Saturday 30th Sep 2023
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Government expenditure

Embassies and missions overrun with activists and kin, state expenses beyond control

Foreign Ministry’s records showed that the finances expended towards Maldivian embassies and missions operated overseas have multiplied uncontrollably over the last four years.
Considering the state's expenses on individual embassies and missions, last year’s figures showed an almost 62 percent increase in expenditure, in comparison to the 2018 figures.
According to the statistics acquired by TMJ, citing the “Right to Information Act, the overall expenditure on these establishments has been increasing by MVR 20 million annually.

Embassy expense trends prior to current Administration

According to the statistics released by the Foreign Ministry, in 2018, total expenses endowed upon all embassies was MVR 164.1 million. Before that, in 2017, the embassies collected MVR 161.5 million in expenses and in 2016, they received MVR 150.1 million.
These figures indicate a MVR 11.4 million increase between the years 2016 and 2017, whereas 2017 and 2018 saw an increment of MVR 2.6 million.
Furthermore, between the years 2014 and 2016, the overseas embassies collected an average of MVR 150 million each year and alternatively, between the years 2015 and 2018, their collective financial demand increased by MVR 14 million.

The surge in embassy expenses after Pres. Solih

After the inauguration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the state’s expenditure on embassies and High commissions was magnified.
The funds spent on embassies in the year 2019 was MVR 20,208,579 (MVR 20.21 million) more than that spent in the year 2018. A total of MVR 184,374,250.23 (MVR 184.37 million) was sent towards embassies in 2019, where in 2020, MVR 212,898,273.86 (MVR 212.9 million) was expended. This is MVR 28.5 million more than that spent in the year 2019.
The following year, in 2021, the embassies received a total of MVR 226,688,727.07 (MVR 226.69 million), which was MVR 13 million more than that of 2020.

Salaries and Allowances tipped the scale

Salaries and allowances paid to embassy employees contributed to the majority of the expenses and these numbers inflated with each passing year.
During President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Qayyoom’s administration, embassy staff received a collective amount of MVR 18.9 million in salaries for the year 2017 and MVR 21.8 million for the year 2018. Even though the allowances issued to the staff in 2017 was at, MVR 103 million, this amount was reduced to MVR 94.7 million in the year 2018.

During his time in office, allowances paid to embassy staff exceeded MVR 100 million only in the year of 2017.

President Yameen’s administration issued MVR 38.5 million and MVR 87 million in allowances for the years 2014 and 2015, respectively. They spent MVR 16.3 million on salaries in 2014, whereas MVR 16.2 was distributed in salaries for 2015.

However, the changes in salaries and allowances after the administration assumed power was instantaneous.

Their first year in office, in 2019, embassy staff received MVR 24.8 million in salary and MVR 121.8 million in allowances, which was MVR 3 million and MVR 27.1 million more than the previous year’s salary and allowance, respectively.

In 2020, MVR 30.6 million was disbursed as salary, while allowances took up MVR 140.9 million. Annually, the expenses constituting salaries increased by 23 percent, whereas the allowances increased by 15.7 percent.

In 2021, embassy staff received a collective salary of MVR 33.3 million and were compensated with MVR 148.2 million in allowances. This year showed the smallest increase in overall compensation for these employees.

Reflecting on the statistics for the course of three years, between 2018 and 2021, the overall compensation and remuneration for overseas embassies’ and commissions’ staff increased by an astounding 56 percent. Notably, the number of staff appointments as well as their salaries saw a significant incline during this period.

Who is the state spending on?

Despite the obvious peak in number of staff and over 50 percent increase in remuneration, the government did not hire and invest in the best possible individuals in the foreign services field. No. They recruited members of MDP, activists and their kin; most of these appointees lack finess in the arts of foreign relations and diplomacy as they also lack the education and experience required by such a field.

For instance, performer and singer, Ahmed Faseeh, employed at the Maldivian Embassy in Malaysia simply for the reasons that he supports MDP and comes from an influential family, is earning MVR 1.9 million annually. Likewise, the daughter of MP Ahmed Falah, Mariyam Afnan, earns MVR 1.5 million annually and MP Hussain Shaheem (Andhun)’s son, Mohamed Fazeel, is paid MVR 1.8 million annually, to stay at the Maldivian Embassy in Germany.

Defense Minister Mariya Didi’s sister, Haula Ahmed Didi enjoys a hefty amount of MVR 3.2 million annually. Furthermore, former Dhidhdhoo council member, Ali Hashim, who was known to have ridiculed the islamic hijab, now stays at the Maldivian Embassy in Thailand, earns MVR 1.3 million, former minister, Zaky’s son receives MVR 1.7 million, MP Ahmed Rasheed (Araairu)’s daughter, receives MVR 1.6 million and MP Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota)’s daughter receives MVR 2.4 million, annually.

Sidelining the professionally capable employees at the Foreign Ministry to appoint political activists, relatives and friends of the ruling party and implementing undue expenses from the state’s declining budgets is worrisome. The purpose of erecting an embassy is to achieve professional diplomatic goals and must be operated within the bounds of the countries financial capacity. Moreover, countries have been seen to sieze operations of least effective embassies and commissions when the circumstances call for it.

However, the data released by the foreign ministry projects a different picture. Even during the scarcest of times, during the global pandemic of Covid-19, the salary and allowance for these political appointees increased instead of declining. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the current state of the economy and the approved budget for the year 2022 clearly reflects the missteps on part of the government.

So the question remains. Is distributing and assigning posts, much like gifts, to their own; family members of MPs and MDP activists— is it not a sign of severe nepotism and plethoric levels of corruption?