Financial perks for former presidents scaled back

Financial perks for former presidents scaled back
October 18 07:34 2016

The finance ministry introduced new rules scaling back financial perks for former presidents amid a bitter feud between the incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, and his half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The regulation, which came into effect on Sunday, sets new limits on public funding for housing, health insurance and expenses on the former presidents’ secretariats.

The monthly pension outlined 2009 Privileges for Former Presidents Act remains unchanged: presidents who had served more than one term is entitled to MVR75,000 (US$4864), while a president who served a single term is entitled to MVR50,000 (US$3,243).

The new rules lower the upper cap on some of the expenses that were left to the government’s discretion.

For instance, while the act states that the state may spend up to MVR50,000 (US$3,243) on housing, the regulation sets a cap of MVR20,000 (US$1,297) on rent, and allocates an additional MVR10,000 (US$649) for security of the house.

Funds will only be released if the former president demonstrates the need for assistance with housing, the rules suggest.

Expenses on healthcare was dramatically reduced: the act mandates the state to bear all expenses for medical care for former presidents and their spouses at home and abroad, but the regulations set an upper limit of MVR24,000 (US$1,556) on an insurance plan that is limited to the Maldives and South Asia.

The finance ministry can authorise care in a different region if the medical condition is not treatable in South Asia, the rules state.

Funding for the former president’s secretariat was also reduced from MVR175,000 (US$11,349) to MVR87,000 (US$5,642) per month. Previously, the former presidents were allowed to use the larger monthly budget as he saw fit, but the new rules sets limits on rent, salaries and utility bills.

Up to MVR30,000 (US$1946) could be spent on rent, MVR15,000 (US$973) on the salary of a senior staff and MVR8,000 (US$519) is allocated for bills.

The funds would only be released only if the ministry was satisfied with the charitable work of the secretariat and only if the president resided permanently in the Maldives, the rules state. It adds that the government would bear expenses for domestic travel only and state that the degree of security provided for the former first couple would be decided by the army.

The rules come in the wake of a civil court order that stripped Gayoom of his powers as the ruling party’s elected leader and installed Yameen to head the Progressive Party of the Maldives.

Both Gayoom and former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan receive the pension every month, but former President Mohamed Nasheed’s pension was cut after the PPM-dominated parliament amended the law to block privileges for presidents convicted of a criminal offence.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year in a trial widely condemned as unfair and politically motivated.