All five council members of Kaafu Atoll Huraa have threatened to quit the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives over lack of development funds for the island in the 2016 state budget.
Councilors are protesting the cancellation of funds for land reclamation and harbor development projects. The projects were slated to begin this year, but have now been omitted from next year’s budget.
Some MVR2million has been allocated for Huraa next year, but only to build new sports fields and upgrading the island council offices. The budget will be voted on this week.
Fayaz Ibrahim, president of the council said: “Even after two years of PPM’s rule, not even one development project has been carried out on our island. This is in spite of the fact we stood by the government election after election.”
Islanders who had supported the PPM in presidential and parliamentary elections are now disappointed with the party, he said.
“Our decision to resign from PPM is backed by a large majority of the island’s population, especially the youth. Everyone is really disappointed.”
The PPM has asked council members to refrain from speaking to the media and have scheduled a meeting for tonight.
The proposed budget stands at a record MVR27.4billion (US$1.7billion), of which an unprecedented MVR9.1billion had been set aside for infrastructure projects, the Public Sector Investment Programme.
But the majority of the PSIP funds is to be spent on development of the Malé airport and a bridge between the capital and its suburb islands.
The government said it wants to relocate some 70 percent of the population to the Malé region.
Tension over the lack of development funds erupted into a row between a minister and MPs last week. President Abdulla Yameen met with MPs and told them he will not add new projects to the budget.
The president reportedly expressed concern over rising expenses and the state of finances in the Maldives.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have long warned Maldives of risks over a ballooning budget deficit and high levels of public debt.
Presenting the budget last week, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said that the government’s priority is development of Malé region, and consolidating small populations.
The dispersion of the Maldivian people in 188 islands is an obstacle to economic development, he said, adding that the government does not get “value for money” for infrastructure projects in small islands.
Due to economies of scale – the benefits of large-scale production – Jihad said the government could not afford to provide quality healthcare, education and utilities to small island populations.
According to the 2014 census, only four islands have a population exceeding 5,000 and only 20 islands have more than 2,000 people. The Maldivian population is 338,434, of which 38 percent resides in the congested capital.
Some MVR6.3 billion was allocated for PSIP projects in the 2015 budget, but only MVR3.7billion was spent this year.
The full amount was not spent due to shortfalls in revenue and delays in securing foreign loan assistance. Several MPs complained that many projects included in the 2015 budget were not launched and have now “disappeared” from next year’s budget.