The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has proposed salary cuts of more than 50 percent for the Malé and Addu city councilors.
The parliament’s public finance committee, dominated by the PPM, said the cuts are necessary, as the functions of the city councils have recently been centralized under the housing ministry.
The motion is expected to pass as the PPM holds a comfortable majority in the People’s Majlis. Both the Addu and Malé City Councils are dominated by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)
The 17 councilors would receive a salary nearly equivalent to that of island councilors if the motion is passed.
The salaries of mayors are to be reduced from MVR30,000 (US$1,945) to MVR15,000 (US$972) and living allowances are to be reduced from MVR15,000 (US$972) to MVR3000 (US$195).
If the motion is passed, deputy mayors will see their salaries reduced from MVR27,000 (US$1,750) to MVR12,000 (US$778) while council members will take home a pay of MVR10,000 (US$649) instead of MVR19,000 (US$1,232). Drastic cuts for living allowances are also proposed.
Island councilors are paid between MVR15,000 – MVR11,000 (US$972 -713), while atoll councilors are paid between MVR25,000 – MVR20,000 (US$1,621 – US$1,297).
The current model of more than 1200 elected councilors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the MDP government, as it was expected to add US$220,000 in wages every month. The MDP had proposed limiting the number of councilors to “no more than 220.”
President Abdulla Yameen has also sought to revise the local government framework to reduce the number of island and atoll councilors.
The government in March last year submitted amendments to the Decentralisation Act to make councillors part-time with the exception of the president and vice president of island, atoll, and city councils. The amendments were never debated as a new parliament was elected in May.
Last December, PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed added a recommendation to the budget seeking amendments to the Decentralisation Act to reduce the number of local councils and cut salaries of all councilors except the council’s president.
MDP MPs walked out of today’s meeting in protest, and the motion was passed unanimously.
Malé City Council member Shamau Shareef described the changes to pay structure as “an attempt to humiliate the city councils and ridicule the decentralization system,” while MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa said the move is “one in the string of activities aimed at destroying the decentralization system.”
Since Yameen assumed power in November 2013, the government has gradually stripped the Malé City Council of its authority and staff. Nine of the 11 Malé City councilors and all six members of the Addu City Council belong to the MDP.
A housing ministry branch has been established in Addu City. In August, the government announced that all of Addu City’s public land and parks have been moved under the ministry’s jurisdiction.
“There is no country in the world but Maldives that has city councils that are run by a government ministry,” Ghafoor said.
A fifth amendment, passed to the Decentralisation Act, states that by-elections must not be held if an island, atoll, or city councillor resigns one year after the local council elections.
However, by-elections must still be held for vacant seats if a council does not have a quorum to hold meetings or if a councillor resigns within the first year.