Revenue raising measures remain biggest obstacle to budget, says Finance Minister

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has said that new revenue raising measures remain the biggest obstacle to the passing of the new budget.

He has, however, expressed his opinion that the collection of lease extension payments up-front – anticipated by the government to raise MVR1.2billion (US$77million)- would not be a problem.

“I don’t think it is a problem because we are giving them for 99 years – that’s quite a long time,” Jihad told Minivan News today. “The property belongs to everyone – it’s the people’s property.”

Maldives Association for Tourism Industry Secretary General Ahmed Nazeer reportedly told the Budget Review Committee yesterday that he anticipated that 50 percent of resort owners would refuse to pay the sum up front.

When asked for additional opinion on the proposed budget today, Nazeer told Minivan News that he felt it would be inappropriate to give further comment whilst the budget was still under review.

The Finance Minister was able to confirm that the government had requested approval for three loans – totalling MVR814million (US$52million) – from the Majlis, of which MVR453million will go towards budget support.

Earlier this month, the Auditor General suggested Jihad had foregone the mandatory parliamentary approval when obtaining MVR300million (US$ 19.45 million) worth of budget support from the Bank of Maldives in May 2012.

Jihad responded that the onerous procedural obligations were circumvented in order to avoid an impending financial disaster.

Budget support

The budget-support loan will come from the Bank of Ceylon, whilst additional loans await approval from Denmark’s Nordea Bank (€2.5million) for the upgrading of Malé’s electricity grid, and OPEC (US$20million) for sewerage projects.

After details of the high interest to be paid on the Bank of Ceylon’s loan emerged, Jihad last week use the term “beggars cannot be choosers,” noting that the Maldives has no choice but to borrow from commercial banks at high interest rates.

“We could go to Bank of New York, but they will not lend to us. The best bet now is Bank of Ceylon,” he said.

An agreement to receive 50 million yuan (US$ 8.2 million) in development aid from the Chinese government has already been approved this month, whilst Indian media has reported that President Abdulla Yameen’s state visit will see the resumption of a currently-dormant standby-credit facility.

The Budget Review Committee is expected to conclude deliberations upon the 2014 budget by December 20-21, explained Jihad, after which it will be sent to the full floor for further consideration.

Discussion of revenue raising measures is scheduled for Wednesday (December 18).

Similar issues

Failure to realise new streams of revenue, alongside an inability to curb expenditure saw the previous government – under which Jihad also served as finance minister – forced to divert capital expenditure to recurrent costs.

The proposed budget for 2014 is a record MVR 17.5 billion (US$1.1 billion), with a 6.7 percent growth in total expenditure mainly due to a MVR 1.1billion (US$72,687,239) increase in recurrent costs, accounting for over 73 percent of outgoings.

Both Jihad and Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Fazeel Najeeb have told the Majlis committee that the proposed 2014 budget must be reduced if the government’s new revenue streams were not realised, with Jihad targetting the billion dollar tourism industry.

“The main revenue generator is tourism. From where else can we generate extra revenue? I don’t believe that we are presently charging taxes that are too high for the tourism sector,” local media reported him as saying yesterday.

The proposed revenue raising measures will provide the state with a total of  MVR3.4billion (US$ 224million). However, the People’s Majlis will need to amend laws including revisions to tax laws and import tariffs to realise the expected revenue.

Proposed measures include raising Tourism Goods and Service Tax by 50 percent, delaying the abolition of tourism bed tax, raising airport departure charges for foreign passengers by 28 percent, and leasing a further 12 islands for resort development.

In his inauguration speech, Yameen warned the country’s economy was in “a deep pit” and pledged to reduce state expenditure. Local media reports quote Yameen saying he would cut expenditure by amounts varying between MVR 1 billion and 4 billion.

A World Bank report on the state the Maldives’ economy last week described the country as “spending beyond its means”.


4 thoughts on “Revenue raising measures remain biggest obstacle to budget, says Finance Minister”

  1. Looks like morons are going to put the last nail on the coffin, the rent of 99 years going to be robbed from the future generation. I have better idea, go with begging ball at the airport and ask every tourist, “please give 70 $ for our budget”. I am sure they will give that for you but don’t go ask them with arrogance , this is what Allah has commanded for visiting our sacred sand dunes , if you get one million tourist, you will get 70 millions, jack ass can at least should know how to beg, instead trying to do everything through monkey business .

  2. I would personally never take a chance on leasing any island in Maldives for 99 years. It’s a very unstable population, it’s impossible to forecast what would happen 10 years ahead. Some fractions of the population are easily manipulated and it can easily escalate to situations you now have in Syria. One other thing, how high is the water level in 50 years????? What if another tsunami hits the area? I think is better to invest in more stable place.

  3. Maldives tourism have performed consistently over 40 years without a hitch. Avarage investment return is in excess of 30%.

    With democracy, Maldives is more stable than ever and certainly better investment than Greece or Spain.

  4. Jihad as Minister of Finance! Come on Yamin! Wake up and smell the uselessness! That corrupt self serving bureaucrat has proven time and again how utterly incompetent he is! Give him the boot if you have any incline to do any good for your country.


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