MDP will fight for provinces, says president

President Mohamed Nasheed has said the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will not stand by while the opposition scuttles legislation intended to devolve decision-making powers to the people.

Addressing supporters last night at the MDP haruge (headquarters), Nasheed said the MDP did not contest the presidential election out of “greed for power” but to empower the people.

“We can only have good governance in this country when we devolve real powers of governance to the atolls,” he said. “We cannot achieve the development we want any other way. We cannot make the change we hoped for.”

MDP’s hopes for good governance rests upon its policy of creating “seven Males symbolised by the seven provinces”, he said, adding the government’s development projects were planned within the framework of the province model.

While the government began offering services available in the capital at the province offices, he continued, it has not been very efficient due to the lack of enabling legislation.

The president said he “knew very well” the efforts of a certain group to make sure that the powers of government remain concentrated in Male’.

“In my view, it would not be wise for our party to stand by while powers and benefits that are owed to the people are obstructed,” he said.

Since the legislation was formulated to hand over 40 per cent of an atoll’s resources to its people, he said, that was what the DRP was actually opposing.

Speaking at the rally, Attorney General Husnu Suood said DRP should not be allowed to adulterate or block an agenda the people had endorsed when they voted for the MDP and its manifesto.


Parliament remains deadlocked on the government’s bill on decentralised administration, with MDP MPs arguing the opposition dominated committee had amended the legislation so that it no longer resembles the original bill.

A total of 765 amendments have been tabled to reverse the changes made by the committee, most notably to scrap provinces.

Economies of scale would not be possible without grouping three or four atolls into provinces, MDP MPs have said, since an atoll was too small a unit to be decentralised.

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) maintains dividing 21 administrative areas into seven provinces was unconstitutional, as the constitution requires devolving power to the existing 21 areas.

DRP also argued that the bill would have given undue powers to provincial state ministers and the local government authority (LGA) over elected councils, including powers to dismiss and dissolve island and atoll councils.

The 11-member ad hoc committee chosen to review the legislation voted 6 to 5 to remove provinces from the bill.

Parliament sittings have been cancelled over two consecutive days after MPs clashed and the third and final reading of the bill could not be continued.

MDP MPs accused the committee of violating Majlis rules of procedure in its review and negating the purpose of the legislation, calling on the speaker to send the amended bill back to committee.

Following last night’s cancellation, MDP supporters protested outside parliament as well as the residence of Speaker Abdullah Shahid.

After originally being pushed back to 4pm, today’s sitting has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

Negotiations are currently ongoing between the two main parties to reach a compromise on the issue.


Mid-term budget for 2010 passed

Parliament has passed a Rf12.7 billion (US$988 million) mid-term budget for 2010, seven per cent higher than the budget proposed by the government.

With the amendments made by the budget committee, additional funds will be allocated to restore civil servants’ salaries to their former levels and increase the budgets of independent institutions.

In his statement to parliament following voting on amendments, Finance Minister Ali Hashim said he fulfiled his legal duty by specifying how the deficit would be plugged in the Rf11.9 billion (US$926 million) budget originally submitted last month.

“But, since the honourable Majlis has so far not shown how the amounts it has added will be financed, I request that you state this before passing the budget,” he said, adding he could not bear responsibility for the economic consequences of an unmanageable deficit.

With the injection of over Rf800 million (US$62.2 million) to the budget by parliament, the deficit will grow to Rf5.4 billion (US$420 million), up from Rf4.6 billion (US$357 million).

Hashim warned that the budget deficit would exceed the limits acceptable to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has pledged US$92.5 million in financial assistance.

“This will create difficulties in obtaining the assistance pledged by the IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank,” he said. “Moreover, if we move away from the economic principles acceptable to the IMF, it will become difficult to secure assistance from other financial institutions.”


A total of 15 amendments were passed, including increasing subsidies for fishermen by Rf100 million and Rf50 million for farmers, requiring the government to submit an audit report of the National Social Protection Agency by March and another report providing details of the public sector investment programme (PSIP) projects by February.

Moreover, the projects will be subject to parliamentary approval, while the government will be required to submit a report on how it intends to solve disembarking difficulties in all inhabited islands by March.

Among the other amendments were reallocating Rf10 million out of a Rf100 education ministry budget item – earmarked for assistance for students’ exam fees – to build schools in the atolls; and increasing annual state benefits to people who have memorised the Quran from Rf500 to Rf2,000.

The most contentious amendment passed today was proposed by Inguraidhoo MP Hamdhoon Hameed to require parliamentary approval for projects under the public-private partnerships (PPP).

Under another amendment, the finance ministry has to settle unpaid electricity bills of government offices in the islands by February out of its contingency budget.

Fiscal framework

In his statement, the finance minister urged MPs to expedite the passage of the taxation legislation as it was crucial for generating revenue in a sustainable way.

“If the amounts proposed to increase the budgets of independent institutions are included, I believe expenditure has to be reduced in other areas of the state budget,” he said, adding it would otherwise lead to further growth of the budget deficit.

Hashim said the government was planning to make significant changes to the fiscal framework from 2011 onwards, such as setting a percentage for the budgets of institutions and replacing line item budgets with a programme budget.


It was not possible to include more projects in the public sector investment programme (PSIP) while maintaining the deficit at a rate acceptable to international organisations, Hashim said.

But, he added, some investments, such as a new jail, were included in the PSIP.

On the pay cuts for civil servants, Hashim said the government agreed to restore salaries to former levels once revenue reaches Rf7 billion.

The finance ministry supports restoring civil servants’ salaries and discussions will take place with the Civil Service Commission, he said.

He added the pay cuts were necessary after projected revenue for 2009 did not materialise due to the impact of the global recession on the Maldivian economy.

Printing money to plug the ballooning deficit, he continued, has led to serious adverse effects on the domestic economy.

On the Rf4 million in subsidies for private media recommended by the committee, Hashim said he believed the corporatised Maldivian National Broadcasting Corporation (MNCB) should be eligible as it would no longer receive state subsidies.

During the debate today, MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance criticised the government for reducing almost Rf1 billion from expenditure on education and healthcare as well as for the relatively small amount designated for PSIP.

Defending the budget, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party reiterated the government’s policy of carrying out development projects under public-private partnerships, arguing that unsustainable deficit spending for the PSIP had not delivered infrastructure for the islands.

MDP MPs criticised the budget committee for not including the “professional opinion” on the budget by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), which acknowledged that it was formulated to curb inflation and pay down the large government debt.


Committee recommends 7 per cent increase to budget

The parliamentary committee selected to review the Rf11.9 billion ($US926 million) mid-term budget for 2010 has recommended increasing its size by seven per cent to Rf12.6 billion ($US1 billion)

Presenting the committee report last night Dhiggaru MP Ahmed Nazim, chairman of the 15-member ad hoc committee, said its tasks were divided to focus on government revenue, expenditure, the public sector investment programme (PSIP), civil servants’ pay and budgets of independent institutions.

“The policy followed by the budget committee was that the government has submitted the budget the way that they want, so we do not want to make any changes to the budgets of any government institutions,” he said. “The reason is because the government should have the right to govern in accordance with their policies.”

Independent institutions

But, he added, in their meetings the committee learned that independent institutions did not believe they had “any financial independence” as they required approval for expenditure from the finance ministry.

Furthermore, the committee was informed that the funds allocated in the budget would not be enough to pay wages for the employees of independent institutions next year.

“When they are summoned to Majlis for not fulfilling their legal responsibilities, they will say you didn’t even give us a budget,” he said.

The committee therefore recommended an increase of Rf166 million (US$13 million) for the budgets of independent institutions, with Rf142million  (US$11 million) of it to be spent on salaries and allowances.

Of the Rf166 million, he said, Rf105 million (US$8 million) will go to the judiciary and the committee recommended allocating Rf15 million (US$1.6 million) from the PSIP budget to build a judicial complex for the department of judicial administration.

Civil servants

The committee further recommended an injection of Rf617.6 million (US$48 million) to the budget to restore civil servants’ salaries to their former levels.

In its negotiations with the Civil Service Commission before pay cuts were enforced in October, the government agreed to restore salaries once its revenue exceeded Rf7 billion (US$545 million).

Nazim said the finance ministry informed the committee that revenue will reach Rf7.3 billion next year.

Of the total government expenditure, 70 per cent was recurrent expenditure and 46 per cent was expenditure on salaries for employees.

“The ministry of finance and treasury revealed that salaries for state employees were not budgeted based on the number of state employees,” he said. “They said the finance ministry does not yet know the correct number of state employees. The reason is that an accurate database containing accurate information of employees receiving salaries from the government has not been established.”


“The members decided that they support the privatisation policy, but the committee believes the government has not pursued it in the best way,” he said, adding MPs criticised the sale of the majority stake in Dhiraagu, the government telecommunication company.

While committee members expressed doubt that revenue could be generated from taxation as the necessary legislation had not been passed, Nazim said the committee recommended expediting the passage of legislation on levying GST (goods and services tax) on the tourism industry.

The government proposed a bill on GST to parliament last week.

But, the report states, MPs felt Rf300 million (US$23 million) in revenue from taxing corporate profits was unlikely to materialise in 2010 as administrative matters had to be worked out after the bills were passed.

The third and final readings of the corporate tax bill and tax administration bill has been tabled in the agenda for 28 December.


Nazim said the committee noted that expenditure on payment of loans was higher than previous years as a schedule had been formulated to repay government debt.

While Rf113 million (US$9 million) was allocated for reducing the cost of goods and services, he said, details of this item was not provided.

The committee took note of a significant decline in expenditure on education and health, said Nazim, with a decrease of Rf400 million (US$31 million) and Rf700 million (US$54 million) respectively.

Moreover, the funds designated for economic development projects was only 7.9 per cent of the total budget.

The committee recommended the inclusion of Rf50 million for fishermen and Rf4 million for private media as subsidies in the budget.

If the committee’s recommendations are passed, over Rf800 million will be added to the budget.

Among a further 17 recommendations by the committee were requiring the government to submit a report to parliament in June containing details of the projects to be carried out under PSIP.

Moreover, the government should submit details of its public private partnership (PPP) projects every six months.

Following voting on the amendments recommended by the committee and proposed by MPs during the final debate, the budget will be put for a vote tonight.


Legislation passed for special assistance for the disabled

Parliament today passed legislation to provide financial assistance and protect the rights of people with disabilities.

Of the 53 MPs in attendance, 52 voted to pass the bill, while one abstained.

Presenting the committee report, Fuahmulah South MP Ahmed Maseeh Mohamed, said a bill proposed by the government in July to protect the rights of the disabled was combined with a bill submitted by Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed on providing monetary assistance to people with disabilities.

A sub-committee selected to review the legislation consulted with the Maldivian Thalassemia Association, Care Society and senior officials of the ministry of health as well as the attorney general’s office.

Once ratified, a council will be formed and entrusted with compiling a national database on the disabled, protecting the rights of the disabled, overseeing monitoring centres, formulating guidelines for their operation, addressing complaints and compiling an annual report.

The government will provide financial assistance of a minimum of Rf2,000 (US$155) a month for disabled persons.

The law states that the disabled should be given special protection in work places and cannot be discriminated against in the provision of employment.

It further calls for the establishment of a special educational centre for the disabled and for the government to provide free education for disabled persons up to the age of 18.

All government schools will be required to establish facilities for the disabled and no one shall be denied an education due to a disability.

Persons found guilty of harassing or mocking disabled persons are liable to be fined between Rf5,000 (US$389) to Rf10,000 (US$778).

Further, public places, such as supermarkets and parks, are required to have facilities such as ramps to enable access for disabled people.

Maldivian citizens with disabilities are among the most marginalised people in society. A study conducted in 2008 found that 25 per cent of children with disabilities in Haa Alifu and Haa Dhaal never left their homes.

The bill was passed today with three amendments proposed by Kelaa MP Abdullah Mausoom of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Among the amendments were making people with disabilities on the national registry eligible for the monthly benefits without evaluating the extent of their disabilities.

Mausoom’s most contentious amendment was to make children with thalassemia eligible for the monthly benefits.

During the debate on the two bills, several MPs supported providing financial benefits to families with thalassemia children.

“Parents will have the option of not including their children on the list or registry,” said Mausoom.

The amendment was passed with 35 in favour, two against and 19 abstentions.

During the final debate before the vote, MPs on the committee said the thalassemia association objected to including thalassemia patients in a bill for persons with disabilities.

Maseeh, chairman of the committee, said the bill was based on article 35(b), which states “disadvantaged people are entitled to protection and special assistance from the family, the community and the state”.

He added the bill clearly specified people with disabilities in terms of psychological and physical disabilities who face difficulties in society.

“The bill is formulated to provide financial and special assistance to people with disabilities,” he said. “That is why the Maldivian Thalassemia Association said they do not want children with thalassemia to be given that label.”

Defending his amendment, Mausoom said the purpose of the legislation was providing “special assistance”, which includes families facing financial burdens to treat their children with thalassemia.

Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam said the title of the legislation would not matter to families of children with thalassemia.

Most MPs spoke of the importance of allocating funds for the financial benefits in next year’s budget to ensure that the laws are enforced.


Bill proposed to require parliamentary approval for foreign loans

A bill to amend the financial regulations to require parliamentary approval before the government obtains foreign loans was debated at parliament yesterday.

Presenting the legislation, Maafanu West MP Abdullah Abdul Raheem of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), said he was proposing the amendments to “modernise” the financial regulations.

“My purposes [for proposing the bill] include securing economic independence for Maldivians,” he said.

He added amendments were needed for the financial regulations passed in 2006 as it gave powers to the government that contravened the spirit of the constitution.

The regulations needed to be changed in accordance with article 250 of the constitution, he said, which states “Any transfer, sale, lease, release, mortgage (to any person) or destruction of, any property or assets owned by the state, and any such other agreement, shall only be entered into in accordance with law.”

Abdullah said it was an “injustice” to obtain loans under a regulation first made in 1976, adding it was not his intention to restrict powers of the president.

The mid-term budget for 2010 currently being reviewed by a parliamentary committee includes Rf384 million (US$29 million) in foreign loan assistance proposed to plug a Rf4.6 billion (US$357 million) deficit.

The bill proposes amending the regulations to require the president to submit plans to secure loans either for the government or state-owned enterprises for parliamentary approval.

Moreover, the sale or lease of government property and providing subsidies or assistance must be conducted in accordance with a law to be passed by parliament.

During the ensuing debate, MPs disagreed with the extent of parliamentary oversight and powers over the government, with some arguing such laws encroached on the authority of the executive.

Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy said there was a contradiction between the proposed amendments and what the MP said was its purpose.

The constitution gave the president powers to formulate and implement monetary and fiscal policies.

“We have to set aside having the People’s Majlis decide everything in our thinking,” he said, adding MPs should not interfere with setting policy and implementation as it was contrary to the presidential system of governance.

Alhan said the president did not have to secure parliamentary approval to obtain loans to plug the budget deficit and MPs were not financial experts.

Moreover, he said, the article in the constitution did not deal with loans and foreign assistance.

Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, sole representative of the Republican Party and former finance minister, said the amendment was urgently needed for the future of the nation.

Article 97 of the constitution clearly states that the executive shall not obtain or receive any money or property by loan or otherwise except pursuant to a law enacted by the People’s Majlis, Gasim said.

Referring to the sale of the majority stake in the state telecommunication company, Dhiraagu, Gasim criticised the government’s policy of privatising state-owned enterprises without consultation with the people’s representatives.

He urged MPs to approve the amendments to ensure that future generations do not inherit a “hollow shell” of an indebted nation.

Hithadhoo North MP Mohamed Aslam of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party said the amendments would impede the functioning of the government.

Submitting loans required by government companies to parliament every time funds were needed would create difficulties and slow down the proceedings of parliament, he said.

Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan of the DRP said the amendments were required to ensure that the government does not exploit loopholes in the regulations in obtaining loans that would indebt the people.


Circus in parliament as MPs reject bill banning sale of alcohol

Parliament has narrowly rejected a bill outlawing the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, airports and other places frequented by Maldivians.

Of the 57 MPs in attendance, 28 voted against proceeding with the legislation, while 23 voted in favour and six abstained.

Several MPs from the two main parties vociferously raised points of order when independent MP Muttalib, who proposed the legislation, in his closing statement after the debate, told DRP MP Ali Azim to repent for his remarks and called on the authorities to take action against him.

Azim had argued against the legislation, claiming it was not a “sensible” or “necessary” law.

However Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim did not allow any points of order, leading to pandemonium in the chamber. The sitting was temporarily called off after almost every MP walked out in protest and quorum was lost.

Muttalib also accused MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi of opposing the bill because of her “close association” with the Holiday Inn in Male’, and accused MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa of defrauding pilgrims to “steal their money”.

After the sitting resumed at 11am, Muttalib said MPs would have to “bear responsibility” when the government authorised sale of alcohol in hotels in Male’.

A number of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance coalition (DRP-PA) MPs joined several independents and all the MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in either abstaining or voting against the bill.

Among the MPs who opposed the legislation were Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Villigili MP Mohamed Ramiz, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP and Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abukaburu and Isdhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim from the People’s Alliance.

Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim
Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim


During the debate, several MPs argued the bill was unconstitutional as it would indirectly authorise the sale of alcohol.

Article 10(b) of the constitution states no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be made or enacted in the Maldives.

Machangaoalhi North MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, chairperson of MDP, argued tourist resorts should also be considered inhabited islands.

“The constitution states all Maldivians have equal protection under the law. Therefore, if we are to give protection to people in inhabited islands, we must provide it to people in resorts,” she said, adding resort workers spend most of the year living in the resorts.

Ungoofaru MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the DRP, a religious scholar, said MPs were mistaken when they argued a law was not needed to ban a practice forbidden in Islam, as it was necessary to devise regulations to protect Maldivian society from social ills such as alcohol.

He added flaws and imperfections in the bill could be remedied at committee stage.

His DRP colleague, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim said MPs should consider whether such a law was needed and whether it would protect Islam in the country.

“My thinking on this is very different. We have to consider who we are trying to forbid alcohol to. We are trying to make it illegal for expatriates and foreigners who visit the Maldives. I don’t think this is a reason we should make it illegal,” he said.

With the economy reliant on the tourism industry, he continued, it did not make sense to outlaw the sale of alcohol only in parts of the country as this would not prevent Maldivians gaining access to it.

Azim said the bill was backed by “the Jews” as part of a long-term plan to weaken the country and introduce other religions.

Meanwhile People’s Alliance MP Abdul Azeez spoke in favour of the bill and urged MPs to send it to committee, but voted against it.


Speaking to Minivan News today, Mauroof Zakir, spokesperson for the coalition of NGOs and associations campaigning against the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, said the reasons given by MPs for rejecting the bill were “unacceptable”.

“We agree that there are problems with the bill, but throwing it out doesn’t solve anything,” he said. “While [parliament] has the power to send it to committee and cut and trim it, the things they said were intended to mislead the public.”

The coalition was considering proposing another bill, he said, and planned to stage protests and employ civil disobedience if the government enforced the revised regulations on the sale of alcohol.

Last month, the government revised the regulations on the import and use of alcohol to revoke over 800 liquor permits issued to expatriates in favour of authorising hotels to serve foreigners under strict supervision.

The Economic Development Ministry argued lax monitoring of the liquor permits had resulted in a black market for alcohol in the capital Male’.

But, the Ministry’s revised regulations were withdrawn following public pressure before it could be enforced and were sent to a parliamentary committee for consultation.

Under the regulations, tourist hotels in inhabited islands with more than 100 beds would be authorised to sell alcohol to foreigners, but the hotel bar should not be visible from outside or employ Maldivians.

Further, an inventory of the alcohol in storage and daily sales has to be maintained and made available to police on request, while the storage room has to be monitored by CCTV cameras.

Alcohol could not be kept at mini-bars in the hotel rooms and expatriate employees at the bar would be subject to police clearance.

Zakir said the coalition would begin work “immediately” on filing a case at the Supreme Court to abolish regulations made 50 years ago that gave authority to the Economic Development Ministry to allow the import and use of alcohol.

Following today’s vote, he said, the coalition expected the revised regulations to be enforced.


Maldives ‘easiest country in which to pay tax’

The Maldives has been crowned ‘the easiest country in which to pay tax’ for the second year running by the World Bank’s Doing Business in 2010 report, ahead of Qatar and Hong Kong.

The report measures the regulatory environment of most of the world’s economies, scoring them on factors such as the ease of starting a business, obtain construction permits, get credit and enforce contracts.

Overall the Maldives was ranked 87th out of 183 countries in the survey, a fall of 16 places on last year largely attributable to the increased difficulty of starting a new business (37th to 49th in 2010) and employ workers (6th to 41st in 2010).

Gaining credit within the country, trading across borders and closing a business continued to be major impediments to private economic development, the report indicated.

“The regulatory environment for businesses can influence how well firms cope with the economic crisis and are able to seize opportunities when recovery begins,” the report said.

Where business regulation is transparent and efficient, it is easier for firms to reorient themselves and for new firms to start up. Efficient court and bankruptcy procedures help ensure that assets can be reallocated quickly. And strong property rights and investor protections can help establish the basis for trust when investors start investing again.”

The World Bank report also revealed that despite possessing a multi-billion dollar tourist industry, the economically-troubled Maldives has the world’s third-lowest total commercial tax rate of 9.1 per cent behind Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.

Two bills on taxation have passed committee stage and are to be put before parliament for a vote, including one on corporate taxation and another on administrative framework structures. Next year’s budget relies heavily on taxation, although the legislation has not yet been passed.


Parliamentary committee suspends budget review process

The parliamentary committee chosen to evaluate the Rf11.9 mid-term budget for 2010 has suspended the process after requesting information from the finance ministry.

In an email to Minivan News today, MP Ahmed Nazim (pictured) of the opposition People’s Alliance, chairman of the 15-member ad hoc committee and deputy speaker of parliament, said some of the information was presented in a “confusing and misleading” way.

“The budget is very misleading as the finance ministry has not provided any details for major changes in budgeted figures. For example expenditure of IGMH [Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital] has been reduced from Rf317,662,050 to Rf248,842,204,” he said.

“The question is why? When we questioned the health minister in the committee only we came to know that they plan to corporatise IGMH by forming a Health Corporation and remove or reduce state subsidies.”

He added subsidies for the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation was not included in the budget:  “Can TVM [Television Maldives] and VoM [Voice of Maldives] finance their 2010 operations on their own? Surely not.”

Among other discrepancies were expenditure and revenue included in the budget for dissolved bodies and departments.

“The government recently announced that they have abolished Public Complaints Bureau and Department of medical Services. BUT expenditure amounting to Rf2.5 million is included in 2010 budget for Public Complaints Bureau in Home Ministry budget and Rf6.5 million is included as REVENUE from Dept of Medical Services,” he said.

Further, the committee noted that the budget for atoll hospitals was higher than the previous year.

“When we questioned the health minister and senior officials of the health ministry they said they don’t know the reason for that. They also said that MAY BE it is because the budgets of all other health centre’s of the atoll is included in the atoll hospital budget of that respective atolls,” said Nazim. “We cannot go ahead with a budget review with answers like ‘may be’. We need to be sure.”

Nazim said the finance ministry has not responded to the committee’s letter requesting information.

But, he added, the committee would be able to complete its evaluation in the required time frame.

Officials from the finance ministry did not respond to Minivan News’ requests for comment today.

Parliament yesterday wrapped up the budget debate after 60 MPs spoke throughout three sittings.

MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition strongly criticised the budget, arguing it did not include sufficient funds for development projects.