Loans and guarantees pass as opposition walks out

Parliament today approved the government’s borrowing summary totaling Rf5.5 billion (US$358 million) proposed by the government for 2012 amidst political disturbances within the Majlis.

Minivan staff observed opposition party members leaving the Majlis as ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members remained inside to approve the supplement to the 2012 State Budget.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam said the party walked out “because we believe PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] sold out the vote to MDP.”

According to Adam, suspicions were raised when the chair of the Public Accounts Committee attempted to vote with the opposition. She said eight PPM members created a disturbance when the vote was presented, and were forcefully removed by the military.

She suspected the scuffle had been planned.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed that damage was done to the Majlis chamber, and noted that MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik’s seat name tag was “crushed”.

Ghafoor also believes that the display was calculated.

“Why would some people walk out and accept the decision, while others make a show of it?” he asked, noting that the Majlis has a precedent of requesting the removal of those who disturb proceedings.

However, Ghafoor believed the episode was understandable “in the context of a transitional democracy, in which the previous regime is allowed to be politically active.”

According to law, the Majlis must approve all foreign loans separately from the budget, which was approved earlier this week with 70 votes in favor, two against and one abstention.

The Rf14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) budget was passed with Rf3.5 million (US$226,977) added through amendments proposed by opposition MPs.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) proposed shifting Rf300 million (US$19 million) from other items to local councils, increasing funds for political parties from Rf11 million (US$713,000) to Rf14.5 million (US$940,337) and raising state benefits to the elderly from Rf2,000 (US$130) to Rf2,300 (US$148) to adjust for inflation.

Foreign loans will be allocated for budget support, construction of Addu Hospital and support for middle-income businesses, fishing and agriculture.

The highest loan is valued at US$150 million, to be borrowed from China’s Exim Bank.

Although the Finance Committee approved the borrowing summary it nevertheless highlighted important missing information. According to MP Adam, committee members today found discrepancies between the document approved yesterday and the version submitted to Parliament today.

When asked about the discrepancies Ghafoor identified them as “speculative–conspiracy oriented” and asserted that “all possible details were submitted, but the opposition said it did not confine to the strict guidelines of the law. Of course there are some points and details which can only come after the it is approved.”

“It’s a foregone conclusion, the budget was passed and you assume that to cover the deficit, you have to take loans,” he said.

Parliament is now in recess until March.