The new government, under President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, says it remains committed to proceeding with the Fushidhiggaru Lagoon reclamation project, part of an extensive housing policy initiative, despite facing substantial economic challenges. Housing Minister Dr Ali Haidar Ahmed confirmed this at a meeting of the Parliament Committee on National Development and Heritage on Monday.

Kelaa MP Ibrahim Shareef raised concerns about the financial feasibility of such a large-scale dredging operation, especially given the current budget constraints. There are fears that the Maldives could face a financial crisis similar to Sri Lanka’s, but the government assures that funding for the project, which includes a substantial MVR 1.4 billion allocation over three years, will be secured through various means, including potential foreign aid.

Despite uncertainty over the project’s total cost and financing plan, Minister Haidar emphasised the long-term vision of the Fushidhiggaru development. This project, slated to be developed over 20 years, aims to provide housing solutions for the growing population in the Malé area. The plan includes the construction of 31,500 housing units, a yacht marina, cruise terminal, two islands for guesthouses and tourism, and a dedicated area for business and sports.

The World Bank has recently advised the Maldives to manage state expenditure cautiously in light of high debt levels. However, Minister Haidar stated that the funding could be arranged from the budget and secured through other means, including reallocating funds from other government projects or foreign grant aid.

The land use plan for Fushidhiggaru has been drawn up, but the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is still ongoing. According to Maldivian law, this assessment must be completed before approving a land use plan. President Muizzu, in his inaugural address, asserted that most documentation for the Fushidhiggaru project is complete and envisaged new modern cities emerging from the country’s lagoons.

The Fushidhiggaru project is a critical component of President Muizzu’s electoral pledge and represents a significant step in addressing the housing needs in the Maldives. However, the project’s implementation amidst economic difficulties and funding uncertainties has drawn criticism.