Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maldives borrows US$30mn from HSBC

The Maldivian government has secured a 30 million dollar commercial loan from the global banking giant HSBC to rebuild harbours, a senior minister said Tuesday.

The money will be used to repair jetties damaged by the December 2004 tsunami that cost the atoll nation nearly two thirds of gross domestic product (GDP), Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim said.

The tsunami damaged 20 islands -- a 10th of the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives. Almost a third of the country's 369,000 Sunni Muslims were also directly affected by the destructive waves.

"We got about 400 million dollars in international aid, but we are still short of about 70 to 80 million dollars to complete projects related to fishing and transport," Ibrahim told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.

Maldives imports virtually everything ranging from oil to timber and Ibrahim said the post-tsunami phase is facing cost overruns.

The eight-year loan from HSBC carries an interest rate of 2.25 percent over the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, he said.

In 2002, the government borrowed 10 million dollars from HSBC to finance the nation's second international airport on Gan island, which opens in November.

Meanwhile, Maldives has appointed international credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's, to rate its credit worthiness.

A sovereign, or country rating serves as an indication of a nation's ability to repay its debt and is a key requirement to raise money from the international capital markets.

Maldives has never defaulted on debt and the country enjoys the region's highest per capita income of 2,674 dollars.

About 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a string of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator. Eighty-nine coral islands have been developed as exclusive tourist resorts.

Source: LBO

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