Opposition MPs accuse govt of favouring MDP voters in budget

Funds were disproportionately allocated for public sector investment programme (PSIP) in next year’s budget for constituencies represented by MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA), Mulaku MP Abdullah Yamin said at parliament yesterday.

Speaking at the budget debate, Yamin said approximately Rf25 million (US$1.9 million) was allocated for areas that voted for the opposition, while Rf121 million (US$9.4 million) was allocated for constituencies represented by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“I don’t think this a coincidence. I don’t believe at all that this could be a coincidence,” he said, adding the Rf530 million (US$41 million) for the PSIP was a fraction of the Rf11.9 billion (US$926 million) budget.

Yamin strongly criticised the government’s reliance on public-private partnerships (PPP) to deliver on development projects, claiming they were unlikely to materialise.

Other opposition MPs objected to the lack of funds allocated for development of the atolls.

Kelaa MP Abdullah Mausoom of the DRP said funds were not allocated for small businesses or development of fisheries and the construction industry.

MPs of the ruling MDP defended the budget, arguing development projects would be undertaken under PPPs.

Presenting the budget last month, Finance Minister Ali Hashim said the budget had the confidence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If the mid-term budget was implemented, he added, the deficit would decline to 14.8 per cent in 2010, 2.4 per cent in 2011 and reach a surplus in 2012.

The structure of the budget was agreed upon after consultations with the IMF, he said, and included recommendations by the IMF, Asian Development Bank and World Bank to solve structural problems in the economy.

Kendhoo MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, parliamentary group leader of the DRP, said yesterday the budget did not reflect the government’s stated policies.

Although the government had constantly urged reduction in government expenditure, he said, the expenditure for 2009 as well as the projections for 2010 exceeded the previous year.

Reductions were made to public sector investment by almost Rf900 million (US$70 million) from the previous year, he noted, while subsidies for electricity and food were lower by Rf300 million (US$23 million).

While the government’s policy was to reduce the number of government employees and civil servants had a pay cut in October, he continued, the expenditure on salaries and allowances for government in next year’s budget was Rf300 million (US$23 million) more than this year.

He urged the budget committee to identify the areas the funds had been increased for.

Thasmeen noted that funds allocated for salaries and allowances for employees of independent institutions were also lower than previous years.

Further, the budget for parliament was 16 per cent smaller than this year.

“We have to consider what kind of difficulties we will face in our task of holding the government accountable and responsible,” he said.

Thasmeen criticised the government for unilaterally reducing salaries for staff at independent institutions in next year’s budget.

The budget for the Human Rights Commission Maldives was decreased by 14 per cent and the Anti-Corruption Commission by 12 per cent, he said.

In the judiciary, the budget for the Supreme Court was lower by 33 per cent, the High Court by 42 per cent and island courts by 20 per cent.