Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs on Monday (July 22) submitted a social protection bill to parliament for review, after amending the bill to stipulate 11 instances in which the state must protect and assist under-privileged citizens.
According to the report submitted by the committee, the objectives of the bill are to provide as-yet unspecified support to citizens facing difficulties as a result of poverty and to increase equitability between the rich and poor. Support for citizens lacking the means to obtain basic necessities and the provision of state facilities to all citizens in the most equitable manner possible were also among the aims.
The bill stipulates the provision of financial aid to single parents, and support to children under the care of guardians other than biological parents. These same guardians and students are also included as recipients of support.
It furthermore guarantees support to neglected persons, as well as persons suffering from psychological disorders.
The bill additionally stipulates the provision of subsidies for expenses on food products, electricity, water and accommodation.
The bill offers support in “emergency situations”, while small and medium businesses located in any industrial district facing difficulties is also included.
Neither the amount of financial aid that an individual may be provided under the bill, nor the criteria individuals must meet to qualify for aid are included in the draft. Instead, the act says that these details must be established in regulations gazetted three months after the ratification of the bill.
According to the bill, an individual or a person on behalf of the applicant is required to register with the National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) for support and subsidies granted by the state.
It also include clauses which obligates the NSPA to uphold the confidentiality of personal information of all persons who file for support, adding that employees of the agency who divulge such information may be subjected to fines ranging between MVR 5,000 (US$325) to MVR 10,000 (US$650).
The Social Protection Bill was initially submitted to parliament on October 19, 2010. It was sent to the Committee on Social Affairs for review and amendment on December 14, 2010.
The Committee had its first meeting regarding the bill on October 8, 2012, after a period of almost two years since the bill was sent for review. At this meeting, a subcommittee to focus on the matter was appointed.
The subcommittee included Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdul Azeez Jamaal AbuBakr, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Hassan Latheef and Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Hassan Adil.
According to the committee report, other institutions that have provided comment and feedback on the bill are the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights and the Attorney General’s Office.