Majlis passes Sexual Offenses, and Social Protection bills

The People’s Majlis has passed the Sexual Offense Bill and the Social Protection Bill ,sending them for ratification by the president.

The Sexual Offenses Bill was passed with a majority vote of 67 from 69 members who took part. The Social Protection Bill was was passed unanimously with 69 votes.

A third bill – the third amendment to the Employment Act – was also passed in the final sitting of the third session of the Majlis on 30 December 2013. The amendment was brought to chapter five of the act regarding the employment of foreigners.


Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs submits social protection bill

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.


One third of Maldives poor, despite rich natural resources

President Mohamed Nasheed has said that one third of the Maldives population are poor people, despite the Maldives being a country rich with natural resources and able fulfill all the basic needs of the government.

Speaking at an information session yesterday on the Maldives’ social protection program, President Nasheed said that the country’s GDP showed that the country earned US$7000-US$8000 per head.

The only government could compensate for the disparity in incomes was through government aid, said President Nasheed, ”but there are a lot of difficulties for people to receive this money.”

President Nasheed said the government had introduced 10 types of direct aid to the people.

”When one’s salary has to be spent on shelter, it makes him lessen the amount of care given to a child,” President Nahseed said, ”and there will be no money to spend for the children’s education and no money to maintain good health.”

President Nasheed said that the government was seeking ways that would make its revenue to spend in other beneficial ways.

”Our former president spent Rf 500 million annually to operate the presidential palace,” Nasheed said. ”We decreased it to 50 million and used the left 450 million to introduce allowances for the elderly.”

He said there were 32,000 civil servants with salaries of Rf 5 billion.

”To determine whether it is wise to decrease that amount we know what it is being spent on,”‘ he said. ”Some of this could be used for social protection.”

He said the more the government decreased its expenditure, the more social protection increases.

”if we spent all the money on a block of lifeless concrete, it would not be beneficial,” he said, ”instead we shall spend it on the people.”