Amid rising concerns about state expenditure, debt and the economic stability of the country, some political actors who are part of the unity government coalition have started expressing concern about the government’s actions publicly.
The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) earlier this month expressed concern over Waheed’s handling of the coalition’s dispute with the GMR contract to develop the airport, while one of the party’s MPs called for his resignation should he be unable to settle the matter.
More recently, Jumhoree Party Deputy Leader and MP Abdulla Jabir on Sunday criticised President Waheed’s commitment to bring down state expenditure.
“Spending money he does not have”
MP Jabir said Sunday that President Waheed was acting with no consideration for the extremely high levels of state expenditure.
Jabir claimed that while the norm elsewhere in similar circumstances was that the president would work to cut down on spending, Waheed was continuing to appoint people to new political posts and campaign with “money he does not have”.
“He picks people off the streets and gives them posts,” Jabir said. “Why hold on to such a pointless formula?”
Jabir asked Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad if Waheed had discussed his pledges with him prior to making them public, speaking at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Sunday. Jihad responded that he had no documents detailing Waheed’s presidential pledges and only become aware of them as they were reported in local media.
Jihad also stated that Waheed mostly consulted the leaders of the coalition parties when appointing people to head the state companies, although he said he had been consulted about a few appointments.
The Finance Minister on Monday revealed that the country’s budget deficit for 2012 was set to reach MVR 6 billion, (US$390 million), MVR 3 billion (US$195 million) over estimates.
In addition to Jabir, DRP MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed also expressed his disapprovement of government actions.
“The government does not seem to be serious in its efforts to bring down expenditure,” Maseeh said. “Some ministers just make bold statements without even considering the budget. These statements lead to fancy headlines. This needs to be stopped.”
Interference in parliamentary duties
Meanwhile President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, himself a member of Jumhoree Party, denied the allegations. He is reported in local media as saying Jabir was disappointed regarding ongoing issues with the government concerning the lease of his personal restaurant business, West Park. Riza claimed this is the reason why Jabir was critical of the government.
“We are seeing members of the government coalition criticising the government because some personal interests cannot be gained. This itself shows that the government will not be involved in any unconstitutional actions,” Riza has been quoted as saying.
“Jabir has expressed disappointment over the West Park issue many times, but this government will not make any decisions which are not aligned with the values of equality and justice,” he said.
In response to the government’s statement, Jabir spoke to Minivan News today.
“Of course I am disappointed over the West Park issue. It is part of my personal business. But I am questioning the state and its ministers in my capacity as a member of parliament, in the best interests of the country. My personal disappointment does not cloud my seeing Waheed constantly making trips to islands and making pledges. Even the Finance Minister has said he has seen these on media,” he said.
“I am saddened that such an incompetent man is using the resources of the President’s Office to make such unfounded claims,” Jabir said. “I am not sure that man was in his right senses when he said that.”
Jabir stated that according to the regulations of the parliament, no one could raise questions or take action against statements made by a member through the work of the legislative as long as it conformed to constitutional and islamic principles.
“The three powers of the state are separated. The president’s spokesperson seems unaware of even this. By making such a statement, he is interfering with another branch of the state, and is breaching democratic norms,” he further said.
Jabir said that it was his duty as a member of parliament to make the government and the president accountable. He pledged to continue with the work and condemned what he said was the government’s attempts to inhibit it.
However, Jumhooree Party’s Chief Spokesperson Moosa Rameez told Minivan News today that the party did not share Jabir’s opinion of the government.
“This party is part of Waheed’s government. We have not noticed any instance where Waheed has spent money he does not have for campaigning,” Rameez said.
“We are very concerned about Jabir having made such a statement. He did not discuss this in the party’s council. Our concern is that this might create problems within the unity government.”
President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at the time of press.