Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) have exchanged harsh criticisms following disagreements over the proposed budget for 2014.
President Abdulla Yameen has said coalition partners must let the PPM decide on the allocation of funds for the state budget.
In response, Jumhooree Party leader (JP) – and third placed candidate in this year’s presidential elections – Gasim Ibrahim has criticized the PPM for its alleged failure to consult the JP in compiling the proposed budget. Gasim’s backing was crucial in Yameen’s presidential win.
He is also the chair of the parliament’s Budget Review committee.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Yameen called on coalition partners to approve the proposed budget, saying “It will be impossible for the government to work for a common goal if coalition partners are to decide upon what amount of funding needs to be included in the budget for separate projects.”
Only the government will know how to draft a budget in the “best interests of the people,” he said, adding that a coalition can only work if there is cooperation within it.
The PPM had promised the JP over 30 percent of cabinet positions, parliamentary seats, and local government seats in exchange for the party’s support in the second round of presidential polls.
Yameen said that coalition members must not view the alliance as an opportunity to guarantee themselves what they want from within the government, nor should it be seen as a chance to bring out whatever number of candidates they wish to compete in an election.
Instead, forming a coalition is in itself an agreement to abide by the decisions of the main party in the said alliance, he said.
It is unnecessary for citizens to know details about a coalition or the agreements about what is promised to each coalition partner, he added.
“To view it with a united mindset and approve the budget we have proposed is the first step that our coalition partners can take to serve the people. There must be unity, or at least sincerity, in our coalition partners. For MDP, or another opposing party, to have opposing views is perfectly acceptable. But if there are to be major differences in the viewpoints of our coalition members, that is not what we made a coalition for,” Yameen said, criticizing members of his coalition.
“If at the initial stages, coalition partners themselves are to stand up and criticize every issue that arises about our proposal, I really do not see how I will be able to fulfill the people’s needs,” Yameen said.
“When figures for expenses are simply written and the budget is passed as such, while knowing it is not possible to get the said funds, and then the government fails to raise the funds written in the budget for specific projects, it is the government who will be held to account by disgruntled citizens. It is not the parliament, nor our coalition members, who will then have to be answerable, but us,” he continued.
The president stated that he or his government would only bear responsibility for unfulfilled pledges and policies if the budget is approved by parliament as it is.
“If the budget is not passed as it is, and multiple changes are brought to it, then I will not take responsibility for not being able to deliver as planned,” he said.
Parliament has scheduled voting on the budget for tomorrow.
Government held no discussion with coalition about budget: Gasim
Budget Review Committee Chair Gasim Ibrahim – who himself proposed 14 amendments to the budget – responded to Yameen’s comments stating that the government has failed to hold any discussions about the budget with coalition partners.
“Despite being a part of the coalition, the government held no discussion whatsoever with us regarding this budget. Proof enough of this fact is the number of amendments I have submitted to the budget. Had they held initial discussions with us prior to submitting the budget, I would not have had to do this today,” he said, submitting his amendments to parliament on Thursday.
“I am both a coalition member and the Chair of the parliamentary committee tasked with budget review. And yet, we have had no suggestions or discussions from the government,” he continued.
Among the 14 amendments proposed by Gasim, he has included a suggestion to add MVR 6 million to the budget of the Local Government Authority, MVR10 million to the budget of the Maldives National University and MVR5 million to the budget of Prosecutor General’s Office, all in a way that does not increase the total amount of the annual state budget.
Earlier in November, Gasim spoke in a party rally about the government’s failure to provide the promised state positions to Jumhooree Party, while adding that it may be due to PPM being “hectically engaged in other government matters” and expressing confidence that Yameen and party leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom will not “deprive [his party] from benefits”.