A total of Rf1.3 million (US$84,300) was spent on healthcare costs for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his wife from 2010 to April this year, MP Ahmed Hamza of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) revealed at parliament’s Finance Committee meeting yesterday.
The MP for Bilehdhoo revealed the figures during committee deliberations on a request by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to establish rules and guidelines for covering health expenses for former presidents and their spouses.
According to the Finance Ministry, Rf302,560 (US$19,621) was spent for the Gayooms’ healthcare in 2010, Rf713,803 (US$46,290) in 2011 and Rf298,572 (US$19,363) so far this year.
Article 7 of the Protection and Privileges for Former Presidents Act (Dhivehi) – the first piece of legislation passed by the then-opposition majority parliament after convening in May 2009 – stipulates that healthcare for ex-presidents and their spouses either in the Maldives or overseas shall be provided by the state.
The law however does not set any limits to the health expenses to be borne by the state.
In addition to healthcare costs, Rf3.86 million (US$250,324) was spent on the former president’s office in 2010, Rf2.1 million (US$136,187) in 2011 and Rf700,000 (US$45,396) as of April this year.
Local media reported that following discussions at the Finance Committee yesterday, MPs decided to recommend that the Finance Ministry purchase a health insurance package for former presidents.
MP Hamza suggested offering an insurance package similar to those provided to retired high-ranking officials at the United Nations.
MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) reportedly insisted that the package should cover all forms of treatment to be in compliance with article 7 of the Protection and Privileges Act.
However, most MPs concurred that there should be a ceiling limit for healthcare costs for former presidents.
The legislation on protection and privileges for ex-presidents was required under article 128 of the constitution, which states, “A person who has served in the office of president, serving his term of office lawfully without committing any offence, shall be entitled to the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land. Such protection and privileges shall be specified in law.”
Prior to the passage of the Act in October 2009, MPs of the then-ruling MDP denounced the monetary benefits in the draft legislation as excessive and “unreasonable.”
The bill stipulated a monthly allowance of Rf75,000 (US$6,000) in addition to Rf50,000 (US$4,000) for housing and Rf175,000 (US$14,000) for staff and office space.
The ruling party said at the time that the total figure would shoot up once the cost of health, transportation and security was taken into account, estimating that a total of Rf3 million (US$233,000) would be spent a month on former President Gayoom.
MDP MP for Hithadhoo North, Mohamed Aslam, observed that ex-presidents would be allowed to seek medical care anywhere in the world at the state’s expense.
“The benefits are too high as Rf300,000 (US$19,450) a month for someone who has retired is beyond reasonable expectations,” Aslam had argued. “Also, the government is in a financial crisis and it will be difficult to pay such a huge amount.”