Parliament passed Thursday an MVR493 million (US$32 million) supplementary budget to approve unforeseen spending and new revenue-raising measures for the last two months of 2017.
More than 60 percent of the proposed extra spending was allocated for the Aasandha health insurance scheme due to the failure to streamline expenses as planned.
The supplementary budget was passed unanimously with 39 votes in favour from ruling coalition lawmakers in the 85-member house. After protesting in the chamber since August, opposition lawmakers boycotted the sitting.
Opposition lawmakers have since questioned the legitimacy of the vote as the constitution requires more than half of the total membership of the People’s Majlis – 43 MPs – to be present for “voting on any matter requiring compliance by citizens”.
MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the parliamentary group leader of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, told the press that the opposition majority could have voted against the budget but wanted to ensure that health services are not disrupted.
Appearing at the budget review committee Wednesday, Finance Minister Ahmed Munawar blamed political uncertainty for the failure to collect MVR500 million from foreign investors in Special Economic Zones.
Presenting the supplementary budget Tuesday, Munawar had also conceded that “a large portion” of income from new revenue-raising measures such as raising MVR500 million from selling land in Malé would not materialise.
Munawar said the government is improving the parking system in Malé before introducing a planned congestion fee. He also noted that revenue from an airport development charge was less than anticipated due to the Majlis decision to reduce the fee for Maldivians and delay its introduction.
The ruling party-dominated committee approved the budget Wednesday with the votes of MDP MPs Ibrahim Shareef and Ahmed ‘ADK’ Nashid. But neither attended today’s sitting after the joint opposition parliamentary group issued a three-line whip to boycott the vote.
The constitution requires parliament’s approval to add supplementary expenditures to the annual state budget. An MVR26.7 billion budget was passed for 2017.
In September, the National Social Protection Agency denied rumours that some overseas hospitals have stopped Aasandha services due to late payments. NSPA also told the press that it would settle outstanding payments owed to private hospitals, clinics and pharmacies under the Aasandha health insurance scheme.
Some 90 percent of the supplementary budget will add to office budgets to cover recurrent expenditure with MVR47 million earmarked for a school digitalisation project the only capital investment.
- MVR300 million to NSPA for the Aasandha health insurance scheme
- MVR50 million to the Maldives Police Service to pay for fuel imports
- MVR40 million to the Regional Airports agency due to renationalising the Kaadehdhoo airport
- MVR30 million to the health sector and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital for purchasing medical supplies and consumables
- MVR26 million to the Elections Commission to hold seven parliamentary by-elections
The government also proposed raising MVR268 million from new revenue sources,
- MVR8 million from amending the revenue stamp law
- MVR29 million from amending the goods and services law
- MVR231 million from extending lease periods of three resorts to 49 years