DRP to submit no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Inaz

Main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has decided to submit a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz.

Speaking to Minivan News today, MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom,  deputy leader of the DRP parliamentary group, argued that the Finance Minister had been irresponsible in fulfilling his duties and constitutional mandate.

“Given that local governance is vital in democracy, the Finance Minister has not been issuing budget for the councils in a timely manner and the councils have had their work stalled because of that,” said Dr Mausoom, outlining the grounds for the no-confidence motion. “Secondly, while the media plays a vital role in democracy and while we are all in need of a state broadcaster, the Finance Minister has not issued the budget for the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).”

Moreover, Mausoom continued, Finance Minister Inaz supported the current system of taxation and devaluing Maldivian currency.

“The fisheries subsidies have been withheld as well,” he added.

The DRP will be seeking support from other opposition parties to vote in favour of the motion, he said.

At a press conference held today to announce the decision, Mausoom contended that Inaz’s decision to allegedly withhold funds for certain budget items constituted “actions that are contrary to democracy.”

Finance Minister Inaz however told Minivan News today that the fuel subsidy for fishermen was added to the budget by parliament.

In December 2009, parliament added Rf800 million (US$62 million) to the 2010 state budget prepared by the government, including media subsidies, fuel subsidies for fishermen and the reversal of pay cuts of up to 15 percent for civil servants.

The additions were made at a time when the country was facing a crippling budget deficit and pressure from international financial institutions to reign in government spending.

“The parliament recommended the fisheries subsidy and the ministry was told to deduct the amount required for it from money allocated for other subsidies and did not tell from which subsidies we should take the money for fisheries subsidies,” Inaz explained. “All other subsidized services are also essential services, such as subsidies for student text books, it will end up in the same way if money was deducted from any of the services.”

Inaz observed that diesel was currently subsidised while the government has reduced 50 percent from the price of diesel, which he said was a subsidy mainly targeted for fisherman.

“And the MBC issue is currently in court and I do not have anything to do with matters ongoing at court,” he said.

On the new taxes, Inaz noted that all tax legislation must be approved by parliament and not levied unilaterally by the government.

Inaz insisted that he never claimed that the dollar shortage would be alleviated three months after the decision to float the exchange rate.

“The media has been spinning what I said,” he suggested. “What I said was that within three months we will see the real exchange rate for dollar within the band [of the managed float]. The ministry has no mandate to determine monetary policy, it is within the mandates of Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). We only try to balance the expenditure and revenue.”

Inaz noted that the current administration had reduced an inherited fiscal deficit of 33 percent to a forecast of 12 percent this year.

“I have always worked for the benefit of the people as that is what I swore an oath to do and I will not change anything in light of this decision made by [the DRP] to forward a no-confidence motion,” he said.