MDP, JP MPs propose 19 amendments to 2015 budget

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs submitted 19 amendments at yesterday’s sitting of parliament to the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015.

Among the MDP’s nine amendments were scrapping plans to impose a 10 percent import duty on staple foodstuff and oil and allocating MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) and MVR75 million (US$4.8 million) respectively to provide subsidies for fishermen and farmers.

Other proposals included adding persons with disabilities and single parents as categories eligible for government subsidies to the poor and requiring the finance ministry to submit quarterly reports to parliament every three months concerning the implementation of the budget.

The minority party has issued a three-line whip for its MPs to vote against the budget if none of the proposed revisions are passed.

The JP’s 10 amendments meanwhile included providing MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) in subsidies to fishermen and MVR40 million (US$2.5 million) to farmers, ensuring sufficient funds for local councils and allocating MVR5 million (US$324,254) out of the contingency budget for local NGOs that provide education and training to persons with special needs.

The party also proposed conducting a survey to determine discrepancies in salary and allowances among state employees.

The 19 amendments were proposed after Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan – chair of the budget review committee – presented a report prepared by the committee following its review process

While the committee had passed the budgetlast week without significant changes to revenue or expenditure, pro-government MPs proposed a number of recommendations to reduce recurrent expenditure.

However, amendments proposed by MDP and JP MPs during the budget review process did not pass at the committee.

Reflecting its combined 48-seat majority in the 85-member house, PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance MPs held a voting majority on the committee.

During yesterday’s debate on the budget committee report, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim warned that introducing new taxes could damage the economy and the tourism industry.

The business tycoon claimed that Seychelles and Mauritius “went bankrupt” when tourists stopped visiting due to excessive taxation.

Occupancy rates at Maldivian resorts declined in November as a result of imposing the reintroduced US$8 bed tax along with a 12 percent Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST), Gasim contended.

Industry insiders recently told Minivan News that the high-end resorts would struggle to deal with any additional taxation following the recent rise of T-GST.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority’s monthly economic review for October, however, the occupancy rate during the month remained unchanged at 81 percent compared to the same period last year.

In October 2014, total bednights rose marginally in annual terms while the average duration of stay decreased slightly and stood at 6.0 days,” the central bank noted.

Gasim meanwhile said the JP would vote for the budget despite misgivings, which included lack of funds for establishing pre-schools and insufficient funds allocated for independent institutions and the judiciary.

Adjourning yesterday’s sitting, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed announced that the amendments would be put to a vote next Tuesday ahead of a final vote on the 2015 budget.

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