A state budget of Rf14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) for 2012 was passed by parliament today with Rf3.5 million (US$226,977) added through amendments proposed by opposition MPs.
The budget was approved with 70 votes in favour, two against and one abstention.
Among the amendments passed today included proposals by the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to shift Rf300 million (US$19 million) from other items to local councils, increase funds for political parties from Rf11 million (US$713,000) to Rf14.5 million (US$940,337) and raise state benefits to the elderly from Rf2,000 (US$130) to Rf2,300 (US$148) to adjust for inflation.
The additional spending on political parties was proposed by Kelaa MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom in reference to the regulation on political parties, which stipulates that 0.01 percent of the state budget must be allocated for party finance.
An amendment proposed by Fares-Maathoda MP Ibrahim Muttalib to prevent privatisation of the Maldives Post Limited (MPL), State Electricity Company (STELCO), Island Aviation and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) was passed after Speaker Abdulla Shahid cast the tie-breaking vote.
Of the five public companies proposed by the government, Muttalib’s amendment stated that the government could privatise only Maldives In-flight Catering (MIC).
A total of Rf750 million (US$49 million) was projected as revenue from privatising the state-owned enterprises.
Seven amendments proposed yesterday by Jumhooree Party Leader and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim to scrap the privatisation plans on the grounds that it violated the Public Finance Act were not put for a vote after parliament’s newly-appointed Counselor-General Fathmath Filza advised that the government’s proposals were not unlawful.
Other amendments included proposals for the Ministry of Finance to provide detailed information of development programmes including selected islands, funding plans and schedules before next year’s budget debate commences.
Meanwhile over 50 new development projects were added by the budget committee, which also increased funding for independent institutions by Rf192 million (US$12.4 million) and included Rf100 million (US$6 million) as fisheries subsidies.