President Mohamed Nasheed has signaled the government’s willingness to address opposition concerns and incorporate changes to the proposed economic reform bills currently before parliament.
Speaking to press following an official meeting with main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali at the President’s Office last night, Nasheed said that the government would consider DRP proposals after “discussions at a technical level.”
“Our wish is to find a way to enter into detailed discussions with the DRP,” he said. “I asked Thasmeen about it and he said they will give an answer after consultation with their party.”
He added that broad consensus and bipartisan support was very important before putting a taxation system in place: “In my view, all citizens and politicians in the country understand very clearly that establishing a taxation system is not going to benefit a particular government,” he said.
President Nasheed noted that the government had consulted the tourism industry and received support for the proposed reforms.
Thasmeen meanwhile told press outside the President’s Office that he conveyed concerns about the proposed growth in expenditure over the next two years as well as the impact of the personal income tax.
“We cannot accept government expenditure exceeding the current Rf13 billion [annual state budget] after levying new taxes,” he said.
The minority leader of parliament said that the party was “especially concerned” about the income tax as “all citizens would be affected.”
Speaking to Minivan News today, DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom confirmed that “a technical team” from the party will engage with the government to discuss details of the concerns expressed by Thasmeen at last night’s meeting.
“We have a parliamentary group meeting tonight to discuss what the DRP is going to propose,” he said.
The “prime focus” at the moment was the two bills completed by committee, said Mausoom, which were bills on the General Goods and Services Tax and an amendment to the Import-Export Act to excise and reduce import duties.
While final amendments to the bills are due before Tuesday, Mausoom said that the DRP would propose maintaining import duties for “watermelons, papaya, bananas and mangoes to protect local farmers” and ensure price competitiveness for local agricultural produce.
“The rest is the way the MDP wanted,” he said. “With the numbers in parliament right now, MDP can pass bills the way they want.”
President Nasheed meanwhile told press last night that Thasmeen gave assurances that he would “not play any part in bringing Majlis to a halt.”
“As you know, the government has support enough to pass the bills,” he said. “But that would not be best for both the government and the people for such a major change.”
Nasheed stressed that a comprehensive package was proposed to ensure that the new taxation system would be “well-rounded and water-tight.”
Concluding the press conference, President Nasheed praised Thasmeen for showing the “necessary principles of a statesmen.”