The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) parliamentary group has decided that it will not be supporting the budget oversight committee’s version of the 2015 budget.
The opposition has issued a three-line whip compelling all party members in the Majlis – currently numbering 23 of the 85 seat house – to oppose the current version of the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget.
A report was approved by the budget oversight committee last week for consideration of the full house, recommending no changes to the spending plans.
“MDP MPs are not voting for the budget because it’s a discriminatory and unsustainable budget, ” explained MDP Spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy. “It would also widen the gap between the rich and the lower income groups due to regressive taxation.”
The introduction of 10 percent import duties on oil and essential foodstuffs is part of the government’s plans to generate MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) in new revenue – representing 14 percent of the 2015 budget.
The MDP’s budget committee has expressed concern that failure to meet the proposed revenue raising measures could see the budget deficit increase to MVR5 billion (US$330 million), from the estimated MVR1.3 billion (US$84 million).
Further plans included revisions to current electricity subsidies, as well as the introduction of a US$6 ‘Green Tax’ on tourism, which the MDP has suggested was originally budgeted for US$10.
While government officials have said that the new tax will be used to resolve the country’s waste management problems, pro-government MPs have refused to ring-fence the additional revenue.
The MDP’s parliamentary group’s decision to issue the three-line whip was made during a meeting on Sunday evening, although only 9 MPs attended the meeting.
Party discipline has been brought into question on numerous occasions during the MDP’s first year in opposition, most notably in the approval of all 15 of President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet last December, after 6 MDP members ignored instructions to reject 8 nominees.
Fahmy also explained that the recent approval of Hassan Ziyath to the post of auditor general was against the spirit of the parliamentary group after it had strongly opposed amendments to the Auditor General’s Act. MDP members contributed 9 out of 59 votes in favour of Ziyath’s appointment.
“MDP MPs in the independent institutions committee boycotted the committee and walked out after making a statement there to say that reappointing an auditor general is unconstitutional,” said Fahmy.
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