The Finance Ministry has unveiled a state budget of Rf12.37 billion (US$962.6 million) for 2011 with a target of reducing the deficit to 15.3 percent of GDP in the coming year, down from 26.25 percent in 2009.
The Fiscal and Economic Outlook 2009 to 2013 published alongside the budget on the Ministry’s website this week states that the main objective of the government’s fiscal policy is to bring expenditure in line with revenue and maintain the deficit within a sustainable range.
The Finance Ministry reveals that while capital investment amounts to 21 percent of the budget, 49 percent of expenditure in 2011 will be on salaries and allowances for government employees.
“If the cost of health insurance to employees is included, half of the state budget is spent on employees,” reads the budget summary.
Foreign loan assistance along with Rf1.4 million (US$108,949) in income from privatisation and Rf1.3 million (US$101,167) expected from the sale of treasury bills was proposed to plug the budget deficit.
In November, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delayed its third disbursement under a US$92.5 million program pending the approval by parliament of significant austerity measures in the budget.
In its Country Report for the Maldives published in June, the IMF warned that as a result of the failure to enforce pay cuts and the injection of an additional US$62.2 million in spending by parliament, “the annual deficit targets for 2010 and 2011 will be missed on current policies.”
An internal World Bank report produced for the donor conference in May identified dramatic growth in the public sector wage bill as the source of the ballooning budget deficit.
A 66 percent increase to salaries and allowances for government employees between 2006 and 2008 was “by far the highest increase in compensation over a three year period to government employees of any country in the world,” the report noted.
The deficit in 2010 is now expected to be at 16.4 percent of GDP, above forecasts of 14.8 percent in the 2010 budget.
While the economy grew by 4.8 percent in 2010 after a 2.3 percent contraction in 2009, nominal GDP, which accounts for a 5.5 percent inflation rate, grew by 12.2 percent this year.
Revenue and expenditure
Government income fell by 23 percent in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, which saw tourist arrivals decline by 4 percent and revenue from import duties down by 25 percent over the previous year.
Offering resorts under development that were facing difficulties with financing an additional year to pay rent contributed to the decline in government income, resulting in a 36 percent decrease in revenue from resort rent in 2009.
While Rf6.8 billion (US$529 million) in revenue in 2010 was forecast at the end of last year, current estimates place the figure at Rf6 billion (US$467 million) – an 11 percent shortfall the Finance Ministry attributes to parliament’s failure to pass legislation on corporate profit taxation as well as delays in implementing a goods and services tax (GST).
Moreover, as only three out of 13 resorts expected to open in 2010 began operations this year, estimates of Rf1.7 billion (US$132 million) in revenue have been lowered to Rf1.1 billion (US$85 million).
However, income from state-owned enterprises is now expected to be higher than originally forecast at over Rf1 billion (US$77.8 million) by the end of the year.
Revenue in 2011 is projected to be Rf8.7 billion (US$677 million), a 44 percent increase from 2010 expected to be driven by the introduction on business profit taxes, GST and extension of resort leases.
Income from taxation is projected to account for 59 percent of government income in 2011, with Rf612.5 million expected from business profit taxes.
The Finance Ministry notes that delays in passing taxation legislation is “the biggest obstacle” to continued assistance from international agencies.
The seven-year trend of decline in fisheries is expected to continue in 2011, with the industry expected to have contracted by 5.8 percent by the end of 2010.
After a 29 percent decrease in the construction industry in 2009, the industry is expected to have registered growth of 2.6 percent in 2010.
With nine new resorts under development next year, the industry is projected to grow by 9.7 percent in 2011.
A strong rebound by the tourism industry – which accounts for 27 percent of GDP – saw revenue in 2010 14 percent higher than projected in 2009.
While tourist arrivals increased by 13 percent in the first nine months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, arrivals are expected to have increased 20 percent by the end of the year.
Moreover, a 70 percent decline in occupancy in 2009 was followed by a 74 percent increase in 2010 – with 131,107 more visitors than 2009 recorded in 2010.
Nominal GDP per capita in 2010 is calculated to be at US$4,628 and is projected to climb to US$5,114 in 2011.