Majlis budget “doesn’t add up” says president

President Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the budget passed by parliament, claiming that it contains “some recommendations that will be difficult for me to follow.”

The 2010 mid-term budget was passed by the Majlis last week, after recommendations totalling Rf800 million (US$62 million) were added following a parliamentary committee review. These included restoring civil servant salaries and subsidies for sectors ranging form fishing to agriculture and private media.

“When I looked at the recommendations, I saw that most of them were, in my view, for us to do things right,” Nasheed said, “[but] it has to be kept in mind that the budget is made up of numbers; it is a mathematical transaction. If things are to be done for political reasons, the numbers won’t add up.”

“I would like to assure the Majlis members and the people that the implementation of the budget will be based on what they said,” he said, but added that some of the recommendations “might be in violation of laws… and the government cannot implement them.”

The President’s remarks were met with outrage from members of the Majlis, who have interpreted his comments as an attempt to undermine parliament’s role in the governance of the country.

“Neither the president nor the finance ministry has the discretion to implement the budget contrary to what was passed by the People’s Majlis,” said a statement from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), highlighting article 96(b) of the Maldives constitution.

That article reads: “The People’s Majlis may approve or amend the budget submitted by the Minister of Finance as it deems fit.”

The DQP accused the president of disregarding the constitution, claiming his remarks were “something only a dictator would say” and that he was “unable to digest a democratic system with separation of powers.”

“The people’s representatives will decide how the people’s money will be spent. After the people’s representatives make a decision, the president does not have the discretion to implement the budget any other way,” the party said.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP for Vilumaafannu, Ahmed Nihan, insisted that parliament had worked within the law when making ammendments to the budget.

“The constitution clearly gives us the right to make amendments [to the budget],” he said. “We made those amendments, including subsidies for fishermen, agriculture and a little amount independent media. The president doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Nihan accused Nasheed of “playing hide-and-seek with democracy”.

“I’m sure he’s lying. We’ve worked within the law,” he said, when asked if any of the recommendations would prove unconstitutional.

Asked where the additional Rf800 million would come from, Nihan replied “taxation”, observing that “after Copenhagen [Nasheed] said all the finances we need have been arranged with overseas parties.”

During his homecoming press conference, the president joked that “the bulk” of $30 billion in short-term aid promised by the developed world at the UN’s Climate Change Convention in Copenhagen would be given to the Maldives.

“I can say now with confidence that we will provide water, sanitation, electricity and build harbours in all islands,” he promised. “God willing, we will not face difficulties with money now.”