The recent developments surrounding the Ras Malé land reclamation project, the flagship initiative of the current government, have ignited widespread controversy and debate regarding transparency, governance standards, and alleged hypocrisy in the government’s approach to awarding contracts.

At the heart of the controversy is the contract awarded to Sri Lanka’s Capital Marine and Civil Construction Company (CMC) for the dredging of the Fushidhiggaru lagoon and the development of Ras Male. Critically, the contract was granted without a competitive bidding process, a decision that has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters. 

This criticism is particularly potent given the current government’s previous condemnation of the former administration for similar practices involving the same company, particularly in the context of the Hulhumalé reclamation project.

Urbanco, spearheading the project, has defended the decision. Managing Director Ibrahim Fazul Rasheed emphasised the uniqueness of the opportunity presented by the CMC’s proposal, asserting that such an offer would not have surfaced through an international tender process. 

Fazul highlighted the advantageous financial aspects of the deal, including the promise of 65,000 housing units without immediate financial burden on the government. However, these claims do not fully address the concerns raised about the transparency of the process and the potential for conflicts of interest.

Adding to the complexity is the financial arrangement of the deal. CMC is to receive 70 hectares of land for a long-term lease as compensation for the reclamation work. This exchange, while seemingly beneficial in terms of immediate cash flow impact, raises questions about the long-term economic implications and the valuation of the land involved.

The project is already under scrutiny by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and there are unresolved questions about the funding, which lacks parliamentary approval. These issues contribute to a perception of inadequate adherence to good governance standards, potentially undermining public trust in government actions.

The Ras Malé project, presented as a solution to the housing crisis in the Maldivian capital, is now mired in controversy, raising critical questions about governance, transparency, and the equitable management of national resources.