President Mohamed Nasheed promised to reduce government expenditure, primarily by reducing the civil service and increasing privatisation in the country, and several privatisation partnerships are seeing the transfer of posts from the civil service to government-owned institutions.
Many opposed to the civil servant salary cuts have speculated about the amount paid to political appointees, arguing that it is unfair to cut civil servant salaries while paying large salaries and allowances to appointees. Minivan News has obtained the figures from both sides for the sake of comparison.
The civil service VS political appointees
The Maldivian government is currently spending approximately Rf 5 billion on civil servant salaries per year, approximately 74 percent of the Rf 6.8 billion budget. There are over 29,000 civil servants in the Maldives, comprising almost 10 percent of the population.
Documents obtained by Minivan News show that comparatively the government spends approximately Rf 173 million on the salaries of 354 political appointees per year, and around Rf 75.8 million on salaries for 77 MPs each year.
Labourers earn Rf 4,100 a month with the civil service, the lowest paying job in the CSC. The lowest paying job for political appointees is that of island councillors, who make Rf 12,000 a month.
The highest paying job under the CSC is that of a professor, with earnings of Rf 25,350 a month. Excluding the president and vice president, who earn Rf 100,000 and Rf 75,000 a month respectively, cabinet ministers earn Rf 57,500 a month.
The special envoy for science and technology, for example, earns Rf 45,000 a month, while an assistant professor under the CSC makes Rf 20,920 a month.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said although political appointees get a higher salary, civil servants have better job security “since they have unlimited tenure.”
On the other hand, he said, political appointees can serve a maximum of ten years in their post, “unless they keep jumping parties,” since a government can only hold two five-year terms.
“A political appointee will fall with the government,” Zuhair added. “But a civil servant can serve for forty, fifty years.”
He said political appointees also have a more authoritative role than civil servants, justifying a higher salary: “If they are not in an authoritative role, how can they be effective?”
Zuhair said political appointees comprise less than two percent of the civil service, and they are the ones “who supervise and ensure the civil servants do their jobs.” Hence, they deserve a higher salary, he added.
Additionally, he said, not all political appointees are “appointed. Some of them are elected.”
One of President Nasheed’s campaign promises was reducing the “top-heavy” government by reducing the number of political appointees, and according to Zuhair, there are fewer political appointees under this government than the previous one.
Minivan News reported in April last year there had been 440 political appointees under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government, and at the time, there were 538 political appointees under President Nasheed’s government.
Zuhair told Minivan News today that when the civil service was created in 2007, the former government transferred many of its appointees to posts in the civil service “so in case they lost the election, they still have many people with them.”
He added the former government was “not counting right” and their numbers “weren’t technically correct,” as they had everyone, including muezzins, working for them as political appointees.
In mid-March 2010, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed requested a list of political appointees and their salaries from the Ministry of Finance, to clarify exactly how many appointees were working under the government.
Another of President Nasheed’s promises was to reduce the civil service and thus reduce government expenditure. The health sector is one of the first industries to go through this transition.
Member of the CSC, Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, said there have been many posts which have been abolished from the CSC and transferred to independent institutions, such as TV Maldives and and newly formed Maldives Health Services Corporation.
“The number of civil servants will be less now,” Fahmy said, “but the question is, how do you define public service?”