Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen has pledged to halve the presidential salary and slash the wages of political appointees by 30-50 percent, should he be elected in September.
Yameen also pledged to cut the salaries of independent institutions – which include the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Political Integrity Commission (PIC) – a step he described as pivotal for the country to avoid a sovereign default.
The MP also vowed to work towards reducing the salary and allowances of parliament members. At the same time, he pledged to increase the wages of civil servants.
The PPM presidential candidate also emphasised the need for youth employment, promising 90,000 new jobs for young people across the Maldives by the end of his five year term.
The Maldives has one of the highest percentages of government employees to population of any country in the world, at around 11 percent.
Salaries and allowances have also rocketed up, unmatched by government revenue. Much of this growth occurred in the two years leading up to the 2008 election and the introduction of multi-party democracy.
An internal World Bank report leaked in 2010 showed that Increases to the salaries and allowances of government employees between 2006 and 2008 reached 66 percent, “by far the highest increase in compensation over a three year period to government employees of any country in the world.”
With the introduction of the new Constitution and its requirement for an assortment of independent institutions to oversee various aspects of government, the share of the wage bill to revenue soared to “an astronomical 89 percent.”
The President of the Maldives receives a base salary of MVR100,000 (US$6500) per month. During his government’s attempts to reduce civil servant spending on the urging of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), former President Mohamed Nasheed took a voluntary pay cut of 20 percent.
Despite this, the government’s attempt to impose austerity measures was blocked by the Civil Services Commission, leading to a series of scuffles between the Finance Ministry and the CSC.
The opposition at the time, now in power following Nasheed’s controversial resignation in 2012, contested Nasheed’s expenditure on 244 political appointees – a figure partly the result of the government’s early efforts to consolidate state employees under government-owned companies outside the purview of the CSC.
Figures released by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury showed that these 244 appointees were being paid MVR 99 million (US$6.4 million) a year, however Nasheed’s administration contested that this constituted just two percent of the state’s 2011 wage bill, comparing it to the 39 percent that went to the civil service, 24 percent to uniformed bodies, 17 percent to local councils, 10 percent to independent institutions, 5 percent to the judiciary, and 2 percent to parliament.
In comparison, President Waheed’s government during 2012 spent MVR 60 million (US$3.9 million) on 136 appointees, according to figures procured by Sun Online.
At the time, the monthly spend included 19 Minister-level posts at MVR 57,500 (US$3730), 42 State Ministers (MVR 40,000-45,000, US$2600-2900), 58 Deputy Ministers (MVR 35,000, US$2250), five Deputy Under-Secretaries (MVR 30,000, US$1950) and 10 advisors to ministers (MVR 25,000, US$1620).
Overall public expenditure in 2012 increased 12 percent on the previous year. This was in large part due to measures such as the intensified recruitment and promotion of a third of the police force, and repayment of civil servant salaries cut during the Nasheed era.
The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) noted that while total expenditure for the year was three percent lower than 2011, this was only due to the government’s failure to pay a large number of bills. Total public debt at the end of 2012 was 72 percent on GDP, the MMA stated.
Meanwhile, the government’s wage bill was in May projected to increase by 37 percent in 2013 as a result of hiring more employees, notably 864 new staff for the police and military – an increase of almost 20 percent.
In its professional opinion on the budget submitted to parliament, the Auditor General’s Office also observed that compared to 2012, the number of state employees was set to rise from 32,868 to 40,333 – resulting in MVR 1.3 billion (US$84.3 million) of additional expenditure in 2013.