MDP will empower local councils: Nasheed

Former president Mohamed Nasheed has said the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will not allow the Maldives to become a “unitary state” and will empower local councils.

Speaking at an MDP rally held last night at Alimas Carnival area in Male’, Nasheed said that if MDP wins majority of the seats in the parliament, the party will arrange an uninhabited island for every council and provide councils with the means of making an income.

He said MDP will work within the parliament to ensure councils are given the authority to utilize land, and with that councils will fulfill the pledge of providing citizens with housing.

He noted the importance of allowing the councils to have the funds they earn in their own accounts.

Nasheed said the MDP accepted the presidential election result knowing that it was achieved through a court, and will work twice as hard to win the upcoming local council and parliament elections.

He announced his plans to visit every inhabited island of Maldives before 22 March.

“Maldives is clearly proving that a coalition government have no place under the constitution, President Yameen cannot rule except with the twenty six percent he won.” Nasheed said, reiterating his criticism of coalition governments.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom won 25.35 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections held on September 7. The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the election and ordered a revote. Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) won in the second round with 51.39 percent of the vote after third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim backed the PPM.

People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid also echoed Nasheed’s concerns over the state of local governance in the Maldives.

Describing decentralization as the biggest changed brought about by the 2008 constitution, Shahid accused then opposition parties of confusing the meaning of the decentralization act.

MDP candidates for local councils were announced at last night’s rally. The local council elections will be held on January 18 and Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 22.


“Right now decentralisation in this country is just for show”: Addu City mayor

Mayor of Addu City Abdulla Sodig has suggested the financial difficulties facing his council are a result of the failure to implement the decentralisation act properly.

“Right now decentralisation in this country is just for show,” Sodig told Minivan News.

“The government and Majlis need to resolve these issues if the citizens are to benefit from decentralisation in a meaningful way.”

Addu City will be hit hard by the government’s proposed budget cuts, said Sodig, expressing concerns that the proposed budget for the city is insufficient to adequately provide essential services.

From the MVR421.4million budget requested by the council for 2014, only MVR45.6million was allocated in the budget proposed by Ministry of Finance to the People’s Majlis.

According to the mayor, the initial amount proposed in July 2013 was MVR54.8 million, in response to which the council informed the ministry that MVR123.1 million would be required for recurrent and capital expenditure – excluding Public Sector Investment Programmes (PSIPs).

When the council again requested a minimum of MVR85 million, the ministry proposed a reduced amount of MVR45.6 million. Of this amount, MVR35.2 million was allocated for salaries, MVR5.7 million for pre-schools, and MVR3.7 million for council office administrative costs.

Sodig says this amount would not cover the expenses of repairing mosques and roads.

“Addu City roads are badly in need of repair, whenever it rains most roads are flooded” he said. No funds were allocated for road reconstruction and repair in 2012 or 2013, he added.

Funds for some services in the council’s mandate, such as maintenance of roads and mosques, are included in the budgets of the relevant state departments, Sodig noted.

“It is very difficult, time consuming and costly to carry out our obligations like this.”

The MVR45.6 million budget currently proposed by the ministry does not include any additional projects, for which the council had requested MVR291.9 million.

“The amount we requested includes money needed for land reclamation projects in Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Maradhoo-Feydhoo and Feydhoo. It was initially included in the budget, but has been removed now” Sodig explained.

In 2013 MVR6 million was proposed for PSIP projects, but the council received no money when the budget was finalised. The land reclamation projects were first proposed in 2008 but have been repeatedly delayed.

The actual budget allocation for the council in 2013 was MVR33.7 million, though it reached MVR55 million by the end of the year. The council still has pending electricity bills and up to MVR3 million and MVR186,000 in phone bills.

“At the budget committee we requested at least MVR25 million to pay our pending bills and for other existing contracts such as security and legal services, and they said anything that is absolutely essential will be included” Sodig said.

In 2014 the Council will earn an estimated MVR12.9 million in land lease payments and other fees collected for services provided by the council. A number of issues with financial independence of local councils, however, makes it difficult for the money to be properly utilised.

In 2012, the Finance Ministry requested all local councils to deposit all their revenues with Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) – a decision which Sodiq believes has discouraged local councils from investing in income generating programmes. Fees collected for public services provided with the council’s own resources are also collected by the central ministries.

Sodig blamed laws contravening the ‘Decentralisation Act’ as a primary cause for these issues.

Article 81 of the act requires national authorities to allocate an amount (decided by Ministry of Finance) from state facilities in which the council does not have any participation but are within it’s administrative area.

The mayor noted that no such payments have been made so far, and that some of the natural resources currently utilised by the state were sources of income for locals through traditional economic activity prior to their development for other purposes.


Institute of local governance and development launched

The Institute of Local Governance and Development, a private initiative of Bandos Island Resort owner and former Atolls Minister Mohamed Waheed Deen, was inaugurated at a ceremony at Dharubaaruge convention centre last night by Commonwealth Local Government Forum Secretary General Carl Wright.

In his keynote speech, Wright praised the former minister as “the founding father of local government in the Maldives.”

Waheed Deen spearheaded efforts to introduce local governance through elected councils before resigning as Atolls Minister in August, 2008.

At last night’s ceremony, Waheed Deen explained that his institute will support the decentralisation process and promote good governance by providing training programmes, consultation and information.

As its first order of business, the institute plans to conduct a two week course for newly-elected councillors at Bandos.