Several independent institutions, including the Maldives National University (MNU), have raised concerns over cuts made by the Finance Ministry to their proposed budgets for 2012.
The program-based budget submitted by some of the institutions was revised by the Finance Ministry to maintain recurrent expenditure in line with projected income.
The Rf 14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) state budget for 2012, was submitted to parliament on November 28 by Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz. It is now being reviewed by parliament’s budget review committee headed by local business tycoon, MP Gasim Ibrahim.
The committee met with senior officials of the Local Government Authority (LGA) and the MNU this week, as well as several other institutions, during which they complained about cuts made by the Finance Ministry during the revision process prior to the submission to parliament.
MNU Chancellor Dr Musthafa Luthfy told the budget review committee that the initial budget proposed by the university was Rf191 million (US$12 million), which was reduced to Rf174 (US$11 million) on the Finance Ministry’s request.
However, according to Dr Luthfy, the ministry then cut down the university’s budget by a further by 22 percent, reducing the total budget for 2012 to Rf136 (US$9 million) – which he noted was “too small to run the university development programs planned for next year”.
He also said the university would be unable to hire qualified professors, and that new courses starting in 2012 would be negatively affected.
Local Government Authority (LGA) members said the Finance Ministry had downsized the proposed budget by 63 percent, reducing it to Rf13.8 million. Major reductions were made to the budget allocated for training and salary items.
According to the authority, the budget cuts will bring forth several problems in consolidating the decentralisation process.
Meanwhile, the budget proposed for two city Councils has also been reduced. Though a total budget of Rf295 million (US$19 million) was proposed by Male City Council, it was reduced to Rf140 million (US$9 million) and the proposed budget for Addu City Council was cut down by Rf100 million (US$6.5 million) leaving only Rf69.3 million (US$4.5 million).
Members from both City Councils have been quoted in local media as saying the cut backs would hinder city development plans and would cause the Council to fall behind in delivering services. They have asked the parliament to revive the amount.
Speaking to Minivan News, Deputy President of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Muaviz Rasheed, said that the commission needs a minimum Rf27.7 million (US$1.8 million) for 2012 to smoothly run the office, provide training and conduct investigations.
However, the Finance Ministry had allocated Rf22 million which was Rf5 million less than the proposed budget, and slashed the staff training budget to “zero”, according to Muaviz.
“We need to provide professional training to staff to develop their investigation skills. There are also ACC employees who are gaining professional education abroad who are contracted to continue work here upon their return. But with no training budget, we won’t be able to continue financing their education. It would be a great loss to the institution,” he said.
With mounting concern from several institutions about the budget cutbacks, the parliament committee is expected to revise the budget before submitting it to the floor for final vote.
Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz told Minivan News today that the ministry is currently discussing “budget concerns” and will make a formal statement on Tuesday.
During the budget introductory statement he made at the parliament, Inaz said the program-based budget was prepared with special focus on producing results and maintaining recurrent expenditure in line with income.
“The programs included in the budget are based on the Strategic Action Plan,” he explained. “Special attention has been given in the budget programs to provide adequate and quality service to the public. The government’s aim is to match up the figures in the budget with development plans and ensure that all state expenditure is made to achieve a stated target.”
Steering committees have been formed to oversee the 31 programs in the budget, Inaz continued, urging MPs to also evaluate the progress of implementation over the course of the year.