President Abdulla Yameen reiterated the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) pledges at a campaign rally in Addu City last night ahead of Saturday’s local council election, urging voters to choose candidates willing to work with the government.
Addressing supporters in Hithadhoo, President Yameen vowed to fulfil the PPM’s pledge to provide MVR10,000 a month to fishermen during lean months, and to raise old age benefits from MVR2,700 to MVR5,000 a month before the end of the year.
“But I said even then [during the presidential election], these things are not done out of the state budget. MVR2,700 a month is given to all persons over the age of 65 from the state’s budget. In addition to money given from the state budget, what I said was that there are large amounts of money in various state funds,” Yameen said.
“If this money is handed over to a fund manager to earn a better income, an adequate profit could be made from it. It is from this that the MVR5,000 I mentioned could be distributed,” he explained.
The old age pension could not have been increased in the state budget as parliament has not approved any of the government’s revenue raising measures, Yameen contended.
The Fisheries Ministry has meanwhile begun registering fishermen, Yameen continued, after which the scheme for providing MVR10,000 a month would be launched.
Fishermen would have to pay about MVR80 to MVR90 a month as a deposit to a fund, he explained, out of which MVR10,000 would be distributed during months when fishing is poor.
“But I should have the opportunity to do this, shouldn’t I? It is the public that gives me the opportunity. The public gives this opportunity through the councillors and members of parliament you elect,” he said, urging voters to choose PPM or government-aligned candidates in the upcoming elections.
Regardless of political affiliation or ideology, he added, the public should ensure that MPs “do not say no to projects that are beneficial to the people,” which was not the case at present with MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Opposition MPs should vote for the budget and enable the executive to enact its economic policies, Yameen contended, as the government was elected by a majority of the public with implicit endorsement of its policies.
Refusing to approve ministerial appointees or pass legislation did not amount to “holding the government accountable,” he argued.
Addu City development
A number of infrastructure projects for the southernmost atoll was included in the 2014 budget, Yameen said, including establishing sewerage systems, providing clean water, and upgrading powerhouses.
Moreover, he added, the Addu International Airport at Gan would become “a seaplane hub” that transports tourists to nearby atolls.
As a foreign company has won the bid for the Herethera Resort, Yameen said further jobs would be created, whilst more tourism projects for Addu City were in the pipeline.
The government has also invited bids for the Equatorial Convention Center – which was at present an “eyesore” that was “not utilised for any purpose” – to be developed as “a city hotel complex,” Yameen said.
“We’re talking about thousands of jobs. We’re talking about economic development. We’re not talking about mariculture in a small lagoon here. We are talking about projects, a vision for economic progress,” he said.
Noting that MVR300 million (US$19 million) was allocated for the youth ministry, Yameen also pledged to establish a sports complex in each ward of Addu City this year.
High youth employment and sports facilities were necessary to reduce crime, he stressed.
If the government’s efforts were not obstructed, Yameen said, the country would undergo an “economic transformation” with GDP per capita doubled in the next five years and tourist arrivals reaching 5 million a year.
“Vote for the scale”
Former President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile been campaigning in Male’ for MDP candidates from the capital.
Speaking at a campaign event in Maafanu last week, Nasheed urged the public to “vote for the scale [MDP logo]” to preserve and consolidate democracy.
The choice was between the unjust and oppressive practices of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign and the “rapid development” and social security of the MDP’s three years in government, Nasheed contended.
“Do you want equality or for the riches of the nation to be left to a wealthy few? Do you want to maintain individual liberty or lose your freedom of expression and freedom of assembly saying it is for the good of the society?” he asked.
“Do you want the path to development becoming clear through political parties and peaceful political activity or do you want an authoritarian family rule?”
Nasheed called on voters to choose MDP to “reform and improve the condition of this country.”
“It is not possible to do it in one election. Outmoded principles and traits entrenched through the ages can only be changed in this country by repeatedly voting for the scale,” he said.