Parliament approves government’s revenue raising measures

Parliament today passed three bills submitted by the government to raise additional revenue anticipated in the 2014 state budget.

The revenue raising measures approved today include hiking the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) from eight to 12 percent in November, reintroducing the discontinued US$8 bed tax starting this month, and requiring resort lease extension payments to be made within two years.

While the two amendments to the Tourism Act were voted through 38-18, the amendment to the Goods and Services Tax Act was approved 39-18. The changes will take effect once signed into law by the president.

The passage of the amendment bills was greeted with applause from government-aligned MPs.

MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted against all three pieces of government-sponsored legislation, contending that the tax hikes would adversely affect the tourism industry.

“Numbers will not match”

The government had initially proposed collecting resort lease extension fees within three months, collecting bed tax throughout this year, and raising T-GST in July.

However, the parliamentary subcommittee that reviewed the legislation consulted the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) last week and recommended revising the government’s proposals.

Representatives from MATI opposed continuation of the bed tax alongside the T-GST increase.

Appearing before the subcommittee, MATI Secretary General Ahmed Nazeer also questioned the practicality of collecting resort lease extension fees upfront.

Only 17 out of more than 100 resorts offered the opportunity by the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed to extend leases with a lump sum payment were able to do so, Nazeer said.

Resort owners had amended their lease agreements to pay extension fees in installments during Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration, Nazeer noted, and revising agreements for a third time could present legal challenges.

Government-aligned Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim – who chaired the subcommittee – meanwhile told local media following the revisions that the bed tax and T-GST hike would overlap in November, after which the former would be discontinued.

The decision was made to compensate for the loss of income from the bed tax in January, the business magnate and resort owner explained.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media last month that the Majlis’s failure to extend the bed tax would result in a revenue shortfall of MVR100 million (US$6 million) a month.

Moreover, in the wake of the subcommittee’s revisions, Jihad warned that the projected MVR 3.4 billion (US$224 million) in additional revenue – which accounts for 18 percent of the record MVR17.95 billion budget passed for this year – could not be realised in full due to the changes.

Following remarks by Progressive Party of Maldives MP Moosa Zameer at the subcommittee last week – suggesting that pro-government MPs supported abolishing the bed tax in favour of increasing T-GST – Jihad told Minivan News that the government’s stance had not changed.

“It has not changed. And if the government does not go on with the bed tax, the numbers will not match in the budget,” he said.

Meanwhile, parliament yesterday accepted for review amendments submitted by the government to revise import duties.

In addition to raising tourism taxes and custom duties, other revenue raising measures proposed by the government include raising airport departure charge for foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development, and introducing GST for telecommunication services.


Government’s revenue raising bills sent to committee

Three bills submitted by the government to raise additional revenue have been sent to a committee of the full parliament for further review.

Today’s extraordinary sitting of the People’s Majlis was held during the ongoing recess upon request of 27 government-aligned MPs. The government contends that failure to pass the revenue bills during the last session of 2013 was hampering implementation of the budget.

The three bills accepted today included an amendment to raise the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) from eight to 12 percent as well as two amendments to the Tourism Act in order to reintroduce the discontinued flat US$8 bed tax and to require resort lease extension payments to be paid as a lump sum.

While two of the bills were accepted with 38 votes in favour and 26 votes against, the third was accepted with 37 votes in favour and 26 votes against.

The full Majlis committee formed an 11-member subcommittee to review the bills, including five opposition MPs and six pro-government MPs. The extraordinary sittings have been scheduled to resume on February 3.

Among other revenue raising measures proposed by the government are revising import duties, raising airport departure charge for foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development, and introducing GST for telecommunication services.

In December, parliament passed a record MVR17.5 billion (US$1.16 billion) budget for 2014, prompting President Abdulla Yameen to call on the legislature to approve the revenue raising measures to enable the government to finance development projects.

“Double taxation”

MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) voted against all three pieces of government-sponsored legislation, expressing concern over potential adverse effects on the tourism industry.

While some government-aligned MPs echoed the concerns, most argued that increasing government revenue was essential for providing public services and financing government operations.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, has previously contended that raising T-GST while reintroducing the bed tax would amount to “double taxation.”

Following the Majlis’s failure to extend the tourism bed tax before the end of last year, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media that the resulting losses to state revenue would be MVR100 million a month.

In an interview with Minivan News last week, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb said parliament had not considered the impact on the budget when it broke for recess without extending the bed tax.

“Normally, budget and government revenue earning bills are passed together. But here, the parliament goes into recess after passing the budget, leaving the income bills pending for after that. And even then, they often just fail,” he said.

“This causes the budget to expand, but there’s no way for the government to earn enough to implement it. The T-GST [Tourist Goods and Services Tax] matters even more to the state income. The state keeps expanding, the allowances and salaries keep increasing, but the income for all of this still depends on the 25,000 tourist beds. Unless we expand this, how can we increase what we earn? We can’t keep expanding the state, and then squeezing the existing tourism sector without expanding it.”

On January 6, Adeeb issued a circular to all tourist establishments informing the resorts that the government was seeking reintroduction of the bed tax.

Resort lease extensions

Under the amendments proposed to the Tourism Act, resort leases can be extended to 50 years with a lump sum payment of US$100,000 per year.

Resorts with approved lease extensions – currently paying for the extension in installments – would also have to make the full payment within three months of ratification.

Following the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012, the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed allowed extended resort leases to be paid in installments, rather than upfront at the end of the lease.

In April 2012, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) revealed that the total revenue collected in March 2012 was 37.9 percent lower than the projected revenue “mainly due to the unrealised revenue from the Lease Extension Period.”

At the time of the Tourism Ministry’s announcement of the extension payment changes, the government had already received lump sum payments from 25 resorts equating to US$40 million and was expecting nearly US$135 million more from 90 resorts.

“The [administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed] had requested that those resorts extending to a 50 year lease pay in a lump sum,” former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa explained to Minivan News at the time.

“[But] while I was Tourism Minister, Gasim Ibrahim and Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem kept pressuring me to let them pay on a yearly basis. They didn’t want to give any money to the government, and soon after the government changed they got what they wanted. [The installments] will only be payable at the end of the current lease periods – it is a huge loss to the treasury.”


Committee recommends increasing 2014 budget to MVR18 billion

The People’s Majlis Budget Committee has recommended raising the proposed 2014 state budget from MVR17.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) to MVR18 billion (US$1.2 billion) despite concerns over prospective revenue raising measures.

The latest recommendations will have to pass on the Majlis floor, with the final report being sent to People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid on December 21.

President Abdulla Yameen proposed a record MVR17.5 billion budget shortly after assuming power. The budget has a projected deficit of 2.2 percent, with over MVR3 billion (US$ 224 million) is to set to come from new revenue raising measures that require amendments to legislation.

These measures include hiking Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) from 8 to 12 percent, revising import duties, a continuation of the tourism bed tax, raising airport departure charge for foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development, introducing GST for telecommunication services, and charging resort operators in advance for resort lease extensions.

The Ministry of Finance had proposed similar revenue raising measures the 2013 budget but was ultimately unable to obtain the expected revenue after the parliament rejected several measures – including increasing airport departure fees.

The MVR600 million (US$39 million) expansion is mainly to fund tourism promotion, Public Sector Investment Programmes (PSIP), and an increase to the budgets for the state’s independent institutions.

The Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) Fazeel Najeeb has expressed concern that the central bank may have to print money if expected revenue is not realised.

Najeeb told the People’s Majlis Budget Committee on Saturday (December 14) the government must not proceed with new development projects unless and until the new revenue is assured.

“If not, ultimately the government will come to the MMA to find the cash to proceed with those projects. And then again we have more rufiyaa in the economy to chase after the few dollars,” Najeeb said.

Several independent institutions including the Employment Tribunal, Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Department of Judicial Administration, Election Commission, Human Rights Commission, Anti- Corruption Commission, and the Prosecutor General had complained about the proposed budget cuts last week.

According to the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA), the institution had asked for MVR73 million (US$4.7 million), but the Finance Ministry had reduced the figure to MVR 45 million (US$ 29 million).

Speaking at the Budget Committee meeting last week, the Commissioner General of Taxation Yazeed Mohamed said financial constraints had affected MIRA’s ability to collect taxes.

MIRA had set its own goal to collect MVR10 billion (US$648 million) in taxes this year, but would only able to collect approximately MVR 8.4 billion (US$ 545 million), Yazeed said.

While the Ministry of Finance estimates MVR10 billion (US$648 million) can be raised in taxes for 2014, MIRA believes it can collect over MVR11 billion (US$ 713 million) if the institution is granted adequate financial resources, Yazeed added.

Budget reductions will also affect MIRA’s ability to train employees, he said.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission said the allocated MVR57 million (US$3.7 million) is not enough for the commission to hold the constitutionally mandated local council and parliamentary elections. The commission noted it still had over MVR29 million (US$1.9 million) in unpaid bills from the repeatedly re-scheduled presidential elections.

Only the Civil Service Commission expressed satisfaction with its allocated budget. The commission had asked for MVR28 million (US$ 1.8 million), before the Finance Ministry reduced the amount to MVR25.7 million (US$1.7 million).

Meanwhile, the World Bank has said that measures used by the government to finance the deficit – such as monetisation, the accumulation of unpaid bills, and the rise of short term debt through the sale of T-bills – posed “macro-risks” to the economy.

President Yameen has expressed concern over “extremely high” state expenditure and pledged to make cuts, though he has as yet only managed to make modest cuts such as halving the presidential salary and marginally reducing the salaries of state and deputy ministers.


Revised 2014 budget stands at record MVR 17.5 billion

After several weeks of delay, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury has submitted a record budget of  MVR 17.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) with a projected deficit of 2.2 percent of GDP.

On October 30, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration proposed a budget of MVR 16.4 billion (US$ 1 billion), but with the election of President Abdulla Yameen, the Majlis asked the Finance Ministry to revise the budget to include the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) campaign pledges.

In his inauguration speech, Yameen warned the country’s economy was in “a deep pit” and pledged to reduce state expenditure. Local media reports quote Yameen saying he would cut expenditure by amounts varying between MVR 1 billion and 4 billion. Yameen reappointed Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad soon after assuming the presidency.

The rise in total expenditure from MVR 16,410,803,668 (US$ 1 billion) to MVR 17,532,761,744 (US$ 1.1 billion) is mainly due to a MVR 1,120,837,239 (US$ 72,687,239) increase in recurrent expenditure, which continues to account for over 73 percent of the state budget.

The revised revenue is forecast to be MVR 15,101,854,850 (US$ 979,368,019), a MVR 1,223,577,000 (US$ 78,940,452) increase from the initial forecast of MVR 13,878,277,850 (US$ 895,372,765).

The increased figure is to come from advance payments from resort lease extensions.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed had proposed the same measure for the 2012 budget, but when Nasheed’s government fell in February 2012, the Ministry of Tourism allowed resort operators to pay resort leases in installments. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the decision had cost the government US$135 million.

The additional revenue raising measures include:

  • Hiking T-GST to 12 percent from 8 percent at present
  • Revising import duties
  • Delaying the abolition of the tourism bed tax for one more year
  • Raising airport departure charge for foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25
  • Leasing 12 islands for resort development
  • Introducing GST for telecommunication services (currently exempt from the tax)

Speaking at today’s Majlis Budget Committee, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said the MDP will support the government’s proposal to obtain lease extension fees upfront.

MDP MP Ilyas Labeeb noted the new revenue raising measures depended heavily on the tourism sector and proposed the committee meet with the Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI) to get feedback on the impact proposals may have on the tourism sector.

The proposed revenue raising measures will provide the state with a total of  MVR 3,474,270,604 (US$ 224,146,491). However, the People’s Majlis will need to amend laws including revisions to tax laws and import tariffs to realise the expected revenue.

The projected budget deficit stands at 2.2 percent of the GDP or MVR886,622,881 (US$ 57,201,476). The new deficit shows a decrease of MVR 101,618,924 (6,556,059) from the initial deficit of MVR 988,241,805 (US$ 63,757,536).

The deficit is to be mainly financed through foreign loans. The government expects to obtain MVR 832,680,000 (US$ 53,721,290) from foreign parties for budget support.

Whilst the initial budget proposed financing MVR 690,601,517 (US$44,554,936) by selling T-bills, the revised budget has drastically reduced the figure to MVR 141,802,593 (US$ 9,148,554).

The Budget Committee is to meet with the state’s independent institutions on December 11, 12 and 14, and the MMA governor and Auditor General on December 11.

The committee will hold discussions on the budget of government offices on December 15, the Public Sector Investment Programme on December 16, and the revenue raising measures on December 18.

The committee’s report will be compiled on December 19 and 20 and the final report will be sent to People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid on December 21.


Gasim elected chair of Budget Review Committee

Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP for Maamigili, Gasim Ibrahim, has been elected chair of the parliament’s Budget Review Committee for the fourth consecutive year.

The 22-member committee comprises of the combined Finance Committee and Economic Affairs Committee.

The business tycoon and former JP presidential candidate was chosen with 12 votes in favour. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom was elected deputy chair with the same number of votes.

The committee is tasked with reviewing the budget and presenting a report to the People’s Majlis floor by December 1.


Government formulating roadmap for first 100 days to implement PPM manifesto

A roadmap for the first 100 days of the new administration is being drawn up to implement the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) manifesto and fulfil campaign pledges, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said.

Speaking to press after an impromptu PPM council meeting yesterday (November 18), President Yameen explained that the roadmap would “outline what will begin to be implemented by the 30th or 45th day.”

“Committees have been formed and work has started on implementing what we promised for youth and fishermen in our manifesto,” he said.

The PPM’s campaign pledges include raising the old age pension to MVR5,000 a month, designating a General Practitioner to each family, providing subsidies for fishermen and farmers, and creating more than 90,000 jobs.

At the ongoing budget debate in parliament, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have been calling on the government to incorporate its policies in next year’s budget and fulfil its campaign promises, pledging their assistance and cooperation.

Both opposition and government-aligned MPs agreed that the government should be offered the opportunity to revise the budget based on the PPM manifesto. A budget of MVR16.4 billion (US$1 billion) was submitted by the outgoing administration on October 30.

President Yameen meanwhile told reporters that he has asked Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad to revise recurrent expenditure as “more than a billion could be saved.”

Funds could be reduced from budget items in recurrent expenditures, he said.

Recurrent expenditure of MVR12 billion (US$778 million) – wages, subsidies and administrative costs – accounts for 73 percent of government spending in the proposed budget.

“We will bring big changes to the budget. The budget has to be changed to one that addresses what our parties pledged to do for the public,” he said, referring to the pledges by other parties in the PPM-led coalition.

Other parties in the coalition government include the Jumhooree Party led by business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, the Maldives Development Alliance led by tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, former President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party and a number of smaller parties.

The new administration was also in the process of “restructuring” the President’s Office, Yameen said, and all political appointees at the office were dismissed on Sunday (November 17).

Government ministries would follow “the example the President’s Office is showing” to reduce the number of political appointees and posts, he said.

Cabinet ministers would not formulate new policies but focus on implementing the manifesto, he added.

President Yameen also met former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the President’s Office yesterday.

In a statement following the meeting, Yameen said the PPM leader assured the new administration of political support and assistance through the People’s Majlis.

He expressed confidence in implementing the party’s manifesto with the cooperation of coalition partners as well as the opposition in parliament.

The focus of the new administration was on reducing costs and increasing government income, President Yameen said.

“The aim of our efforts will be to provide at the earliest possible opportunity all the services we assured for the public,” he said.


Tourism industry GDP growth flatlined in 2012, reveals Finance Ministry

The tourism industry’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2012 declined by 0.1 percent following 15.8 percent growth in 2010 and 9.2 percent in 2011, the Finance Ministry revealed in a “Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2012 to 2016” statement included in the 2014 budget (Dhivehi) submitted to parliament last week.

“The main reason for this was the political turmoil the country faced in February 2012 and the decline in the number of days tourists spent in the country,” the statement explained.

“The most important statistic used to measure productivity in the tourism sector is the total number of nights tourists spend in the country. As the most number of tourists to the country now come from China, we note that the low number of nights on average that a Chinese tourist spends in the Maldives has an adverse effect on the tourism sector’s GDP.”

However, despite negative growth in 2012, the tourism industry is expected to have grown by 5.5 percent in 2013, with a 5.2 percent growth rate forecast for 2014.

The Maldivian economy is largely dependent on tourism, which accounted for 28 percent of GDP on average in the past five years, and generated 38 percent of government revenue in 2012.

Tourism growth

According to the annual tourism yearbook published by the Tourism Ministry, the average occupancy rate of all tourist establishments in 2012 was 2.5 percent below the previous year – at 70.6 percent.

The major decline in occupancy rate was recorded from the resort/hotel sector, while the occupancy rate of guest houses and safari vessels remained constant at 23.4% in 2012,” the yearbook stated.

The average duration of stay fell from 8.6 days in 2009 to 6.7 days in 2012.

Moreover, following 20.7 percent growth in tourist arrivals in 2010 and 17.6 percent in 2011, the growth rate slowed to 2.9 percent in 2012, well below the annual average of 7.7 percent growth rate from 2008 to 2012.

The yearbook revealed that the overall positive was largely a result of the “outstanding performance” of the industry prior to the transfer of power in February.

“Fiscal discipline”

The outlook statement meanwhile observed that most economic and monetary problems facing the Maldives were “directly or indirectly related to the state’s ‘fiscal discipline.'”

The Finance Ministry noted that a fiscal responsibility law ratified in May stipulates that government debt must be brought below 60 percent of GDP within the next three years.

While public debt in 2012 stood at 78.6 percent of GDP in 2012, the outlook statement revealed that it had fallen to 72.6 percent this year.

However, the figure is expected to grow to 81 percent of GDP in 2014.

A budget surplus in the coming years would be necessary to reach the legally mandated target, the finance ministry stated.

Fiscal deficit (as a percentage of GDP)

While the estimated fiscal deficit in the 2013 budget was MVR1.4 billion (US$90 million) or 3.6 percent of GDP, the deficit at the end of the  year would stand at MVR1.7 billion (US$110 million) or 4.7 percent of GDP, the statement noted.

The main reason for the higher than expected deficit spending was failure to implement proposed revenue raising measures intended to generate MVR1.8 billion (US$116.7 million) in new income.

The measures included hiking the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) to 15 percent, raising the airport service charge to US$30, leasing 14 islands for resort development, raising tariffs on oil, introducing GST for telecom services, and “selectively” reversing import duty reductions.

In April, parliament rejected government-sponsored legislation to raise the departure tax on outgoing passengers, prompting Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad to seek parliamentary approval to divert MVR 650 million (US$42 million) allocated for infrastructure projects in the budget to cover recurrent expenditure.

The move followed a cabinet decision to delay implementation of new development projects financed out of the budget due to shortfalls in revenue.

Meanwhile, Jihad reportedly told parliament’s Finance Committee last week that no foreign bank was willing to lend to the Maldives anymore because of instability.

When the new revenue did not materialise, Jihad said the finance ministry approached foreign banks to sell treasury bills, but was turned down. Some banks refused to roll-over previously sold T-bills, he added.

As a result, Jihad said, the government was forced to overdraw from the public bank account at the Maldives Monetary Authority.

Moreover, banks only agreed to buy T-bills at an 11 percent interest rate, Jihad said, which would not be sustainable for the government.

While MVR500 million (US$32 million) a month was needed to pay salaries and allowances for state employees, government income in some months was just MVR300 million (US$19 million), Jihad noted, leaving no option but to turn to the central bank.

Deficit and debt

The total public and publicly guaranteed external debt in 2012 stood at MVR11 billion (US$713 million) and was estimated to have reached MVR11.6 billion (US$752 million) this year, the outlook statement revealed.

A total of MVR2 billion (US$129 million) from foreign loans was disbursed in 2013 for development projects, with 7.44 percent from multilateral financial institutions, 34.5 percent from bilateral partners, and 51.8 percent from commercial banks.

The MVR839 million (US$54 million) estimated as budget support in 2013 meanwhile included US$25 million from a stand-by credit facility provided by India in 2011 and a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon.

External and domestic debt

The external public debt is projected to increase to MVR12.5 billion (US$810.6 million) next year, the finance ministry noted.

Domestic debt in 2012 was MVR13.8 billion (US$895 million) and MVR16 billion (US$1 billion) in 2013. This figure is projected to rise by 15 percent to MVR18.5 billion (US$1.19 billion) next year.

The state’s total debt in 2013 is therefore estimated to be MVR27.7 billion (US$1.79 billion) – expected to rise to MVR31 billion (US$2 billion) in 2014.

The government spent MVR2.7 billion (US$175 million) in 2012 and MVR3.5 billion (US$227 million) in 2013 for loan repayment and interest payments to service foreign and domestic debts.


Government rules out supplementary budget to plug 2013 shortfall, commits to T-bill sales

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has said the government has overcome the need to issue a supplementary budget to plug a shortfall in state spending for the current year, relying instead on short-term treasury bills (T-bills) to carry over its debts.

The comments were made as the Ministry of Finance today confirmed it had been officially requested to present the proposed annual 2014 state budget to parliament on October 30, with work ongoing despite the challenges posed by the upcoming Eid holidays.

Jihad previously told Minivan News that despite anticipating parliament would need to approve a supplementary budget after state offices were found to have exhausted their recurrent expenditure for 2013 by April, the government was now instead relying on T-bills to balance outgoings.

The finance minister last month said that the Maldives was relying on 28 day T-bills to help “roll over” debt one month at a time after parliament had failed to approve a number of measures to try and increase state expenditure not included in the 2013 budget.

T-bills are sold by governments all over the world as a short-term debt obligation backed by sovereign states. In the Maldives, they have a maximum maturity of six months, in which time they must be repaid.

The present government’s reliance on T bills has been slammed by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which has previously questioned why there had been an increased reliance on short-term financing considering total state revenue rose 16 percent over the 12 months up to July 2013.

Borrowing fears

The Finance Ministry claimed in August that it had managed to reduce state spending since 2012, despite the MMA raising fears that the current “beyond appropriate” levels of government expenditure was leading to a vicious cycle of borrowing.

Early last month, the government said it hoped to secure longer-term financing measures to cover the shortfall in annual revenue as the number of 28-day T-bills sold by the state almost doubled in July 2013 compared to the same period last year.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) monthly review for August 2013, sales of T-bills for July 2013 has risen by 95 percent year on year.

The MMA stated that there had been a 163 percent in 28 day T-bills by July 2013 compared to the same time last year, despite sales of T-bills with a maximum maturation period of three month and six months declining by 63 percent and 83 percent respectively.

Sales of T-bills were also up 35 percent for July 2013 over the previous month, according to the MMA’s figures.

Budget issues

Finance Minister Jihad told Minivan News earlier this year that the state’s increased reliance on T-bills between July 2012 and July 2013 reflected the difficulties faced by the government in trying to raise budgeted revenue during the period.

He added that with only “a few people” in the private sector now interested in purchasing the short-term debt obligation from the government, T-bills has been sold as part of wider investments made by the state through the country’s pension fund.

Parliament in April rejected government-sponsored legislation to raise the airport service charge to US$30, which was among a raft of measures proposed by the Finance Ministry in the estimated 2013 budget to raise MVR 1.8 billion (US$116 million) in new income.

Other proposed measures include hiking Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) to 15 percent from July 2013 onward, leasing 14 islands for resort development, introducing GST for telecom services as well as oil, and “selectively” reversing import duty reductions.

Opposition’s T-bill concerns

Mahmoud Razee, former Economic Development Minister under the previous government, claimed T-bills should only be used by the state to help cover its operational expenses, rather than serve as a long-term means of financing.

“With income tax revenue having increased according to the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA), why have [T-bill sales] gone up? Under the MDP government we were using T-bills to meet our cash flow,” he said. “This had nothing to do with the fiscal deficit.”

Razee argued that while the former government had itself sought foreign loans to balance the financial deficit while in power, the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had worked to avoid relying on T-bills for longer-term financial concerns like balancing the national fiscal deficit.

“The moment T-bills are increased, this directly affects loans that banks are able to give to the private sector, leading to the cost of borrowing increasing,” he said.

Razee claimed that the MDP government had attempted to try and extend income tax reforms introduced during its time in office to further boost revenues – a plan he said was cut short by the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.