MDP MPs call on government to fulfil pledges as budget debate begins

The parliamentary debate on the budget proposed for 2014 began today with MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) calling on the newly-elected coalition government to fulfil its campaign pledges.

MDP MP Ali Waheed urged the new administration to submit its legislative agenda to parliament and incorporate its policies in next year’s budget.

“Very big promises have been made to the people. Our grandmothers and grandfathers want MVR5,000 (US$325) in their accounts at the end of this month, MVR5,000 each, so total MVR10,000 if it’s a couple.

“Each of our citizens want a doctor in our homes at the end of the month [as pledged by the PPM]. They are clearing out the room intended for the guesthouse for the new doctor. Our fishermen are expecting MVR10,000 a month subsidies (US$650). Fishing is not too good right now,” he said.

Referring to the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) pledges to raise the old age pension and designate a doctor for each family, Ali Waheed said the opposition party would vote for a budget that reflected the campaign promises.

“Our responsibility is to be the people’s eyes in this Majlis. People want us to watch over and hold this government accountable,” the MDP deputy parliamentary group leader said.

Most MPs suggested that the new government should be able to submit a revised budget based on the PPM manifesto.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid explained that amendments brought to the Public Finance Act stipulates that the budget must be submitted by the end of October. Parliamentary rules however allow the government to “include components of their new budget” through the Budget Review Committee, he said.

Reappointed Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media today that the government did not plan to submit a supplementary budget or reduce recurrent expenditure but would propose changes to the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP).

Jihad stressed that the proposed revenue raising measures should be approved by parliament to finance new infrastructure projects.

The measures include hiking T-GST (Tourism Goods and Services Tax) to 12 percent from 8 percent, revising import duties, deferring abolishing the tourism bed tax for one more year, raising the airport departure charge from foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development and introducing GST for telecommunication services (currently exempt from the tax).

During today’s debate, MP for Shaviyani Kanditheemu, Mohamed Hussain, who left the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in April and remains an independent, said there were “serious problems” with the budget and that 2013 was an “empty year” for his constituency.

None of the projects included in the 2013 budget for the islands he represent was carried out this year, he said, while some have been omitted from the 2014 budget.

Former President Dr Mohamed Waheed laid the foundation stones for a new school and mosque in Shaviyani Feydhoo in January, he added, but the projects did not commence and were not included in next year’s budget.

DRP MP Hassan Latheef, who represents the Hithadhoo south constituency in Addu City, said there were no projects for the southernmost atoll apart from establishing water and sanitation systems.

Latheef objected to only MVR45 million (US$2.9 million) allocated for Addu City, which he contended was disproportionate for a population of 32,000.

MDP MP Mohamed Riyaz meanwhile expressed concern with the PPM backtracking on its pledges, by claiming that campaign banners with these promises were put up by supporters rather than the party itself.

Pro-government MPs

PPM MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur appealed for new sources of revenue and cost-cutting measures to be included in the budget.

Azeez also noted that projects in the 2013 budget for his constituency in Laamu Maavah did not proceed and have been omitted from next year’s budget.

PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem urged the government to reduce MVR2 billion (US$129 million) from recurrent expenditure, which accounts for 73 percent of government spending.

PPM MP Abdulla Raheem Abdulla meanwhile thanked opposition MPs for assuring their assistance and cooperation to the new administration.

The PPM deputy leader also said that the budget had to be revised for the PPM to deliver on its campaign pledges. He added that the government would provide the financial benefits that were promised.

“The budget has to be prepared in a way that we can fulfil the promises,” he said.

Several MPs expressed concern with the high recurrent expenditure compared to capital investments. While the projected revenue for 2014 is MVR13.9 billion (US$901 million), recurrent expenditure – wages, subsidies and administrative costs – stands at MVR12 billion (US$778 million).

The budget deficit is estimated to be MVR988 million (US$64 million) or 2.5 percent of GDP, according to the Finance Ministry.


11 thoughts on “MDP MPs call on government to fulfil pledges as budget debate begins”

  1. There is a ton of promises and I am just waiting to claim my share as an ordinary citizen. My marriage is kept on hold for the coming flats, if it ever happens.

  2. "Azeez also noted that projects in the 2013 budget for his constituency in Laamu Maavah..."

    Oh well, that's the thanks you get for voting for PPM in your constituency. Laamu, is the traditional stronghold of PPM and 286 islanders from Maavah gave Yameen a majority. Politicians have a very short memory span.

  3. DRP MP Hassan Latheef, who represents the Hithadhoo south constituency in Addu City, said there were no projects for the southernmost atoll.

    You won't get any projects for Addu in the next 5 years. That's the price for voting for MDP. Yameen says he's the President for all, but he failed to mention a few other things. Revenge certainly is going to rain on those who failed to show support for "dheen" and "qawm". Laadheenee Addu will be the first to get punished.

  4. Before facing next parliamentary and council elections, why doesn't MDP clean its party of rubbish like Hamid who is hiding inside Majlis. He alone must have cost MDP thousands of votes.

  5. The shocked and hurt supporters of Ex-President Nasheed are sure to focus a lot on PPM's manifesto as the means to vent their anger and feelings of being cheated. While any reasonable and objective person would know that presidential manifestos are just meaningless campaign propaganda sometimes used to stunning effect (MDP) or issued as a obligatory formality (PPM/JP). Meanwhile campaign pledges made on podiums are just that, political rhetoric. However calling an elected official to task with the certainty that he would not be able to fulfill overblown promises made during a campaign would surely help those opposed to ridicule him.

    This exercise will help MDP supporters to come to terms with their disappointment and overcome their feeling of loss by belitting the current administration from the very outset. DRP supporters did the same in 2008 and their most prominent grassroots activist, Umar Naseer played on those tendencies by issuing "assessments" of the Nasheed administration at regular intervals.

    However, Maldives would benefit greatly form wide discussions of major initiatives in proposed budgets, especially those initiatives which would have a profound effect on the day to day lives of average Maldivians.

    The media would do well to dumb such initiatives down and open them up to debate by selectively focusing on those initiatives. For example the proposed tax on communications services. How about an article on what that would entail, how the public feels about their phone/internet use becoming more expensive and the justification from the government side? Of course Minivan could always forego the government justification or ensure that the response would be weak by calling someone who would have little knowledge of it. However the rest of the article would serve as a good forum for public debate.

    As for the MP's focus on infrastructure projects, that is their own personal campaign for re-election. The public is not in the least interested in such grandstanding.

  6. @tsk tsk

    You're sounding like an apologist for the current regime. Running a country is far harder than being in opposition and the DRP opposition forgot that (or pretended to) 5 years ago.

    Whether the PPM manifesto was an obligatory roll of toilet paper or campaign lies is immaterial. They convinced a lot of gullible voters into believing in bridges, fisherman's subsidies, old age allowances, flats for married couples and so on. Yameen has said that he's focussed on the manifesto. His brother even paid a visit to the President's office, for the first time since he was ousted, to "remind" Yameen of the manifesto pledges.

    Then, it seems to me that's it is quite prudent for the opposition to check whether those pledges are in fact being kept. That's far more productive than the role DRP played 5 years ago, by erecting every possible obstacle in front of the new government.

    In mature democracies, parliamentary debates are almost invariably focussed on the incumbent government's performance. Otherwise, what's the purpose of a democracy? We might as well elect a cheerleader as a president.

    It certainly is going to be uncomfortable for the regime to be reminded of all of the promises it made to the voting public in order to get their votes. Does that mean that they should be allowed to forget them? There are two choices for the opposition:

    Either keep a watch on the regime and ensure they deliver on their promises or be a pain in their butt and oppose them for the sake of opposing. Five years ago, DRP took the latter option. Hope MDP choses the former.

  7. It's entertaining to see Yameen now attempting to reduce the scale of local government. Yameen and his party (DRP at the time), fought bitter battles with the then government to bring about the structure of local government we have today. As far as we recall, MDP then planned a very small scale setup with 3 major regions in the country.

    Yameen's opposition ridiculed that and the result has been billions of rufiyaa wasted over the last 5 years. Now Yameen is trying to backtrack on the initiatives his own party introduced. Funny how things turn around.

  8. The opposition should be the watchdog its meant to be: i.e. help make sure these guys clean up their own mess. The least the incumbents can do after all they have dragged people through. The poem "I wanna be the leader... now I'm the leader.. what shall I do?" comes to mind. But onwards and upwards, here's to democracy functioning in the Maldives - and both parties must know that it takes 2 to tango -hope they are grown up enough about it now. We have have had enough playground spats to last a lifetime. Time to move on.

  9. @tsk tsk

    Where's my doctor? 😛


    Man, I'm just having so much fun as your empty promises go kaput.

  10. What the so-called 'highly educated' (not sure. Maybe it was Stanford?) Mr. Tsk Tsk doesn't get is that this is what an opposition party must do; to make sure the ruling party deliver on its pledges. To ensure that electorate pledges are carried out - and not 'hot air'.

    That is one of the basic ideas of multiparty democracy. Since Mr. Tsk Tsk may have been educated in Stanford, they MAY have dropped this vital piece of information off the syllabus.

    His whining proves one point - that the PPM is unable and never will deliver on their pledges.

    To the MDP, I say this. Press forth the attack. You're down, but not out. Force the incumbent regime to cover their hemorrhaging losses by hook or by crook.

    Then, victory is yours.


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