The government has drawn ridicule on social media after a minister claimed President Abdulla Yameen’s administration had created 70,000 jobs in the first two years of his presidency.
Speaking at last night’s Youth Award ceremony, Youth Minister Ahmed Zuhoor said: “[A]ccording to information received from different industries in the employment market, around 70,000 jobs have been created in the past two years.”
Zuhoor did not provide any details of the new jobs or the sectors in which they were created, but said: “No youth will hesitate to call our president an economist.”
Yameen had promised to add 94,000 jobs in his five-year term.
On social media, Maldivians have noted the 70,000 figure means there would no longer be a Maldivian without a job.
The unemployment rate in the Maldives is 11.6 percent, according to World Bank figures from 2013 – the most recent statistics available – which amounts to about 23,000 people without jobs. The unemployment rate among Maldivians aged 15 to 24 is 26.5 per cent.
Waking up to a Maldives with no unemployment bec apparently govt created 70,000 jobs, overnight ??
— PPMDP (@PutschMV) November 18, 2015
96 New jobs per day? and y do we still have unemployed people? https://t.co/OIltJU1Ie2
— almode (@almode) November 18, 2015
Mirey YAG Sarukaarun Hoadhadhin kuri 70,000 vazeefa ge list! pic.twitter.com/ePZW9jv3RR
— Muhei (@Muh3i) November 17, 2015
Speaking to The Maldives Independent today, former Economic Development Minister Mahmood Raazee said that there is no evidence to back the claims of creating 70,000 new jobs.
“This claim has not been substantiated as no official statistics have been revealed to indicate any such information,” Raazee said.
He added that “the economy does not seem to be doing so well as to produce such a staggering amount of jobs.”
The government’s forecast for economic growth is 8.5 percent for 2015, but both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expect a growth rate of five percent this year.
Ali Abdulla, the spokesperson of the economic development ministry, was unable to provide a breakdown of the 70,000 new jobs. He said the ministry does not gather information and compile statistics on creation of new jobs from all industries.
Referring to a government ban on foreigners working in specific sectors such as photography and mobile phone business, and in jobs such as cashiers and company secretaries, Abdulla said: “What the ministry is saying that, only Maldivians must be employed as secretaries in companies registered in Maldives and as cashiers. Therefore, we know from the list of business establishments that a particular number of jobs would now be available to Maldivians.”
He recommended seeking details from the youth ministry. But the youth ministry’s media coordinator was not responding to calls. Director General Um Kulthum said she could not comment without consulting the media official.
In late 2014, Yameen claimed that 17,000 job opportunities had been created under his administration, including 3,301 in public corporations and companies, 1,464 in fisheries sector and 2,512 in the tourism sector.
Of the new jobs, Yameen said 7,277 were filled by youth aged between 18 and 35.
Then in September, he claimed 50,000 job opportunities have been created.
MP Ahmed Mahloof – who had been dismissed from the ruling party – officially requested the president to provide details, including the name, address, and island of the 42,000 youth as well as the sectors in which the new jobs were created.
Mahloof told the press that according to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), only 200 jobs have been created in the civil service since Yameen assumed office in November 2013.
The presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Muaz Ali, said at the time that the president’s office will not reply to Mahloof’s letter as he had made it public.
The government meanwhile enforced a public sector hiring freeze last month as a cost-cutting measure. The finance ministry instructed the CSC not to fill vacant posts in 2016 and to seek approval from ministers and the finance ministry before making job announcements.
The government currently employs more than 25,000 civil servants. In his budget speech last week, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said the state employs more than 40,000 workers, which amounts to one in eight Maldivians.