The government’s recent decision to award significant development projects to China CAMC Engineering Company Limited (CAMCE), amidst allegations of corruption and international blacklisting, has sparked concern and scrutiny. The contract includes upgrading Kadhdhoo Airport to international standards and establishing an integrated maritime hub in the protected area of Gaadhoo in Laamu atoll.

Details about these projects remain scant, following a pattern observed with other major initiatives under President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s administration. During the contract signing ceremonies, a presentation by Maldives Ports Limited (MPL), shed light on the maritime hub, though the airport project plan was notably absent.

CAMCE, despite being praised by MPL CEO Mohamed Wajeeh Ibrahim for its extensive experience and capabilities, is currently blacklisted by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) due to serious integrity violations. The company’s involvement in corruption and bribery has been documented across Asia and South America, casting a shadow over its operations and business practices.

The awarding of such critical infrastructure projects to CAMCE raises questions about the Maldivian government’s due diligence and commitment to integrity. Notably, the financing details for the Kadhdhoo airport project remain undisclosed, and the duration and cost are yet to be clarified.

Internationally, CAMCE’s past projects have encountered numerous issues. In Nepal, the company faced criticism for the subpar execution of Pokhara airport, which was financed by China’s Exim Bank. Despite initial high costs and subsequent reductions following political pressure, the project has been marred by allegations of poor quality and inadequate oversight. Nepal’s Anti-Corruption Commission has opened investigations into the project following damaging reports on its execution and quality.

Similar controversies have followed CAMCE’s projects in other countries like Sri Lanka and Bolivia, where allegations of corruption and bribery have led to legal actions and severe criticism. In Bolivia, the involvement of former president Evo Morales’s ex-girlfriend, a senior official at CAMCE, in securing contracts through bribes, has particularly highlighted the company’s questionable methods.

The decision by the Maldives to engage with CAMCE for such significant projects not only jeopardises the potential benefits of these developments but also exposes the country to financial and reputational risks. With global watchdogs and financial institutions distancing themselves from CAMCE, the implications for the Maldives could extend beyond immediate project concerns, potentially affecting its international standing and financial stability.