The People’s Majlis budget committee has passed the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015 and recommended a constitutional amendment to reduce the number of independent institutions.
The proposal by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed said that bringing the state’s independent institutions under one body would reduce government expenditure.
The committee did not make any changes to the budget.
The 11 recommendations also included a proposal by Rasheed to amend the Decentralisation Act to reduce the number of local councils and cut salaries of all councilors except the council’s president. All councillors except the council president would be paid an allowance based on their attendance at council meetings.
MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the PPM’s ally Jumhooree Party (JP) did not vote for the two recommendations.
During former President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure, the PPM leadership – formerly of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – rejected the MDP’s proposal for councilors to be established in only seven provinces.
DRP MPs at the time insisted on establishing a council in all inhabited islands and an atoll council for each of the 20 atolls.
As per DRP amendments, islands with a population less than 3000 now have five paid councilors, islands with a population between 3000 and 10,000 have seven paid councilors, and islands with a population over 10,000 have nine councilors.
Meanwhile, atolls which consist of two parliamentary constituencies elect three members from each constituency while atolls which have more than three Majlis constituencies elect two members from each constituency. Each Majlis constituency consists of 5000 people.
MDP MPs had walked out in protest from the Majlis sitting, claiming the DRP amendments would create “20 mini governments” and create an enormous financial burden on the state.
The budget committee today also passed a proposal by Rasheed requiring the government to formulate a master plan for population consolidation.
A proposal by the MDP to conduct all government trainings through the Maldives National University was also passed.
The committee also voted in favor of MDP MP Mohamed Aslam’s proposal requiring the government to commence work on establishing a development bank, get back money owed to the government, and to decrease the number of expatriate workers in the tourism sector by increasing the stake of Maldivians.
The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)’s recommendation to establish a low interest loan scheme for housing and boat building, and the Jumhooree Party (JP) recommendation requiring the government to prioritise projects on constitutionally mandated services also passed.
The MDP had proposed establishing a pay commission to set state wage policy by the end of 2015 and providing a grace period of two to three years for new taxes, but the PPM dominated committee rejected these proposals.
The committee also rejected MDP proposals requiring deference to the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Public Finance Act in budget implementation.
The budget will now be forwarded to the Majlis floor for final review.
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