision.