Sunday 21st Jul 2024
Dhivehi Edition
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President Solih

Campaign Promises: Hundreds Made, Few Delivered

Since September 2018, the present regime has been in power for four years. In the past four years, the whole world, not only the Maldive, has changed dramatically. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy in deep recession, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world isn’t getting better. Meanwhile, the Maldives seems to be getting worse. President Ibrahim Solih and his party have forgotten how they promised to lead the country into a new era. It is only now that people realize that all their election promises are empty letters and never put into practice.

Slumping economy

Available data show that external debt averaged US$ 1193.48 million from 2010 up to 2021, touching an all-time high of US$ 2448.6 million in 2021. The record low of US$ 696.4 million was recorded in 2015 when Abdulla Yameen was President. In its report, ‘Maldives Public Expenditure Review’, the World Bank pointed out, Maldives had run more extreme budget deficits than sustainable ones and also borrowed heavily, leading to a debt of US$ 6.1 million by the end of 2021, an estimated 125 percent of the GDP. Even excluding the guaranteed debt, the government’s direct debt stood at US$ 5.2 billion, 107 percent of the GDP in 2021. Total debt service costs on existing debt will jump to US$900 million in 2026, equivalent to 60 percent of 2019 revenues. U.S. investment bank JPMorgan warned that the Maldives is at risk of reserve depletion by the end of 2023, signaling high default risks. Even so, the government keeps borrowing. In June this year, the government has taken MVR 2billion in new loans in a single month.

Sky-high Youth Unemployment

Maldivian youth constitutes over 60 percent of the total population, but only about 36 percent of students graduate from secondary school. The Solih government has repeatedly made promises to solve the problem of youth unemployment, but the data shows that the unemployment rate came down from 2016 to 18, but rapidly rose to 18.24% in 2019, which is also the highest since 2015. The government promises to provide more education and job opportunities for young people, but the reality is that 41 percent of young women and 15 percent of young men are not employed nor in the education system. Homeless young people are forced to turn to gangs, taking part in drug dealing and smuggling.

Judicial corruption

The primary oversight body of the judiciary is the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), established under Section 157 of the Constitution. Reforming the composition of the JSC is also a key pledge of the MDP government. In September 2021, President Solih reiterated his commitment to reform the composition of JSC before the end of his term, but a leaked audio clips showed that the judges who were on the Criminal Court bench when former President Yameen was found guilty of money laundering were coerced by the ruling party. In the audio clips, one judge insinuated that his wife or a loved one was held hostage before the ruling on the Yameen case. Shortly after, the judge was get promoted. Other similar cases of judicial and political corruption have also undermined people’s confidence in the judicial system.

Freedom of assembly and speech

During his election campaign, Solih pledged to abolish laws that curtail citizens’ right to peaceful assembly and ensure civil society can freely and effectively operate without any hindrance and end all restrictions on the right to freedom of association. However, the government actually used the Freedom of Assembly Act to block protests. In 2020, the government invoked the law to enforce a lockdown ostensibly to obtain the spread of Covid-19, but actually to stop the migrant workers’ protests against wage theft and poor living conditions. In February 2021, the police in Malé arrested opposition party members who had held a demonstration outdoors protesting the government’s allotment of public housing, although this protest was held in accordance with Covid-19 requirements on social distancing and masks.
The government also uses unnecessary force against peaceful protests. Police used pepper spray to disperse a Labour Day protest on May 1, 2021, organized by Rise Up MV, handcuffing adult protesters after forcing them on the ground. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives said the allegations of police abuse in this case should be investigated under the Anti-Torture Act, but no information has been released till now.

Has the MDP government fulfilled its election promises? Maybe some. They have truly served India and taken India-Maldives relations to new heights, but we know it’s not equal and unconditional. The MDP government is nearing into the end of this term, but they doesn’t realize their grand blueprint. It’s not surprising, because we know they are thinking of the Giants, the action of the Dwarfs.