Almost half of civil servants earn less than MVR5,000 a month

Almost half of the country’s civil servants earn a monthly salary of less than MVR5,000 (US$324), statistics from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) have revealed.

While the number of government employees who earn up to MVR4,499 a month increased from 9,914 in May to 11,000 in September, the number of employees who earn between MVR5,000 and MVR10,000 (US$ 648) decreased from 14,380 in May to 13,580 in September.

Those earning between MVR10,000 and MVR15,000 (US$972) increased by 30 percent in September while those who earn higher than MVR15,000 rose by 96 percent.

Speaking at a three-day conference organised jointly by the CSC, Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Auditor General’s Office last week, Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim criticised civil servants for providing “poor service” to the public.

Most civil servants have poor attendance records, arrive at work late, do careless work, and take leave or holidays excessively, Nazim said, which were “unacceptable.”

Recent statistics from the CSC showed that civil servants rose from 24,742 in May to 25,010 in September – representing over seven percent of the population.

Female civil servants outnumber males, with 13,280 women and 11,730 men, while 35 percent of government workers are based in the capital Malé.

The highest number of civil servants work under the Ministry of Education (9,955), followed by the Ministry of Health (7,090) and local councils (4,454).

Nazim suggested that the “only solution” to the shortcomings of the civil service was bringing amendments to relevant laws in order to ensure employees could not take leave for four or five months a year.

Aside from pay rises and promotions, Nazim said employees could also be motivated to work better as a team, advising reforms to rules for promotions to provide incentives to civil servants.

Reviewing the organisational structure of offices could also improve efficiency, he added.

“I would like to believe that employees of the civil service can get the public’s love and respect when they work for it,” he said.

Addressing foreign participants of the conference in English, Nazim said the “key role of the civil service is to provide public service in an efficient and empathetic manner.”

With democracy in the Maldives “in its infancy,” Nazim said the country was facing “multi-faceted” and “increasingly complex” challenges and stressed the importance of reforming the civil service.

He urged participants of the conference to consider “the geographical nature of the Maldivian archipelago and the nature of service we have provided while addressing the challenges and reforming the civil service structure.”

According to the CSC, the purpose of the conference was improving the service offered to the public and focused on three main themes.

“They were organisational development and review, human resource management and development, and establishing a civil service with integrity,” the CSC explained in a press statement.

Former chairman of India’s Union Public Service Commission Professor Dev Prakash also took part in the conference, delivering  the keynote speech.


MP proposes amending constitution to limit parliament to 77 MPs

MP Ahmed Amir has proposed an amendment to the Maldives Constitution that would prevent any further increase in the number of the country’s MPs, as authorities prepare to create additional constituencies to be contested during 2014’s parliamentary elections.

Haveeru has reported that the proposal was submitted by MP Amir, a senior figure within the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), after the EC announced in June that eight additional MPs would be elected next year on top of the existing 77 members.

This increase, mandated by the constitution based on population statistics received by the EC, would take the total number of lawmakers to 85 once polling scheduled for next year is compete.

Based on the basic salary and allowances MVR62,500 (US$4000) paid to the country’s MPs, local media predicted that eight additional parliamentary representatives would cost the Maldives MVR500,000 (US32,400) per month.

Representatives for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today dismissed MP Amir’s proposals as being of limited concern to politicians and the wider public with a presidential election just under a month away.

Meanwhile, Dr Ahmed Didi, Deputy Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) said he personally believed the increase in MPs next year should go ahead as mandated within the country’s constitution.

However, he said that no formal decision had been taken by the JP on the issue, with the party’s council eventual deciding whether to support a proposed increase in MP numbers.

Government Aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom were not responding to calls at time of press.

“Public disillusionment”

The decision create eight additional salaried parliamentarians was taken as civil society and senior political figures have raised concerns over the last year about accountability within parliament and a sense of “public disillusionment” with the country’s democratic system.

Findings compiled by NGO Transparency Maldives published shortly before last year’s controversial transfer of power found that a vast majority of a survey group of 1001 believed parliament to be the country’s “most corrupt” institution.

MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Adbul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that proposal to limit the number of Maldivian MPs to 77 was not seen as a pressing concern for the party at present, with the general view taken that the party should try to make the constitution adopted in 2008 “work”.

“I would say this [issue] hasn’t sparked interest at a party level. As far as we are concerned the constitution says that boundaries should be withdrawn,” he said. “With the election coming we are not interested at the moment.”

When questioned over how a public reportedly disillusioned with parliament’s conduct might view an increase in the number of salaried MPs, Ghafoor dismissed suggestions there were any widespread concerns about the work of parliamentarians.

He expressed belief that parliament was “very popular” among the public compared to how the Maldives’ legislature had been viewed before the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008, where it operated as a body to rubber stamp the edicts of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Ghafoor was also critical of Transparency Maldives, accusing them of failing to hold parliament to account and showing transparency themselves.

“Transparency Maldives is a big joke.  You may quote me on that,” he said, accusing the NGO, which oversees projects such as Majlis (Parliament) Watch, of failing to engage with the country’s parliamentarians.

Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed was not responding to calls at time of press.

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP represented a ‘new order’ for democratic politics, alleging all other parties in the country that came to power in February’s controversial transfer of power representing an ‘old order’ favouring autocratic rule.

“The old order doesn’t like that it lost control [of parliament]. The only way it can gain control now is through a popular vote,” he said.

Ghafoor claimed additionally that the MDP had itself in the past tried to resist efforts by the People’s Majlis to approve increased salaries and bonuses for MPs, arguing the party had “never initiated” increasing such incentives for elected officials in the Maldives.

He added that certain MPs including himself had rejected receiving a MVR 20,000 (US$1,298) per month allowance to cover a parliamentarians phone, travel, and living expenses.


Standing committee proposes merging MP living allowance with basic salary

The Standing Committee of the Parliament has decided to propose that the Public Finance Committee cancel the living allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297) paid to MPs, recommending that the amount be added to their basic salary instead.

MPs currently receive a basic salary of MVR42,500 (US$2,756) and a living allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297). They also receive an additional allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297) for attending committee meetings, although some MPs have declined from taking it. The total average monthly earnings for an MP comes to MVR 82,500 (US$5,350).

Chair of the Standing Committee, Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem stated, “Article 102 of the Constitutions says that the parliament can decide on these salaries. That is why the committee is making this recommendation to the Public Finance Committee.”

Article 102 of the Constitution states: “The president, vice president, members of the Cabinet, members of the People’s Majlis, including the speaker and deputy speaker, members of the judiciary, and members of the independent commissions and independent offices shall be paid such salary and allowances as determined by the People’s Majlis.

Abdul Raheem further stated that although the basic salary would then increase to MVR62,500 (US$4,053), the take-home pay would be less than that for an average MP.

“An MP will be getting a take-home pay of MVR58,135 (US$3,770), while the Deputy Speaker will get MVR71,000 (US$4,604) and the Speaker will get MVR73,150 (US$4,744). An MP’s pay has to be equal to that of a High Court judge, while the deputy speaker’s salary is equivalent to the pay of a Supreme Court judge. The Speaker will be paid at the same level as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” Abdul Raheem explained.

“We have not really increased our salaries. We are just streamlining decisions on the matter which have been previously made in parliament. We will not be taking a penny more than now. It is only the salary structure that we are altering.”

When asked about the impacts the change in amount of the basic salary would have on pensions, Abdul Raheem responded saying “No change will come to it at all. Yes, the living allowance will be merged and made as part of the basic salary. However, the pensionable pay will remain at MVR42,500.”

Meanwhile Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News today that he personally did not support the living allowance amendment.

“The public is often concerned about MPs’ salaries and privileges. I don’t think the parliament should be so often adjusting our pay in this manner. DRP always gives its members a free whip as far as MP’s privileges are concerned, so I can confidently say that I will not support this change,” he said.

Mausoom added that if the living allowance was merged with the basic salary, one notable impact would be that the take-home salary of an MP would be somewhat decreased.

“Seven percent of basic pay is deducted as pension, and then the state matches it with an equal part. If the living allowance is included in the basic pay, it would then become part of the pensionable wage.”

“It’s not about whether the pay is going higher or lower. I don’t think we should keep on adjusting our pay up or down,” Mausoom said.

Minivan News tried contacting MP Ahmed Nazim and MP Ahmed Amir. Both members were not responding to calls at the time of press.


“Administrative issue” behind delayed civil service wage payments: Finance Minister

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has said that delays in paying wages to some state employees was the result of an “administrative issue” with the Bank of Maldives (BML) that was expected to be resolved by today.

Jihad told Minivan News that there were no issue maintaining civil servant salaries, adding that BML had been unable to credit accounts for the last few days. A BML spokesperson today responded that the company was “not aware of any such issues” concerning payments being made to accounts it held.

Meanwhile, several island councils have said they had not had any issues with providing wages to their staff.

Economic situation

The Maldives government last week said it was working on overcoming “economic difficulties” to cover several months of outstanding premium payments resulting from the Aasandha universal healthcare programme. Authorities are presently facing a 27 percent budget deficit that has already drawn concern from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Besides a crippling budget deficit, the Maldives is also facing a foreign currency shortageplummeting investor confidencespiraling expenditure, and a drop off in foreign aid.

Late last month the Finance Ministry also ordered all government institutions to immediately reduce their budgets by 15 percent.

However, Jihad denied that the present economic situation was adversely impacting the state’s ability to provide wages to civil servants this month.

“We are expecting crediting to occur as of today,” he said. “This is just an administrative issue with the bank.”

Both Civil Service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and Parliamentary Financial Committee Head Ahmed Nazim were not responding time of press.

However, a number of island councils have maintained that they have continued to receive state funding without any interruptions.

An official for the North Ari Atoll island of Maalhos’ Council Secretariat told Minivan News this afternoon that he was not aware of any issues concerning paying staff salaries, which had so far been received on time each month.

In Haa Alifu Atoll, Utheemu Island Councilor Asrar Adam said the council also had not experienced difficulties with paying wages

“We have been paying the salaries of the staffs on the last day of each month always and this month’s salary have been paid,” he said.

Island Councilor of Raa Atoll Innamaadhoo claimed that during the time of former President Mohamed Nasheed, the council was given funding for its 2012 salaries in advance – therefore ensuring it did not have any issues in paying staff.

“When our president was here everything went fine, we don’t have to worry about the salaries of 2012,” he said.

State revenue

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) last month published its second quarter report for 2012, detailing the majority of government revenue (with the exception of import duties).

The MIRA report highlights a 16.8 percent increase in revenue collected compared to the same period for 2011, attributable to the increase in tourism GST from 3.5 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2012.

Tourism land rent collected for the period was MVR 465.4 million (US$30.2 million)  – a drop of 24.9 percent that was 12.3 percent lower than expected.

Airport Service Charge revenue meanwhile fell 18.6 percent, to MVR 172 million (US$11.2 million).

Total revenue collection for the first half of the year was MVR 3.5 billion, an increase of 59.2 percent compared to the corresponding period of 2011, but 8.4 percent lower than projected.


Government silent over Maldives bankruptcy claims

The government has refused to comment on claims made in local media by leader of the coalition-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) that the Maldives was now bankrupt and already unable to pay some civil servants.

JP Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim claimed that despite government efforts, the Maldives was now bankrupt and unable to pay some civil servants after steady economic decline within the nation, according to newspaper Haveeru.

Just last month, Parliament’s Financial Committee revealed that expected revenue for 2012 had plunged 23 percent, whilst spending was set to increase by almost 24 percent.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza today said that he was unaware of the bankruptcy comments linked to Gasim and could not comment on the matter, referring Minivan News to Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad.

Both Jihad and Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.

Although the country’s Civil Service Commission (CSC) said that it had been involved in discussions with the Minister of Finance to try and overcome economic concerns, Chairman Mohamed Fahmy Hassan said that there had as yet been no issue with payments to staff.

“As of last month, all payments have been made in full, however it is the Finance Ministry who would know about the current situation,” he said.

Speaking to Minivan News on Saturday, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem said despite some reports circulating to the contrary, he was not aware of any problems with payments to military officers.

Spending review

In attempts to counter its present spending shortfall, the government has unveiled proposals such as a revision to the country’s import duties and Goods and Services Tax (GST) to alleviate its financial difficulties.

The proposals have come under criticism from former finance chiefs serving under the previous government, who allege that such changes “do not make sense”.

Whilst committed to reducing state expenditure, Jihad recently announced his aim to avoid cutting the salaries of civil servants in order to tackle the nation’s budget deficit, seeking to make savings in other areas of expenditure first.

“Civil servants are the lowest ranking of all government employees. We will try to cut all non-wage expenditure by 15 percent. Salaries will be considered after this,” he said at the time.

Despite this pledge, Jihad added that a review of public salaries was set to be conducted by a pay review board that would also focus on independent commissions in order to reach an agreement on the necessary reductions.

Civil Service salaries

Between 2004 and 2009, the country’s fiscal deficit increased exponentially on the back of a 400 percent increase in the government’s wage bill.

The year’s 2007 to 2009 included the most significant largesse as the World Bank found wage expenditure to have increased from Rf 2 billion to almost Rf 5 billion even as revenues began to recede.

According to statistics from the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the number of permanent civil servants has more than halved between 2006 and June 2011.  There has been some contention in the past, however, that the transfer of many civil servants to state owned companies under the previous government masked the true figures.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) published figures for May that estimated the government will spend Rf2.6billion (US$168 million) on salaries and wages in 2012.

Maldives Bankrupt?

JP Leader Gasim – himself a former finance minister – claimed the Maldives had already been bankrupted after steady economic declines in recent years. He said that the evidence of the country’s troubled economy may not be immediately apparent, but would be seen in the “near future” as the state lacked the “necessary finance” to settle debts, according to Haveeru.

Gasim was reported as saying that “pointing fingers and blaming others” would not provide the country with an economic solution, calling instead for parliament to pass bills to alleviate the economic situation. The nature of these bills were not specified in local media.

Gasim’s phone was today switched off, while JP presidential candidate Ibrahim Didi was not responding to calls.

However speaking to local media, the JP leader added that the “actions of some” had negatively impacted on the nation’s economy, pointing to what he claimed were calls for a boycott of the Maldivian tourism industry.

Gasim, Maldives Vice President Waheed Deen and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Jabir are among a number of figures associated with the present coalition government that are included in a list of resort owners included in the Maldives Tourism Advisory (MTA).

The advisory, established by the Friends of Maldives NGO, has a website utilising a ‘traffic light’ system recommending guests avoid resorts alleged by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to be directly linked in bringing about February’s controversial transfer of power.

Travel associations in the country have in turn criticised the MTA, expressing “serious concern” over what it alleged was a “concerted international campaign against several of the country’s resort operators.


CSC and political appointees: Pay cuts (Part II)

In part two of our comparisons between salaries of political appointees and civil servants, Minivan News examines the pay cuts initiated last year, parliament and the government’s promotion of state-owned companies.

The figures reported by Minivan News yesterday represented the fixed salaries of both political appointees and civil servants. The pay cuts made to salaries last October meant a 20 percent reduction for political appointees and a 15 percent reduction to civil servants’ salaries.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuahir, said starting on 13 May 2010, civil servants and political appointees will get a 7 percent reimbursement from the government, which will go into a pension fund.

“Meaning those who had a 15 percent reduction will now only have an 8 percent reduction,” Zuhair noted.

Most members of the civil service are in the middle management services, who earn anywhere from Rf 7,680 to Rf 10,106 after the pay cuts. This rank includes directors, senior technical officers and deputy and assistant directors.

The wages of Permanent Secretaries have also been queried, as they are civil servants working for political appointees. They are not in the regular structure but are linked to deputy ministers.

Their fixed salaries were originally of Rf 20,500 plus Rf 15,000 for allowances. After the 20 percent pay cut which started in October 2009, they now earn a total of Rf 28,400 a month. This makes permanent secretaries the highest paid members of the civil service, followed by professors who now earn Rf 20,280 after the pay cuts.

Civil servants and political appointees

The figures obtained by Minivan News show the highest number of political appointees are island councillors, with 168 across the country. After the pay cuts, they are making Rf 9,600. In total, the government is spending Rf 1,612,800 per month on island councillor’s salaries alone.

The figures also show that 35 state ministers and 55 deputy ministers are currently working for the government. State ministers are currently being paid Rf 37,600 a month, while deputy ministers get  Rf 28,400 per month, after the 20 percent salary reductions.

Together, the wages for state and deputy ministers add up to Rf 2,878,000 per month.

Despite Parliament’s decision to pass the decentralisation bill without the provinces act, and the government’s promise to reduce political appointees, former Utility Development Director at the President’s Office, Ahmed Nasheed, was appointed Deputy Minister of State for the South-Central Province yesterday.

His wages bring the figure up to Rf 2,906,400 each month.

Government-owned companies

Another point of contention has been the creation of government-owned companies which have been transferred from the civil service, such as the Malé Health Services Corporation.

Those who are critical of the salary cuts for civil servants have argued the government is still technically paying the wages of those working in these companies, which means government expenditure on wages has not reduced.

Zuhair said the creation of these companies was not only to reduce the civil service, but “it is also a more practical model.”

He said these companies are “self-sufficient and depend on earnings as a commercially viable business,” and are now relying more on Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) than on government subsidies.

Zuhair noted although many state-owned companies such as STELCO were receiving government subsidies in the past, new policies mean they will not be subsidised any more. “MNBC salaries were given out based on revenue,” he added.


MPs are currently earning Rf 62,500 a month, and are among the few sectors paid by the state who did not take a pay cut last year.

Parliamentary sittings take place three days a week, and there are three Parliament sessions a year. The sessions are held for three months and are followed by a one-month break.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Hoarafushi, Ahmed Rasheed, said he would not support a reduction to MPs’ salary cuts because he is always helping his constituents by giving them money of his salary. “I am not using a single rufiyah from my salary,” he said. “Last month, I spent Rf 134,600 for my island’s people. When you look at it like that, 62,500 is not much.”

Rasheed said this money was used mostly for medical purposes, including bills from IGMH and even air fares to Sri Lanka for medical treatment.

He said people from his island “are very poor, and right now they don’t know what to do.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP for Galolhu South, Ahmed Mahlouf, said if the economic situation was really that bad, “then yes, of course we would agree with lowering our salaries.” But, he said, “DRP and other opposition MPs don’t believe that the salary of any servant should be reduced.”

He said “Maldives is not going through such a bad economic stage,” adding that “even during the tsunami salaries weren’t reduced.”

Mahlouf said no one’s salaries should have been reduced, and “if we agreed to reduce it, it would mean we agree with the economic situation being that bad. That is why we are fighting for their rights.”