Male: With its 500 million-dollar airport development project here becoming a target of political football, Indian infrastructure major GMR has said it is flexible about discussing with the Maldives government all the issues within the framework of the concession agreement.
The project, inked between GMR and former President Mohammed Nasheed's government to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, is facing protests from political groups here who term this agreement as "illegal" alleging that it was signed despite objections from the Parliament.
Even current President Waheed Hassan has termed the agreement a "bad contract" signed "conceivably under dubious conditions" by previous government.
However, Nasheed and GMR both refute these allegations.
The political parties, which formed the government after the ouster of Nasheed in February this year, are demanding scrapping of the present agreement.
Reacting to ongoing protests against its project, a senior official of GMR here said the group was "flexible to sit down and look at any issues within the framework of the concession agreement. Within that we can be flexible."
"We remain flexible within the framework of concession agreement...If they want to scrap the agreement, (in that case) we are finished. We have already invested more than 200 million dollars. Our banks are watching. It is impossible for us to scrap and sit back," the official said.
When asked what are the points which can be discussed under the agreement framework, he said Maldivian government's demand to build an additional airstrip, giving businesses to locals among other things can be discussed.
Meanwhile, India has asked the Maldives government to ensure safety and security of its nationals in Maldives and "Indian interests" in that country in view of ongoing anti-India demonstrations here. It has also sent a senior official here to convey it to the Maldives government.
The GMR official said the company was not looking at anything particular and the only request is to stay within the concession agreement framework.
He also claimed that the company has gone much beyond the scope of agreement to give businesses to local community and to develop the airport.
"If it is true that they are looking for further investments from us for the runway-the emergency run away. We can sit down what it would cost, how they can repay. We can find the common way forward, amicable way forward, how to construct, when to construct," he said.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, says that none of the strategic assets, including the main airport, should be given to "outsiders" while maintaining that investments are welcome in other areas.
"Although we welcome foreign investment and we believe in outsourcing private-public projects. We believe that strategic assets like airport should not be leased to outsiders," Umar Naseer, PPM Vice President said.
He said GMR was warned before entering the agreement that the proposal did not have the support of majority in the Parliament and they should not sign it. "It was an illegal agreement," he said.
These views are strongly refuted by Maldivian Democratic Party which says their leader Nasheed wanted to bring in investments and generate taxes which could be used for welfare measure for public.
"GMR was one of the companies. This proposal has come from IFC under World Bank which found it to be the best company for the project. The issue is some of the business people want to run this airport," he said.
First Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012, 14:16