Budget approved with five amendments: report

The Majlis have approved the 2011 state budget just days ahead of a constitutionally-mandated New Year deadline.

The budget was approved this afternoon with five amendments after 69 out of 76 members present within parliament voted in favour of the finance plan; four members voted against the plans, Haveeru has reported.

A total of five amendments and 18 recommendations were put forward for the budget, though Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid reportedly ruled “most” of the amendments for being “unconstitutional”.

Parliamentary members including representatives for both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) were unavailable or unwilling to comment on the budget to Minivan News at the time of going to press, other than to confirm the budget had been passed.

Among the amendments reported to have been included were the transfer of Rf7.1 million from an infrastructure development fund to help the Islamic Ministry with mosque renovation, which was submitted by Fares-Maathoda MP Ibrahim Muthalib.  The amendment was approved by 38 votes to 35 against.

Other recommendations adopted in the budget included the prioritising of harbour developments and revetment projects based on a system of merit and those islands most in need, as well as the provision of subsidies for parties providing electricity in areas with an absence of a powerhouse or utilities companies.

A recommendation forwarded by Inguraidhoo MP Hamdoon Hameed calling on the National Planning Department to publish a quarterly report with updates on projects from both loan aid and individual funding was also approved 71 to two in favour. Hameed also had a recommendation to include individual project details within next year’s annual budget approved by a similar margin.


Joint committee’s budget evaluation underway

A parliamentary joint committee formed to evaluate the 2011 state budget was underway today, though a finalised plan for national spending is still thought to be a few days away, Acting Finance Minister Mahmood Razee has said.

Speaking briefly today during a recess of the joint committee, which is formed from members of both the finance and economic committees, Razee said that the discussions would likely be ongoing during the next few days and that he was unavailable to comment on any outcome before then.

Haveeru reported yesterday that Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP) had been endorsed as chair of the evaluation committee that consists of 21 MPs. The paper reported that 12 votes will be required to pass any matter through the committee.

The Chair position was contested by nominations from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which favoured Bilehdhoo MP Ahmed Hamza, and the Dhivehi Rayytithunge Party (DRP), which proposed Parliament’s Deputy Speaker, MP Ahmed Nazim. Both nominations failed to receive the required number of votes, Haveeru said.

The budget approval, which is constitutionally required to be complete before the end of the year, has come amidst a period of upheaval within the Majlis over the appointment of ministers, which includes a head of finance for the country. This upheavel resulted in Acting Finance Minister Mahmood Razee delivering the state budget after the country’s Supreme Court ruled on December 10 that that ministers rejected by a parliamentary vote could not hold their positions.

Parliament allowed Acting Finance Minister Mahmood Razee to present the 2011 state budget, despite Speaker Abdulla Shahid said that he would be seeking legal advice over whether this was permissible.

Deputy Speaker Mohamed Nazim put forward a motion to declare a “special situation” whereby Razee would be granted the authority to formally present the motion. The chamber voted 55-9 in favour.

The text of the Constitution requires the “Minister of Finance” to submit the budget for approval “prior to the commencement of each financial year” – in the Maldives, the calendar year.

Seven ministers – Finance Minister Ali Hashim, Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab, Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad – did not receive a majority of votes from 42 MPs in attendance within parliament last month.
Following the vote, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, head of the opposition DRP, took the case to the Supreme Court arguing that Ministers rejected by parliament should be dismissed from office.