President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came into office with promises to minimize state expenses.
During his campaign for the 2018 presidential election, President Solih expressed concerns over the many political positions within the previous administration. He called the 400 political posts “a waste” of state resources.
However, upon his rise to power the president has chosen it fit to appoint over a thousand political appointees. Most of these positions were newly created after the president came into office, through the hardest period in Maldivian economy.
Albeit allegedly, these political posts being assigned to friends and family of the current administration, the bulk of the expenses are reaped by political appointees in Maldivian embassies abroad. Select few of these individuals receive from MVR 200,000 to MVR 300,000 a month in compensation including countless undue allowances.
Amongst the Maldivian embassies, the Maldivian embassy in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia receives the most significant portion of these expenses. The finances sent towards this embassy is a mere window into the squandering nature of the current administration.
Outlay larger than some state-mandated offices
The annual budget approved for this year devoted a total of MVR 33.5 million toward the operations of the Maldivian Embassy in Malaysia. This is an allotment greater than the annual budgets of certain state-mandated offices and evidently, the figure saw a raise after President Solih came into office.
The embassy currently staffs nineteen employees whereas during President Yameen’s administration this number was around four or five.
During the last three years in office, President Yameen had budgeted a collective amount of MVR 43.16 million towards this embassy which constitutes MVR 14 million per year. However, during the first three years of the current presidency, MVR 82.01 million was spent on the embassy in Kuala Lampur, constituting MVR 27 million a year. Therefore, the total finances put towards this one embassy has increased by 90 percent.
Furthermore, the embassy is Malaysia has a more substantial budget than state-operated authorities and agencies; where Health Protection Agency (HPA) received MVR 27 million, Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) received MVR 26 million, Maldives Blood Services received MVR 24 million and Dhamanveshi received MVR 7 million. These are authorities that are barely scraping by.
One of the most heavily staffed embassies
The Maldivian embassy in Malaysia is one of the most heavily staffed embassies in the country.
While the Maldivian Embassy in Malaysia has 19 employees, the Singaporean Embassy in Malaysia has 17 employees. Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world and the number one trade partner of Malaysia.
This Maldivian embassy has more employees than embassies for the major world economies such as England, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and Japan. These countries have deeper ties to Malaysia, in business and expatriates.
A Maldivian living in Malaysia told TMJ that the employees at the embassy have minimal work and are usually absent at work. The source stated that most of these employees are students who get full salaries even if they do not attend work every day. Most of their families live in Malaysia under the state’s financial support.
Furthermore, employees without dependents are known to collect dependents’ allowances.
According to the source, Badhruddheen Naseem, appointed as the First Secretary at the Maldives Embassy in Malaysia, collects dependents’ allowance pretending to have his wife, Guraisha Ismail living with him in Malaysia, even though she is a full-time employee at MACL. Badhru, the brother-in-law to the Economic Minister, Fayyaz Ismail, collects a total of MVR 700,000 a year in dependents’ allowance.
The current administration has recently changed the Maldivian embassy building in Malaysia to accommodate the increasing number of staff as the old building did not have enough space.
TMJ has learned that MVR 30 million out of the budgeted MVR 33.5 million is set to be spent on employee remuneration, which is roughly MVR 1.5 million per employee, per annum.
The government had claimed that such expenses are necessary to strengthen diplomatic bonds with other countries to bring in investment opportunities, however, the administration has been unsuccessful in bringing even one tenth of the financial aid estimated in the annual budget.
Statistical reports by the Ministry of Finance shows that the budget deficit has exceeded MVR 5.9 billion, which is a rate increase of MVR 23.8 million per day.