Leasing of the Malé Commercial Port to Dubai World will be an ‘economic crime’ akin to the previous leasing of the international airport to GMR, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said.

“This is a very sad story. If you have any economic or financial understanding, you will know that for a country like the Maldives surrounded by the sea, all trade goods traveling from east to west and west to east are going through two channels,” Yameen said, explaining that he had heard rumours the port would be leased to Dubai World.

“Bigger vessels won’t cross unless it’s through Maldives. Fifty to 60 percent of the world’s cargo throughput goes across Maldives. This is such a huge economic benefit,” Yameen said referring to the one and half degree channel and the waters between Maldives and India.

The former President elaborated that, during his two official visits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), his administration had received offers from Dubai World for the development of the port at Thilafushi or Malé; with a lead person from the company even visiting Malé on two occasions.

One of the reasons he was unwilling to let go of the project to Dubai World during his term was that this was something that Maldivians could accomplish themselves, he said.

“When the calculations were done, US$80 million could be used to build a container terminal in Malé,” he said.

“This is a major economic crime. It will be leased to them for 50 years, 100 years. We will not get much from that… However, if all these ships are going through Maldives, this is a gold mine,” he said.

Yamin said if Dubai World was given the port, it would not only increase the price of goods coming to Maldives, but the nation would lose control of the port for ‘ages’. “This is like selling [leasing] the airport to GMR,” he said.

Referring to the port developed by Dubai World at Cochin, Yameen said the port in Maldives would not be an international port.

“This will be a satellite of that port. An annex of that port. So they will never create a free zone like they did in Dubai, nothing like that,” he said.

“There is a free zone in Cochin. All business in this region will originate from Cochin. The reason they want to take [controlling interest in] the Maldives is that if Maldivians do this, we will be a competitor to them,” Yameen said.