Selfies and suspensions – The Weekly Review

May 17th – 23rd

The start of the AFC Challenge Cup and that selfie dominated headlines and twitter feeds this week.

Talk of national unity and a belief that the tournament could be a springboard for the advancement of the nation’s football will continue as the Maldives rode their luck to make it into next week’s semi-finals.

Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s luck also appeared to hold out this week as police announced investigations into the justice’s alleged appearance in a sex-tape were being suspended.

The Maldivian Democratic Party declared that this, along with the judicial watchdog’s failure to make headway with its own investigation, to be evidence of a justice system unable to deliver justice.

With criticism also coming from President Abdulla Yameen regarding the Judicial Services Commission’s failure to conclude cases in a timely fashion, the JSC stated that all procedures were being followed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued to strengthen its grip on judicial administration with new regulations. The court was also said to have played a leading role in the decision to change the judge in the alcohol smuggling trial of governing coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Despite only one hearing having been held regarding the two-year-old charges, Shiyam had expressed concern that the presiding judge’s demeanour had indicated a personal grudge against him. Judge Abdulla Mohamed has taken over the case.

The Family Court was said to have ejected two representatives of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week, though the court itself denied the claims. A regional report from Transparency International urged the government to further empower the commission in order to fight graft.

The ACC received a case last week accusing Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using state-owned companies to withdraw millions of dollars which has not been repaid – charges Adeeb has refuted.

The government announced this week that it will soon empower one company to build the fabled Malé–Hulhulé bridge, with bidding set to open early next month. While plans for the US$7 million renovation of IGMH were also revealed.

With three minors convicted this week in relation to a fatal stabbing, the recent decision to facilitate the reintroduction of the death penalty again made international headlines. Former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, however, questioned the government’s sincerity in moving to end the sixty year moratorium.

Speaking at the country’s third Finance Forum this week, Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam called for the government to work in concert with society to cut expenditure before a panel of experts discussed how to attract foreign investment.

The investments of the Foreign Ministry during 2011 were questioned by the auditor general this week, while the mayor of Malé City Council questioned the Finance Ministry’s assistance in the capital’s growing waste management problems.

The details of the deputy mayor’s run-in with a fellow council member – since suspended – were caught on tape. Progressive Party of Maldives councillor Ahmed Mamnoon bragged to Shifa Mohamed that he was a ‘gunda’ – thug/gangster.

Working alongside their Sri Lankan counterparts, the police this week returned convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak to the Maldives after he overstayed his medical leave.

Meanwhile, seven former employees of Sheraton’s Full Moon resort were escorted from the island by police, alleging that their dismissal was linked to their union activities.

Police also dismantled a youth hangout in Villimalé, leading to criticism from local MP Ahmed Nihan who questioned the police’s approach to dealing with the youth.

In the atolls this week, a “benchmark” low carbon emission project was launched in Laamu while a continuing drought in Haa Alif atoll caused the islanders on Ihavandhoo to pray for rain.


MMA governor calls for courageous cuts at third Maldives Finance Forum

The third Maldives Finance Forum was opened with the Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) Dr Azeema Adam calling upon stakeholders to take more courage in reducing government expenditure.

“There needs to be a change particularly with regards to disorganised subsidies, and revenue needs to be increased,” Dr Azeema was reported to have told attendees.

“But that is not something the government alone could do. It should be done together by many.”

Azeema’s comments echoed the findings of the MMA’s 2013 macroeconomic report, which warned that further “slippages” in revenue or spending would undermine medium-term debt sustainability,with adverse effects on exchange rate and prices.

The third Maldives Finance Forum took place today at Bandos Island Resort, focusing on the issue of international financial and capital markets, and financial literacy.

Organised by the Maldives Pensions Administration Office (MPAO), the event sought to bring together leaders from the political, academic, financial, and social sectors to share ideas for the further development of the Maldivian financial sector.

Also speaking at today’s forum were Head of Official Institutions at Schroders Gavin Ralston, Global head of the JP Morgan’s Islamic Finance practice Dr Hussain Hassan, Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed, and leading figures from the Maldivian business community.

Among the forum’s stated objectives the identification of legal and regulatory impediments to development, the promotion of financial literacy among the public, and awareness raising of the potential of the country’s pension fund.

The pension fund – overseen by the Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA) – is currently in need of diversification, CMDA CEO Fathimath Shafeega recently told Minivan News

“As you know the pension system in Maldives has assumed that there will be a developed capital market. The development of the capital market has not kept pace with the pension development,” she explained .

Beginning in March this year, the government more than doubled the monthly pension – with head of the Cabinet’s Economic Council Ahmed Adeeb stating that “innovative” investment would prevent the need to divert funds from within the current budget.

The CMDA’s quarterly report last week for the first time featured details of the country’s nascent Islamic Capital Markets, indicating the rapid growth of Shariah-based financial products in the country in recent years.

Shafeega expressed confidence that the Maldives was well positioned to become an international centre of both Islamic and non-Islamic finance in future years – the evolution of both these areas was discussed by touched Mr Ralston and Dr Hassan, respectively, at Bandos today.

Today’s speech from the economic development minister discussed issues faced in attracting foreign investment and finance – something the current government has made a priority, organising a landmark foreign investment forum in Singapore last month.

The ensuing panel discussion at today’s forum concerned accessing global financial markets and securing foreign investments.

During the recent investment forum in Singapore, President Abdulla Yameen announced his intention to create “a resilient, diversified high income economy in the next decade.”

The government was committed to exploring “openings for increasing foreign investment flows to non-traditional sectors to lift Maldives beyond the image of a picturesque postcard,” said Yameen.

The current economy relies on the tourism industry for an estimated 80 percent of GDP.


Maumoon Hameed fails to receive enough votes to secure PG role

The full floor of the People’s Majlis today rejected the president’s nominee for the vacant Prosecutor General’s (PG) position, Maumoon Hameed, four months after he was initially put forward.

After beginning late due to an insufficient number of MPs present to form a quorum, MPs present voted in favour of appointing President Abdulla Yameen’s nephew by 36 votes to 17 – three votes short of the total majority needed to approve a new PG.

Meanwhile, all MPs present today approved the appointment of Dr Azeema Adam to the post of Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – who voted against Hameed’s appointment today – suggested that the failure to secure their nominee could have been a result of poor organisation on the part of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), or perhaps a sign of further discord within the pro-government coalition.

“MP Gasim Ibrahim [Jumhooree Party leader] was openly lobbying against the PG nominee 30 min before vote but voted with PPM”, claimed Hamid, noting the conspicuous absence of a number of prominent government-aligned MPs today.

Tension within the Progressive Coalition has been evident since before last month’s polls, with overlapping candidacies and competition for the Majlis speaker’s position – openly coveted by Gasim – contributing to rumours of a rift.

Both the President’s Office and PPM spokesmen were unavailable for comment at the time of press.

The PG’s position has been vacant since former PG Ahmed Muiz resigned from the post prior to a scheduled no-confidence vote last November. The opposition MDP brought the motion after suggesting Muizz had failed to take action against security forces who mutinied on February 7, 2012.

The Majlis’ oversight committee earlier this month recommended Hameed not be approved for the position, with committee chair Rozaina Adam telling Minivan News that the nominee had failed to meet the group’s assessment criteria.

The oversight commission had previously delayed proceedings in order to seek public opinion on Hameed’s appointment, taking the decision far beyond the thirty days the constitution allows for the post to remain vacant.

This extended delay brought the PG’s Office – temporarily headed by Deputy PG Hussain Shameem – into conflict with the Criminal Court, which had refused to accept new cases before being repeated requests from the Supreme Court to resume normal practice.

Shameem continues to maintain that the Criminal Court has rejected around one third of cases forwarded, on questionable grounds, though the court has told local media that these cases were in fact ‘returned’ for amendments.

While pro-government parties hold a slight majority in the current parliament, last month’s election for the 18th Majlis – scheduled to begin on May28th – saw the Progressive Coalition win 53 of 85 seats on offer.

A number of post-election acquisitions has since assured the group of a two thirds majority in the new session, making it possible that the government will forward Hameed’s name again, suggested Hamid.

Lawyer Maumoon Hameed is the son of the Gayoom administration’s Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed, and the nephew of incumbent President Yameen and ruling Progressive Party of Maldives leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


President makes new nomination for MMA governor role

President Abdulla Yameen has nominated Dr Azeema Adam as the new Governor of the Country’s central bank, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).

Dr Azeema’s nomination comes after Yameen had nominated Ibthishama Ahmed Saeed, an associate director at the Bank of Maldives, before withdrawing her name amid suggestions the candidate was not qualified for the role.

Local media today reports that Dr Azeema – currently Assistant Governor and Chief Economist, Monetary Policy, Research at the MMA – holds a PhD in Economics a Master’s Degree in International Development and Finance. Dr Azeema’s 2012 thesis examined exchange rate issues in the Maldives.

The governor’s position became vacant after Dr Fazeel Najeeb tendered his resignation at the end of December. In his parting speech, Najeeb warned the government against having to print additional money to meet the “far too hefty expenses of many state institutions”.