No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has failed to deliver on campaign pledges to improve the economy and ensure public safety, former President Mohamed Nasheed contended last night (October 11).
Speaking at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally in Fuvahmulah, Nasheed said the government was unable to explain or show how it would create the promised 94,000 new jobs after almost one year in office.
“One of the most important reasons for the bleakness we are seeing is the lack of employment opportunities. And we cannot see a plan or project from this failed government to increase employment opportunities,” the opposition leader said.
Referring to the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, Nasheed claimed foreign multi-national companies were reluctant to invest in the Maldives.
The government maintained that SEZs with relaxed regulations and tax concessions were necessary to attract foreign investors and launch ‘mega projects’ for economic diversification, which would create jobs and elevate the economy to a “new production frontier.”
On the government’s pledge to provide MVR10,000 a month to fishermen during lean periods, Nasheed said fish purchasing prices have declined since the new administration took office in November.
“We are saying the [Progressive Party of Maldives’] government has failed because they are not practicing what they preach at all,” he said.
A campaign pledge to provide financial assistance to local farmers has also not been fulfilled, Nasheed added.
While the government pledged to ensure security and rehabilitate wayward youth, “we are seeing that the job uniform of youth has become balaclavas and masks,” Nasheed said.
Criminal gangs were roaming the streets of Malé, Nasheed continued, and the security services were unable to curb gang violence.
As the “central government has failed”, Nasheed suggested that development should be sought through local councils.
“I for one am certain that we, the people of the Maldives, cannot reach a safe shore without empowering councils,” he said.
“While President Yameen and the PPM government is failing, we are seeing the Maldivian state failing as a result. The Maldivian state is not just their government. We are also part of the Maldivian state. We cannot let this state fail.”
The system of decentralisation should be strengthened to avoid becoming a failed state, Nasheed argued, noting that the MDP had majorities in many local councils.
The MDP could serve the public through councils while remaining the opposition party, he said, by undertaking efforts to create jobs and develop infrastructure.
Of 30 councillors in Fuvahmulah, Nasheed noted that 24 councillors were elected on MDP tickets.
Nasheed observed that the fiscal deficit has ballooned to MVR4 billion (US$259 million) while the projected deficit agreed upon last December as part of a record MVR17.96 billion (US$1.16 billion) budget was MVR1.3 billion (US$84 million).
The deficit was plugged with the public’s savings at banks, he contended, expressing concern with the impact on the financial sector should the government find itself unable to pay back treasury bills.
Referring to the PPM expressing concern with the arson attack on the MDP Hithadhoo South office on Friday night, Nasheed said the MDP believed either the PPM or senior government officials were behind the attacks.
If the PPM and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were telling the truth about the ruling party’s involvement, Nasheed said a third party should be responsible.
“[President Yameen] is saying it is not his party or ministers that are attacking our rallies and attempting to harm us. And we are saying we are very worried about this. So there is a third party,” he said.
“Who is the third party? Who killed Afrasheem? Who abducted Rilwan? Who are sending us texts once a day threatening to kill us? Who is torching our offices and disrupting our rallies?” he asked.
Nasheed said the MDP was concerned that “the third hand” could overthrow the government.
“We are ready to remain as the opposition sincerely for five years. We are not impatient to come into government,” he said, calling on President Yameen to reveal who “the third hand” is to the public.