MP Ibrahim Muttalib has submitted an amendment to the Disabilities Act to raise the monthly allowance provided to persons with special needs from MVR2,000 (US$150) to MVR5,000 (US$324).
The MP for Fares-Maathoda – who failed to win re-election in last month’s polls – stated in the draft legislation (Dhivehi) that its purpose was to provide financial assistance to families with persons with special needs to seek medical treatment overseas.
While treatment for disabled persons was covered in the government’s ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme, Muttalib stated that securing Aasandha in hospitals abroad was difficult for families.
The first reading of the bill took place at today’s sitting of parliament, after which the amendments will be tabled for a preliminary debate.
The Disabilities Act (Dhivehi) was passed in July 2010 to provide financial assistance and protect the rights of persons with special needs whilst a national registry was compiled in 2011 with more than 4,000 active members.
Citing a 2010 report by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the UNDP, the US State Department’s 2013 Human Rights Report on the Maldives noted that “most schools accepted only children with very limited to moderate disabilities and not those with more serious disabilities.”
“Children with disabilities had virtually no access or transition to secondary-level education. Only three psychiatrists, two of them foreign, worked in the country, and they primarily worked on drug rehabilitation. No mental health care was available in Male. There also was a lack of quality residential care,” the report stated.
Meanwhile, in March, the government raised the old age pensions from MVR2,300 to MVR5,000 a month to fulfil a campaign pledge by President Abdulla Yameen and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.
While the government insists that enough funds to provide the increased benefits could be generated by investing in pension funds and financial instruments, critics have argued that, with a MVR1.3 billion (US$84.3 million) deficit budget, the move will plunge the country further into debt.
“These are loans, and taking loans is acceptable to invest in to increasing productivity. But this is not such an investment, this is something the government is spending. Eventually people will have to bear the burden of this,” former Economic Development Minister Mahmud Razee told Minivan News last month.
A World Bank report at the end of 2013 urged the government to reduce spending in order reduce the “unsustainable” public debt which currently stands at 81 percent of GDP, and could rise to 96 percent by 2015.
“Maldives is spending beyond its means and financing the budget risks affecting the real economy,” the report said.