The 2011 State Budget to be deliberated by parliament next week will target more funds for island development, provide soft loans for small business and encourage private sector job growth, President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday in his weekly radio address.
A shift from line-item to programme budgeting makes next year’s budget “very different from previous years” as it will direct more resources to islands for managing development programmes.
The budget for individual islands “will be much higher than it was in the past”, Nasheed explained, as the government anticipated “the work of ministries will be reduced and especially, when atoll councils and island councils start functioning, the government believes it will have, that it should have, responsibilities to carry out.”
While the budget includes a programme to offer government guarantees on soft loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, he added, economic policies will aim to spur job growth by strengthening the private sector.
“For example, the transport network – 300 new jobs have been created within that system,” he said, reiterating the government’s policy of pursuing public-private partnerships.
Moreover, the Human Resources Ministry is currently compiling a national employment registry to track monthly rates of job losses and employment gains, he revealed.
As the final sittings of the year are set to resume on Monday, parliament remains at loggerheads with the executive over the endorsement of cabinet members, with forced cancellations paralysing the legislature for the past three weeks.
While the opposition majority insist that ministers must be approved individually, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) favour a ‘block vote’ for all ministers and moreover argue that the issue must be removed from the agenda until parliamentary rules of procedure is amended in light of the landmark Supreme Court ruling last month.
The Supreme Court ruled that while article 171(i) of the parliament’s rules of procedure, which allows nominees to be questioned by committee, does not contradict with constitution, it cannot be used in endorsing cabinet ministers.
Addressing supporters during a campaign rally last week, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said that although the party engaged in official talks with the government and international mediators “in the end after three months when there is still no way to hold ministers accountable, and when these ministers do as they please, the result ultimately is adverse effect on the lives of the Maldivian people.”
Writing in his website in September, the parliament majority leader argued that parliament was “unable to effectively provide the checks and balances necessary for the system to work democratically” and exercise oversight powers with the cabinet awaiting parliamentary consent.
Thasmeen further claimed that “failure of government officials to appear before the parliament is part of a series of deliberate acts by the government to pave way for autocratic rule,” adding that the opposition “should seriously consider taking legal action against government officials who ignore requests to appear before the parliament.”
The cabinet was reappointed by President Nasheed in July after resigning en masse in protest of the “scorched-earth policies” of the opposition, which it accused of obstruction and attempting to wrest executive control from the government.
DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today that “no MP would obstruct the passing of the budget, but they should advocate on behalf of their constituencies.”
Nihan said that the party would seek to “make adjustments and change some components” as with the 2010 budget, claiming that opposition MPs’ constituencies were neglected by the government.
He further criticised the government for revenue shortfalls due to “failed projects such as privatising IGMH (Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital) and not collecting the full amount for the sale of Dhiraagu shares”.
While he expressed confidence that MPs would “fulfill their constitutional responsibility to pass the budget and ensure that services are provided to the people”, Nihan backed the DRP Leader’s stance on resolving the cabinet issue as the first priority.
“According to the constitution, the Finance Minister has to submit the budget,” he explained. “But we don’t believe there is a Finance Minister right now. What [Thasmeen] is saying is how can we go forward without resolving this. So let’s finish this first.”