MCSA calls on the resignation of Home Minister

The Maldives Civil Servants Association (MCSA) has called on the Home Minister Mohamed Shihab to resign from his post after the Home ministry declared that island councilors will be head of the island offices during the Local Council Elections.

Spokesperson of the MCSA Abdulla Mohamed said that the decision of the home ministry was “against the advice of President Mohamed Nasheed” and “also unconstitutional.”

“It shows the irresponsibility of the minister,’’ said Abdulla. “It will influence the outcome of the Local Council Elections and will obstruct them from being conducted freely.”

Abdulla said that he was not saying all the councilors act against the interests of democracy.

“But it is the nature of humans – they are political appointees appointed by politicians and their duty will be to uphold the policy of their head,’’ Abdulla claimed. “When they take over the island office, they will become a ‘shadow’ on a free democratic election.’’

He said the decision also showed that the home minister wanted to influence on the Local Council Elections and suggested Shihab resign “if he is unwilling to follow the constitution.”

State Home Minister Ahmed Adil said he could not comment on the issue, while Home Minister Mohamed Shiahab was unavailable at time of press.


Some salaries restored, rest to follow in April

The reduced salaries of staff at independent commissions, courts, parliament and the judicial services have been restored while civil servant salaries will follow in April, the government has said.

State Minister for Finance Ahmed Assad said the salaries had been increased in line with the budget approved by parliament and that the salaries of civil servants and staff at other government institutions would follow when the government’s economic condition stabilised.

“The government intends to restore salaries sooner than April if possible,” Assad said, adding that he would have preferred all salaries to be restored at the same time.

Speaking during his weekly radio address, the president said the government’s present situation was “unsustainable” and the Maldives had “the highest wages in the world relative to expenditure over income”.

“Despite criticisms and calls for protests by several people, public servants appreciate the value and importance of public sector reforms undertaken by the government,” he claimed.

“Fiscal adjustments” were necessary, he said, because of the country’s large financial deficit.

“I [therefore] wish to thank all civil servants very much.”

The president’s press secretary Mohamed Zuhair said he expected that the government’s economic condition to improve by April.

He further added that the decision to restore the salaries was “not related” to Thursday night’s protest outside the president’s residence, Muleeage.

Spokesperson for the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan sounded disappointed and said it was hard for him to trust the president’s words because they differed from the actions of the finance ministry “and the way things have gone.”

“We do not know what to [do] now,” he said, adding that it was unfair for government staff other than civil servants to receive the restored salaries.

”We have been repeatedly begging the finance ministry,” he said. “The president wishes the best for civil servants, but these things are happening without the knowledge of the president.”

Spokesperson for the Civil Servants Association (CSA) Abdulla Waheed said the government was ruling the Maldives “as if there was no law.”

He said that the CSA was planning to hold a protest in front of finance ministry on Tuesday.

Many civil servants were “afraid to come out for protest because they might be fired,” he added.


Civil servants’ salaries to be restored

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has decided to restore salaries and allowances of civil servants to its levels before the pay cuts enforced in October.

A circular issued by the commission yesterday states that the cuts were made on the request of the president and the finance ministry, which informed CSC it did not have enough funds in the budget for employees’ remuneration.

“Since the finance minister had estimated in the state budget for 2010 submitted to the People’s Majlis that government revenue would exceed Rf7 billion (US$544 million) and because the commission does not believe reduction of civil servants’ salaries for three months could be prolonged as a measure due to the economic circumstances facing the country…the commission has decided that civil servants will receive the full salaries determined for their posts from 1 January 2010,” it announced.

It adds that government offices and departments have been informed of the decision.

Following negotiations with the finance ministry in September, the CSC imposed pay cuts under clause 43(c) of its regulations, which authorises the commission to alter salaries subject to a three-month review based on “special economic circumstances”.

When pay cuts of up to 20 per cent were enforced in October, the commission and the finance ministry agreed that the economic circumstances would be considered over when the government’s annual income increases beyond Rf7 billion.

Special circumstances

Speaking to Minivan News today, Adam Zahir, a member of the executive committee of the Maldives Civil Servants’ Association, said parliament made amendments to include additional funds in the budget to restore salaries and the CSC has now said it will follow the budget.

Parliament passed the budget for 2010 with an additional Rf617.6 million (US$48 million) to restore the salaries.

“I believe we have now got 100 per cent guarantee that salaries will be restored,” he said. “But, with the way things have been going, we will believe it when it happens.”

MPs had informed the association that were enough funds in the original budget to pay the salaries, he continued, but now it has been confirmed “in a more certain and transparent way”.

Zahir said the association found it hard to accept the “special economic circumstances” because of the government’s actions and failure of either independent institutions, parliament or the judiciary to enforce similar pay cuts.

The administration continuing to make political appointees “showed that the money was there”.

Moreover, he said, both MPs and independent institutions have refused to accept the special circumstances and the government has not adequately proven that the situation warranted the austerity measures.

“So we don’t believe it because the people who would know these things best don’t believe it either,” he said.

Austerity measures

In August, the government announced it would be introducing a raft of austerity measures, including reduction of overtime, cutting down the number of overseas trips and releasing government rented properties where possible, to alleviate an inherited budget deficit.

In addition to civil service wage cuts, the president said he planned to halve the 32,000-strong civil service by 2011.

Both decisions caused an angry backlash from opposition parties who petitioned the CSC to refuse the wage cuts, which they argued would adversely impact the lives of many citizens.

In his maiden speech at the 64th UN General Assembly on Thursday, President Mohamed Nasheed said the Maldives had “suffered badly” from the global economic recession.

“Moreover, since assuming office, it has become clear to us that in the run-up to last year’s election, the former government engaged in highly irresponsible economic policies in the hope of buying their way to victory,” he said.

Nasheed said government planned to tackle the economic crisis by reducing the civil service, privatising public utilities, and promoting private enterprise and trade.