The People’s Majlis has passed a record MVR 17.95 billion (US$ 1.16 billion) budget today.
Out of the 72 MPs present, 55 voted for the budget, two voted against and 11 abstained.
The budget deficit now stands at MVR1.3 billion (US$84.3 million). Recurrent expenditure accounts for over 70 percent of the budget.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had initially proposed a MVR 17.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion), but the People’s Majlis Budget Committee brought a number of amendments, first increasing the budget to MVR 18.3 billion (US$ 1.19 billion) and later reducing it to MVR 17.8 billion.
However, during Wednesday’s budget debate, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs complained about lack of development funds for their constituencies. The committee met that night and increased the Public Sector Investment Program’s budget to MVR 260.5 million (US$ 16.9 million).
The Budget Committee had also added MVR 171.1 million (US$ 11 million) to the budget of the state’s independent institutions.
At today’s sitting, 27 budget recommendations were passed. These include a proposal by Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim to reallocate MVR 122.5 million (US$ 7.9 million) from the Finance Ministry’s contingency budget to the independent state institutions.
MDP MP Ahmed Sameer’s proposal to reallocate MVR 7.1 million (US$ 460,440) from the Finance Ministry’s contingency budget to the health sector also passed.
According to the budget report, 44 percent is allocated for social development, 21 percent for public services, 15 percent for loan repayments and 9 percent for economic development.
The central bank Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and opposition MPs have expressed concern over tenuous revenue raising measures in the budget.
These include hiking Tourism GST from 8 percent to 12 percent, revising import duties, continuing tourism bed tax for one more year, raising airport departure charge for foreign passengers from US$ 18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development, introducing GST for telecommunication services and obtaining resort lease payments as a lump sum.
Several of these proposals require revising existing legislation.
Meanwhile, the World Bank has warned the Maldives’ economy is at risk due to excessive state expenditure and methods used to finance the deficit.