President Mohmaed Nasheed took questions from the public on DhiFM’s one-to-one programme on Friday, the first ever live call-in radio show featuring a sitting president.
The president addressed a number of issues and answered questions on subjects ranging from the government’s pledges, the electricity tariff hike and media subsidies.
Hundreds of questions in the days before the show via email and text messages.
On his New Year resolution, the president said, “My determination and goal is finding ways to fulfil the government’s key electoral pledges.”
Some political parties wanted to overthrow the government, he said, but it could only be done within the bounds of the law.
On media subsidies, the president said he did not favour adding to recurrent expenditure and praised private broadcasters for their efficient operations with a small number of staff.
Asked about the government’s pledge to provide affordable housing, he said an agreement had been reached with India’s Tata Company but the project was delayed due to a dispute over the 11 per cent interest proposed by the company.
The government wanted to ensure that citizens would not have to pay more than Rf3,500 a month for the housing units, he said.
He added the government hoped to sign contracts with five companies this month to construct 4,000 housing units.
The president said he regrets that electricity tariffs had to be increased after he pledged not to do so during the campaign.
Apologising to citizens, Nasheed said the hike was temporary and referred to targeted subsidies introduced for poor income families.
On the campaign pledge to hold a mid-term presidential election, the president said the thinking behind it was to assess the political landscape in the country after emerging from a dictatorship where free and fair elections could not be guaranteed.
But, he added, the first opportunity to take stock of the support for political parties came during last year’s parliamentary elections.
“All political parties contested. Those who advocated for a mid-term election won only two seats. And of all those two seats, it is questionable to what extent they belong to the party,” he said.
Following the first round of the October 2008 presidential election, all opposition parties united around the Maldivian Democratic Party candidate and formed a coalition to end the 30-year rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Of the coalition partners, Dr Hassan Saeed, former presidential candidate and attorney general, now of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party, pushed the most for a mid-term election.
Nasheed said the parliamentary elections last year six months after the presidential election showed that support for the ruling MDP had not diminished.
In the May parliamentary elections, MDP won 51,184 votes while the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party won 40,886 votes.
In his radio address on the same day, the president highlighted progress made on fulfilling the government’s five main pledges.
Transport networks had been established in some provinces, he said, while contracts will be signed for the remaining provinces.
He added the government was confident of completing a project for 1,000 housing units within this year.
The amount of drugs seized during the past year exceeded the previous three to four years, he said.
Moreover, two detoxification centres were established under the government’s policy of focusing on treatment and rehabilitation.
Providing universal health insurance under the Madhana programme will eliminate the practice of “begging for healthcare”.
It was essential to reduce the budget deficit to curb inflation, he continued, and the government had to reduce recurrent expenditure to bring down the deficit.