Bill submitted to raise disability benefits to MVR5,000

Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem has submitted an amendment to the Disability Act to raise the monthly allowance provided by the state to persons with special needs from MVR2,000 (US$150) to MVR5,000 (US$324).

The stated purpose of the amendment bill (Dhivehi) is to provide financial assistance to families with persons with special needs to seek medical treatment overseas.

While treatment for disabled persons was covered in the government’s ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme, the MP for Makunudhoo stated that securing Aasandha in hospitals abroad was difficult for families.

The first reading of the bill took place at today’s sitting of parliament, after which it will be tabled for preliminary debate.

According to local media, Anara has also submitted a petition to parliament for raising the benefits, which has been signed by 54 MPs.

The Disabilities Act (Dhivehi) was passed in July 2010 to provide financial assistance and protect the rights of persons with special needs whilst a national registry was compiled in 2011 with more than 4,000 active members.


The President’s Office meanwhile announced yesterday that the government would cover advance payments for 15 flats in Hulhumalé allocated for children with special needs.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media that at MVR18,500 (US$1,199) per apartment, the total cost would be MVR277,500 (US$17,996).

“The government has decided to provide speech therapy, developmental physiotherapy, and occupational therapy both at Vilimalé Health Centre which is being developed as a hospital, and at Dhamanaveshi [in Vilimalé]. It has also decided to provide special seating services for children with disabilities at IGMH,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

In March, the government raised the old age pensions from MVR2,300 to MVR5,000 a month to fulfil a campaign pledge by President Abdulla Yameen and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

National inquiry

In May, hundreds of people gave testimony to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives’ (HRCM) “National Inquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities.”

Parents spoke of the state’s failure to provide medical services and education to children with special needs whilst private services were costly. A single diagnostic assessment costs MVR5,000 and an hour of therapy costs MVR500, neither of which are covered by the ‘Aasandha.’

According to the HRCM, statistic from 2009 indicate that, out of 2250 children with disabilities, only 230 were attending schools at the time.

Citing a 2010 report by the HRCM and the UNDP, the US State Department’s 2013 Human Rights Report on the Maldives noted that “most schools accepted only children with very limited to moderate disabilities and not those with more serious disabilities.”

“Children with disabilities had virtually no access or transition to secondary-level education. Only three psychiatrists, two of them foreign, worked in the country, and they primarily worked on drug rehabilitation. No mental health care was available in Male. There also was a lack of quality residential care,” the report stated.


India to provide Maldives with equipment, financial assistance for defence

India has pledged to provide the Maldives with an assortment of defence equipment, infrastructure, and training, reports local media.

Seven radar systems, adding to the three already in place, are being given by the Indian government, as well as a helicopter for search, rescue and emergency evacuation in the northern Maldives.

Financial assistance is also being provided to construct a Coast Guard building and a harbor for Coast Guard vessels, in addition to establish a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) composite training centre in Lhaviyani Maafilaafushi.

The pledges were made by Indian Defence Minister A K Antony during Minister of Defence and National Security Minister Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim’s recent visit.


Maldives repays US$50m loan to India

The Maldives government has this week repaid a US$50m loan  originally supplied by India to the previous administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, local media has reported.

Citing senior government officials, local newspaper Haveeru reported that the repayment has been made Tuesday (December 4) after the Indian government said it would not be extending the repayment period for the funds.

India late last month requested that the Maldives government make US$50 million in treasury bond (T-bond) payments to India by December, with a second equal payment scheduled to be made in February 2013.

Diplomatic dispute

The Maldives government was in recent weeks been drawn into a diplomatic row with its Indian counterparts over a decision to dismiss an injunction granted to India-based infrastructure group GMR by the High Court of Singapore over the managing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’.

Authorities in the country have opted to void the contract signed by GMR and the previous government, whilst vowing that the airport will be run by the state-owned Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) by Friday (December 7) even with the injunction issued by the Singaporean courts.

Indian media has meanwhile claimed that the Indian government is considering freezing aid to the economically-crippled archipelago, notably a US$25 million loan necessary for the payment of civil servant salaries and the construction of a police academy.

“We are not happy with the way Maldives cancelled the GMR airport deal. This has surely left an impact on our bilateral ties,” a foreign ministry official told AFP. “A decision whether the money should be given or not will be taken soon.”

However the Indian High Commission n Male’ has previously stressed to local media that the suggestion of cutting aid was “unofficial”, adding that such a decision would not be “unilateral”.


President Waheed to attend OIC extraordinary session in Saudi Arabia

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has today embarked on a visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Abdulla Bin Abdul Azeez to attend the fourth extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Conference.

According to the President’s Office, President Waheed has said a key part of the visit would be discussing the ongoing situation in Syria, while also establishing “close relations” with the Islamic community and discussing potential financial assistance from fellow delegates.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that while addressing Syria at the OIC emergency summit was the key focus of the visit, the president would also be talking with participants regarding different types of possible financial assistance for the country.


China donates over US$20 million in financial assistance

The Chinese government has made two generous donations to the Maldives in the past week, adding to over US$20 million in aid.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, confirmed the Chinese government has granted 50 million Chinese Yuan (US$20 million) in aid plus US$20,000 to go directly to Kudakudhige Hiya children’s home in Vilingili.

The shelter has been experiencing staff shortages recently due to financial difficulties.

Zuhair said the bulk of the money would be allocated towards helping the Maldives “overcome the challenges of the global economic recession,” specifically in infrastructure, sewerage and utilities, roads and climate change adaptation.

He noted the money had not been officially allocated yet and would be looked into shortly.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, said the money had not yet been officially granted and it was “premature to talk about it” until the final figures came from the Chinese government.

Spokesman Mr Lieu at the Chinese embassy to the Maldives in Colombo confirmed the figure of 50 million Chinese Yuan and added, “the Chinese government has tried its best to help its friend.”

The Chinese government also assisted with the construction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the National Museum, which is still under construction.

The money for the Vilingili orphanage was announced by Honourary Consul to the Maldives in Shanghai, Yang Guisheng. The donation was received by First Lady Laila Ali while on an official trip to China last week.

The first lady thanked Guisheng for the generous donation and said the assistance was much needed for a centre like Kudakudhige Hiya.

Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali said the funds ”will really help” the centre, and will be prioritised towards “enforcing security in the building.”