The finance ministry has defended the government’s policy on issuing the annual Ramadan bonus for civil servants after media reports focused on the exclusion of employees on paid and non-paid leave.
Contrary to the media reports, the finance ministry insisted in a statement on Saturday that the policy has remained consistent and unchanged for years.
The ministry slammed “misleading” reports about a circular issued last week that created a false impression among the public: “Some media outlets that reported the story had not obtained a comment from the ministry. These news stories suggested that the Ramadan bonus policy had been changed prior to providing the bonus this year.”
All workers in the Maldives are entitled to a mandatory Ramadan bonus of MVR3,000 (US$195) for the fasting month. This year’s Ramadan is expected to begin on May 27. During the 30-day lunar month, all adult and able-bodied Muslims are enjoined to fast from dawn to dusk, abstain from bodily pleasures, and focus on self-reflection, prayer, and charity.
The finance ministry also noted that the Ramadan bonus will be provided to employees on annual leave and maternity leave.
In its circular last week, the ministry informed government offices that the bonus will be included when salaries are paid for May.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, opposition MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, a member of the parliament’s public accounts committee, contended that excluding staff on paid and no-pay leave is unfair.
“An employee on leave is not involved in their personal work. So in that perspective, they must be provided with the allowance. Employees on leave are usually abroad for studies or some other purpose as such so this policy is not very fair for them,” he said.
“In my opinion, providing Ramadan allowances for employees on leave and no pay leave must be studied conditionally, case by case, before making a decision. The public accounts committee did not make any recommendations on this issue.”
Some US$7.6 million was allocated in the 2017 budget for Ramadan bonuses.
The police meanwhile announced last week that gifts worth US$39 will be distributed to each police officer ahead of Ramadan from May 9 to 25. The gift package includes 12 fish cans, six cans of pineapple, one sack of basmati rice (five kilos) and a bottle of sunflower cooking oil.
Some MVR2.4 million (US$129 million) was spent from the profits of the Police Cooperative Society and affiliated companies, according to the announcement.
Each police officer will also be paid the MVR3,000 Ramadan bonus as stipulated in the employment law.
POLCO distributed Ramadan gifts in previous as well, but the goods distributed were worth MVR3 million in 2016, according to Raajje TV.
Last year’s gift package included eight fish cans, eight pineapple cans and five condensed milk cans.
The Police Cooperative Society or POLCO was formed in 2012 for the welfare, economic self-sufficiency and social well-being of police officers, retired members of the police and their families.