The ruling Maldivian Demcratic Party (MDP) have expressed concern over the raised electricity prices in Male’.
“It has always been a vow of the MDP to lower living costs, however at the moment electricity prices are ridiculously high,” said MDP chairperson Mariya Didi.
MDP MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor explained the main issue was the change in the pricing scheme.
“On average, a household will use at least 300 to 350 units of electricity in a month,” he said.
STELCO, the state electric company, recently dramatically increased the price for the first 300 units of electricity. The first hundred units have risen from Rf1.60 to Rf2.25, while the second and third hundred units have risen from Rf .70 and Rf2.15 to Rf2.50 each.
That means the average monthly electricity bill for household has risen almost overnight from Rf545 ($US42) to Rf725 ($US56).
“Many people are assuming we are attacking the government, but we are just voicing the concerns of the people,” Hamid said.
Currently there is a Rf45 subsidy per head per day to help with the cost of electricity for households with monthly incomes of less than Rf9450 ($US735).
“We have to get rid of this mentality that if a house hold electricity bill is high, they are well off,” urged MDP MP Eva Abdulla. “We have to assume that it might just be 12 people living in that household, chipping in for the bill – this is the reality.”
The president’s office issued a statement claiming the government was listening to the concerned MPs.
“We can’t provide additional financial assistance to STELCO – if we did that we would have to start printing money, and this would devalue the ruffiyya,” said the president’s press secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.
Hamid agreed that the solution was not to print more money.
“If we were to print an additional Rf50 million, it would only raise inflation and we would have no control over prices,” he said.
“The MDP wants to increase the subsidy, but there are many issues we need to rethink,” he said. “The figures we are currently using to calculate eligibility for the subsidy is very outdated, so there is research underway to get a ground figure.”
Mariya noted that many eligible households were failing to claim the subsidy.
“We have conducted house-to-house research and found that many people do not have sufficient information about the subsidy and thus have not been filling out their subsidy forms,” she said.
The government could only boost subsidies if it reduced its current spending, Eva claimed, renewing the government’s controversial calls to slim the administration by reducing the spend on civil servant salaries.
“The government needs to reduce the civil service – offices should only have the required number of employees for optimal performance. Only then will government spending be reduced,” she said.
Civil service spending must be kept “on hold” until the government’s income surpassed Rf7 billion, Hamid said.