The amendment to the foreign direct investment policy to allow 100 percent foreign-owned companies to manage air transport services in Maldives has been republished on the Gazette, after specifying it does not cover air traffic control and other critical services.
The initial amendment, published on the Gazette by Economic Ministry last Sunday, stated 100 percent foreign-owned companies can invest in providing air transport services in Maldives, except for freight services. It also stated 100 percent foreign-owned companies can invest in operation and management of airports (including terminal facilities), airport and air traffic control activities, and ground service activities on airfields.
The amendment sparked immediate controversy, with critics arguing allowing foreign-owned companies power over air traffic control and ground services pose a national security threat.
In response to the criticism, Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail hosted a press conference on Monday, at which he said that foreign companies will not be allowed to provide air transport services provided by the government such as immigration services, customs services and air traffic control services.
He said that the controversy stemmed from the wording of the amendment, and promised to revise the amendment “to remove any misunderstandings”.
The second amendment, published on the Gazette on Tuesday night, states that foreign companies may provide air transport services related to airport management except for services required from the government by law, customs services, immigration services, air traffic control services, and aviation security services.
Fayyaz has said that the government has no plans of privatizing any government-operated airport.
He said that the opportunity to operate airports has been open for 100 percent foreign-owned companies back during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration, and that it was the current administration with amended the foreign direct investment policy to reduce the share to 75 percent.
He said that the foreign direct investment policy was reverted back following requests by some investors to allow 100 percent foreign-owned companies to operate airports, as the government seeks investors for several planned airport development projects.