With voting to finalise the 2011 state budget expected to take place later today, acting Finance Minister Mahmood Razee said he remains confident that the government remains on target to meet its financial objectives, though stressed it was too early to say without “seeing amendments” suggested by parliament.
Despite criticisms by some opposition MPs regarding what they see as a lack of detail in the budget over the exact nature of government spending – particularly in areas of decentralisation and broadcaster funding – Razee said this morning that he believed any potential member-submitted amendments would not set back proposed aims of trying to reduce spending.
“We would only be concerned [by the amendments] if the total budget goes over the 12.37bn (US$962.6 million) originally set,” he said.
Razee added that it would also be vital to try and ensure the predicted 2011 budget deficit remained at about 16 per cent, after coming under pressure from financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut the current figure of around 26.5 per cent.
“We would need to maintain the deficit at that level [16 per cent]. Most of the discussions we have had about the deficit have been in line with this,” he said. “However, I don’t know what will happen until voting.”
The passing of the annual budget is constitutionally required to be completed before the end of the previous calendar year, with the government having claimed to be focused on spending cuts as part of plans to try and reduce the country’s budget deficit.
There has been concern over whether the budget will be passed on time, with debate taking place within parliament over the last few days as members have attempted to add amendments to the annual expenditure before passing it through the Majlis.
Budget criticism has come from both opposition MPs like Ahmed Nazim and independent members like Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed over claims that there is insufficient detail about the exact nature of certain government spending projects.
Nazim has claimed that although opposition members were just as committed to ensuring the country’s budget was completed within the deadline, there remained concerns over issues such as the government supplying about Rf54 million to the Maldives National Broadcasting Corperation (MNBC) without seemingly including it in the budget.
“There are so many problems with the budget, which is lacking details regarding a number of projects and figures,” he said.
Nasheed, an independent MP, also said last week that he had identified some preliminary concerns over spending allocation in the budget, particularly in areas such as decentralisation, despite claiming he was optimistic that the finance document would be passed before the New Year deadline.