The Fushidhiggaru Lagoon development project was removed from the 2024 National Budget to prioritise ongoing housing projects aimed at the greater Malé area in Hulhumalé, Gulhifalhu, and Giraavaru, as well as Public Sector Investment Programmes (PSIP) in the atolls, the Parliament Budget Committee Chair and Kinbidhoo MP Mohamed Nashiz said on Sunday.

When the state budget for 2024 was presented, MVR 400 million was allocated for the land reclamation works at Fushidiggaru Lagoon. The budget proposal, however, did not specify how the finances would be raised for the project, which is set to form the backbone of President Mohamed Muizzu’s housing policy and seen as the most significant project to be 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.

However, the Parliament’s Budget Committee on Thursday decided to remove the administration’s budget allocation and redistributed the amount among other projects.

While the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which holds a majority in the Parliament and in the Budget Committee, has been criticised for the omission, the committee chair Nashiz told local media that the MDP’s intention was to have the housing projects, initiated under the previous administration, in Hulhumalé, Giraavaru and Gulhifalhu completed before undertaking more projects in the greater Malé area.

“We had extensive discussions within the MDP parliamentary group. Especially the Malé MPs want the existing projects to be completed,” Nashiz said.

Nashiz noted that, although the committee had approved a budget of MVR 49.8 billion for 2024, Finance Minister Mohamed Shafeeq informed the parliament that projects must be prioritised based on the state’s cash flow.

Under the previous administration’s housing scheme, over 9,000 plots were allocated in the first round in Hulhumalé Phase II and Phase III, as well as in Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru. The Solih administration had handed over plots in areas that had already been reclaimed, however, for those allocated housing in Hulhumalé Phase III, Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru, where reclamation work was not yet complete, land registries were issued.

Of the MVR 400 million allocated for Fushidhiggaru Lagoon, Nashiz said, the committee earmarked MVR 200 million for the completion of work initiated in Hulhumalé, Gulhifalhu, and Giraavaru. The remaining MVR 200 million has been allocated for Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) projects in the atolls.

Budget Committee Member and MP for Maradhoo Ibrahim Shareef said that issues with the state’s cashflow had stalled multiple projects in the atolls. Therefore, the decision was taken to allocate MVR 200 million, in the form of MVR 7 million to each constituency, Shareef said, adding that doing so would reduce the developmental differences between Malé and the atolls.

“The MDP is being criticised by the enemies of the people of the atolls. Criticism for not initiating a new project in the Malé area and implementing projects in the atolls, is not acceptable, ” Shareef said.

Meanwhile, the Muizzu administration has been silent on the committee’s actions even as reclamation work on the project was planned to commence within the first 100 days of taking office.

President Muizzu had pledged to reclaim 1,200 hectares of land, with plans for the construction of over 11,900 plots and 26,000 flats at Fushidhiggaru.