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Parliamentary rules changed to expedite budget approval



Following delays in submitting the 2016 budget to the People’s Majlis, a parliamentary committee has changed the rules of procedure to expedite the process of approving the annual state budget.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had told local media that the budget has not been finalised as President Abdulla Yameen and senior government officials have been preoccupied after an alleged attempt to assassinate the president with a bomb on his speedboat on September 28.

The finance ministry was planning to submit the budget last Thursday, but Jihad said the date has been delayed to November 12.

President Yameen’s administration has been plunged into turmoil and uncertainty with the arrest of Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on suspicion of links to the explosion on the “Finifenma” speedboat.

The defence minister and police chief have also been sacked while several officials were dismissed before Adeeb’s arrest in an apparent purge of his supporters from the government.

The parliament’s general affairs committee today removed a provision that required a seven-day period between submission of the budget and beginning the debate. The standing orders now allow the budget debate to begin immediately after the finance minister submits it for approval.

The rules were also changed to allow MPs to seek information from the finance ministry after the budget is submitted. The amended section previously stated that MPs must wait seven days before requesting information.

The committee’s changes will have to be approved with a vote at a sitting of the People’s Majlis. The changes were reportedly made at the request of Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and approved by the pro-government majority on the committee.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and ally Maldives Development Alliance control a majority of 49 seats in the 85-member house.

Following submission of the budget, a lengthy debate takes place at Majlis sittings with the opportunity for all 85 MPs to speak, after which the budget is sent to a special committee for evaluation and review.

The committee – comprised of all MPs from the economic affairs and public accounts committees – has the authority to make revisions to the budget before it is sent back to the floor for a vote.

The parliament breaks for recess at the end of November.

In December last year, the parliament approved a record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015 without significant changes to spending plans or revenue forecasts.