Parliament approves amendment for state to cover expenses of president’s private residence

Parliament today voted through an amendment to the law governing renumeration and benefits for the president and vice president making it mandatory for the state to cover expenses of the pair’s private residences.

If either the president or vice president choose not to live in the official residences, the amendments stipulate that the state should provide employees and cover other expenses required for the private residence out of the budget allocated for the official residence.

However, aside from expenses for maintaining security, the amendment states that the expenses should not include “any additional capital expenditures.”

The amendment bill proposed by ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed was approved with 35 votes in favour, 15 against and one abstention.

The amendments (Dhivehi) were sent to a select committee for review following preliminary debate on March 31. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party was not represented in the committee, which consisted exclusively of pro-government MPs.

Immediately after being sworn in on November 17, President Abdulla Yameen announced he and his vice president – Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed –  would be fulfilling a campaign pledge of only taking half of the MVR100,000 (US$6500) salary afforded to the head of state.

“The reason behind this is that Dr Jameel and I both live a simple life. No matter what has been said about us we are not wealthy. We want to be an example to others and lead by example,” Yameen said.

After assuming office, President Yameen announced that he would continue to live in his private residence while Dr Jameel moved into the official vice presidential residence, Hilaaleege.

However, despite Yameen’s decision, the budget allocated for the official residence was increased by MVR2 million (US$130,208) in the state budget for 2014 – rising to MVR19.1 million (US$1.2 million).

In December last year, Parliament’s Budget Review Committee Chair Gasim Ibrahim – leader of the JP – said the increased budget was necessary in case the president decides to move to Muleeage.

Highlighting the increased budget for Muleeage at the time, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described Yameen’s decision to live in his personal house as a “symbolic act.”

“Unlike in the past, even media points out inconsistencies in what leaders say and what reality presents these days. I do not believe the public will be deluded about any of this,” Hamid said.