Thursday, December 30, 2010

the real issues

I guess we all keep forgetting about the real issues in our country. The politicians in the opposition keep fighting and spend all their energy and time on ways to remove the those in power from the government. The politicians in the government spend their energy and time on ways to defend their power, and ways to defame the opposition. In this battle, the citizens keep suffering, as the real issues are not well addressed.

The real issues like health care, education, drugs, crimes. Issues like respect for each other, caring for each other. Issues like work ethics, work productivity, and customer focus and customer satisfaction.

We have all been talking about increasing government expenditure, and the increasing expenditure on the salaries and benefits to the employees in the government. At the same time, we have been talking about the low productivity in most government offices and authorities. We all know that many lack the necessary work ethics, still fight for better salaries, and more benefits. The same thing is seen in the private sector as well. Even if you visit a restaurant or a cafe', you'd hardly see the waiters or the managers genuinely trying or putting an effort to make the customer happy and satisfied. They dont seem too much customer focused. Mostly, you'd see the same kind of poor work ethics, and lack of enthusiasm in performing their duties. I guess these are the real issues in our country. We need to increase worker productivity in the private sector. We need to improve service delivery even in the government sector. Employment needs to be made competitive, so that people realize the importance of being employed in a job, and performing the duties, and most of all, to become a responsible citizen.

These are the kind of issues that politicians need to spend time on addressing. Thinking of ways to improve them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why democracy may not survive in Maldives

I have been continuously criticizing the Parliament, the Judiciary, and the government on various matters relating to our nation, and kept repeating that democratic reforms that we are trying to so forcefully implant is way too costly for us at this juncture. Its not only me, many have been talking about this, and expressed concern over this issue, and left us all wondering whether this so-called 'democracy' will survive in Maldives. Whether this democracy could die in a very painful death in its infant stage. I believe that there are many signs, and reasons to believe that we may be heading towards a situation where, people will in the end get 'fed up' with this democracy thing, and would prefer things to be a little bit 'un-democratic'.

Our society has become extremely polarized, and even within the opposition, there is persistent fight for power. Genuine efforts by the government top officials are not evident, to consolidate differences in opinion, and move the country towards prosperity. Enough is not done towards addressing the short-falls in the Laws and regulations, and on enforcing the existing ones. Sincerity is not apparent from the parliamentarians and most politicians.

Law and order is not maintained. Young teenagers are getting killed on the street. Gang fights have become so frequent. People have started losing faith and confidence in the Police. And recently, many have become frustrated on the way the government has been handling or managing the issues related to Islam.

Finally, what matters most if are to survive as a country. It's the economy, stupid. Our economy is facing huge fiscal imbalance due to the high government budget deficit in the last few years, and failure to address this issue. We are talking about a deficit which is over 20 percent of GDP, and the highest in the world. We have a current account deficit above $400 million in the past four years. We have an external debt of over $500 million which is borrowed by the government, and further $400 million borrowed by the banks from overseas. So in total an external debt exceeding $900 million, which is same as our GDP. With a budget deficit, and a current account deficit (twin deficit) and a huge a external debt, the economy becomes extremely vulnerable and un-attractive to international investors and aid-providers. The situation becomes worse when we do not see the required fiscal reforms, and lack of any hope for such reforms. There is every reason to believe that the current Constitution may not be able to save us from these problems. Hence, when we finally hit the 'rock-bottom', it is less likely that democracy can save us. In a time of such crisis, we may need to rely on a leader who is more autocratic, and people may feel that we need a leader who can solve our problems, and nothing else.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are Most Parliamentarians fit to be in the Parliament?

Its been more than a week since a proper work has been done in the Parliament session. The Parliamentarians continue to draw Rf62,000 per month out of the State budget, do not care about the critical economic situation of the country, do not adequately address the growing social problems and crimes, and as the Human Rights Commission has recently highlighted, the Parliamentarians have neglected the rights of all Maldivians by not being engaged in making important laws needed for the country. And yet, nobody seems to be doing anything about this. The Constitution says that the "all powers of the State of Maldives are derived from, and remain with the citizens". Hence, even the Parliament and the Parliamentarians derive their powers from the people; and does that power still remain with the people? Is it the people's will, to halt the Majlis sessions, their representatives shout at each other, and delay passage of important laws? Is it the people's will, the Parliament do nothing to mend the economic, monetary, financial, social, and judicial problems in the country?

Well, I dont think most of the citizens in the respective constituencies have the power or influence over their member. If they don't, I'm sure its time, we start exercising that power, and pressure our Parliament members to act in good faith, to show sincerity towards the country's well-being. And also, to show respect towards each other, maintain discipline in the Majlis chamber and elsewhere.

One of the flaws in the Constitution is that it assumes that the members of the Parliament will act in good faith, and make all decisions for the benefit of the society and the country. But the problem is, its a very dangerous and a wrong assumption. Some Parliamentarians understand very well, the dangers of having a huge fiscal deficit, and its impact on the macroeconomy. However, even this year, we saw a State Budget that was passed with so many amendments leading to further increases in the expenditure and the deficit. Some educated Parliamentarians understand the importance of increasing government revenue through taxation, however, not enough effort has been put to pass the necessary legislation.

And some Parliamentarians, simply do not understand at all. The consequences of their actions, their words, and their inactivity. Some of them do not fully understand their responsibilities, and their duties towards the people and the country. Some of them do not have the values and principles that are necessary and prerequisites to become a Parliamentarian. We can fix the country and the economy very easily, if we have a sincere, honest, and respectable bunch of Parliamentarians.

Monday, November 8, 2010

...And who really can??

We got a new Constitution. And yea, we've got separation of powers, with an independent Judiciary, a Parliament, and an Executive. With it comes huge expenditure and lots of jobs with big salaries. With it, huge Government expenditure. By 'Government', I mean the total expenditure of all the state entities, including the Parliament, Judiciary, Civil servants, Political appointees, independent commissions, and all entities with budgets provided by the Ministry of Finance.

The Annual Budget is prepared and presented to the Parliament by the Minister of Finance. The Minister can work very hard, and try to reduce the recurrent expenditure (except salaries) of all the government ministries, like the education, health, president's office, police, army, and all of them. When it comes to the salaries of all the civil servants in these government ministries, only the Civil Service Commission has the power to decide on them. The Minister of Finance can advise the President to reduce the salaries of the political appointees, and also to reduce the number of political appointees.

When it comes to the independent commissions like the Human Rights or the Anti-Corruption Commission, they can decide on the level of salaries they will provide to its employees, except their members. The members' salaries are decided by the Parliament. So, here we have newly formed independent institutions with separate budgets, and the autonomy to hire and fire people as they wish. But ultimately, all their expenses and salaries are paid out from the Government budget, and the Minister of Finance is responsible for the macroeconomic stability of the country through its fiscal policy. For that reason, in most countries, the Finance Minister is considered as the most powerful and influential minister in the cabinet. In the case of New Zealand, the Minister of Finance may veto any parliamentary bill which would have a significant impact on the government's budget plans. In the USA, it is the Finance minister (Treasury Secretary) who even signs on the Dollar notes. In England, the Governor of the central bank (Bank of England) has to report to the Finance Minister (Chancellor of Exchequer). In many countries, this is the case.

It used to be the case even in our country. In the very beginning, the President himself was the finance minister as well as the governor of MMA. Later on, we had a cabinet minister as the Finance minister, and he was also the Governor of MMA. This way, the fiscal and monetary policies were synchronized, and things were in order for some time. In 2008, with the Constitution was adopted, new institutions and commissions established, and salaries were raised. The expenditure of the government hiked, and the deficit of the government started escalating. Meanwhile, despite MMA being independent, deficit of the government was heavily financed by MMA through printing Rufiyaa (monetization). This put pressure on the exchange rate. The process continued until the August of 2009, when deficit monetization was halted by MMA. However, the process of increasing the government expenditure did not stop, and the total wage bill kept on increasing. We had a budget deficit of 29 percent of GDP by the end of 2009, and we expect it to be around 20 percent by the end of this year.

Where are we now? Nobody is in total control of the affairs of the economy. Not even the President nor the Finance Minister or the Governor of MMA, has the power to rectify the economy, and put the house in order. We need to reduce the deficit of the government, by reducing the wage bill, and recurrent expenditure. We need to reduce the number of civil servants, develop the private sector, and increase our reserves.

So, in order to do these, the Parliament members need to understand all this, and act sincerely and in good faith. They need to pass necessary legislature that can enable somebody to reduce the wage bill and the reduce the deficit and the debt of the country.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Can the finance minister save our economy?

I don’t think so. Here’s why.

The new Constitution requires us to form so many ‘independent’ commissions and institutions, and an ‘independent’ civil service. The Minister of Finance no longer has the power to control their salaries and expenses. The salaries of the Parliamentarians are decided by themselves. The salaries of Judges and the Judiciary are decided by the Parliament. The salaries of most independent commissions and institutions are decided by themselves, and the salaries of the commission members and the heads are nominated by the Parliament. Any new revenue measure has to be first approved and passed by the Parliament. The annual government budget is obviously passed by the Parliament. Most of the time, the Parliament passes the budget with many amendments that increase the expenditure further.

What is the role of the Finance Minister then? Just pay all the salaries, and budgets, and then record all the numbers? It’s pretty obvious that the Finance Minister cannot save our economy. So who can?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Everything in MALE'???? still??

In case the President and the government officials are not aware of the facts:
1. Male' has a population of over 100,000 people. Official number in 2006 indicates 103,693 living in Male'.
2. Congestion in Male' is so severe, it is difficult to walk around, drive or ride in Male'.
3. Housing conditions are very poor and families live in small rooms less than 120 square feet, and it is among the cities with the highest population density in the world.

The list goes on...bottom line is, Male' is not at all suitable for anyone who wants a decent living, raise a family, and live a peaceful life. The reason, is OVER-POPULATION! How we have got here, is a very long story. Long story short, mainly due to policies that attracted people, and these policies were for political reasons.

We all had very high hopes and expectations when the present government came to power. I was happy to see a President talk about important economic reforms needed for the country. He was ready to take, and took drastic measures in 2009, in order to address the macro economic imbalances. The government made political hard decisions, for the benefit of the broader economic well-being. And that's something we need to applaud.

However, some of the recent events have made me think, that the present government doesnt want the population of Male' to be reduced. The President doesnt want the outer atolls to be developed? Recently, he has inaugurated the building of a flat for teachers in MALE'. He has repeatedly talked about construction of flats in Majeedhee Magu, MALE'. And also in another location in MALE'. A military hospital in MALE'. New Dhiraagu Building, in MALE'. All this, when we have enough barren land in Hulhumale', and if all these projects were diverted to Hulhumale', at least there will be no additional inflow to Male', and will lead to settlement and development of Hulhumale'. At least people living in those flats and buildings can have a better decent living.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Agony of Reform

Maldives embarked on ambitious political reforms, and adopted a new Constitution two years back. Under the new Constitution, we’ve been ensured separation of powers, with an ‘omnipotent’ Parliament, an independent Judiciary, and a ‘helpless’ Executive. The Constitution guarantees the citizens so many rights, so that the Courts cannot convict us so easily, as was a our current President convicted for stealing from Velaanaage.

An independent Civil Service Commission is formed, replacing the Public Service Division inside the President’s Office. There are five members with huge salaries heading this commission. Apart from this commission, there are many other commissions and institutions that were formed since then. Following is a list:

1. Human Rights Commission

2. Judicial Service Commission

3. Police Integrity Commission

4. Prosecutor General’s Office

5. Elections Commission

6. Anti-Corruption Commission

7. Employment Tribunal

8. Maldives Media Council

9. Maldives Inland Revenue Authority

10. Local Government Authority

11. The Supreme Court

Most of these commissions have at least five members, earning almost the same remuneration as a cabinet minister. The newly elected Parliament has 77 members, also earning a fortune. The Supreme Court – with 7 Judges!

We’re not done yet. Soon, there’ll be at least 5 Councilors governing every inhabited island. At least 5 Atoll Councilors in each atoll. In order to support the salaries of all these people, the civil servants, and the politicians, our country will be spending almost Rf5 billion every year, while the government revenue reaches almost only Rf7 billion! The situation gets worse with the increased number of political appointees, and the promises of the politicians to increase the salaries of the civil servants.

So, what have we achieved since the reforms began? I see, mostly ‘rent-seeking’ activities, whereby people in powerful positions and high bargaining power, trying to maximize their personal gains, and trying the control as many poor, helpless people in the society. The society has become so polarized, the objective of the people in the opposition being toppling the government at any cost, even if it means destroying the society at large.

On the macro front, the economy has become extremely vulnerable, and the country is spending about Rf 900 billion on imports of goods every month. When we take into account the outflow of dollars from Maldivians traveling abroad, and other expenditures, we are spending more than we earn, at every level of the economy. Meaning, the government expenditure is greater than its revenue. The dollar outflow is greater than the inflow. At the end of the day, the country is faced with a twin deficit – a budget deficit and a current account deficit. Meanwhile, the IMF has stated that Asia will be engine of growth in 2010 and 2011, with high economic growth in China, India, and other South East Asian economies. Our closest neighbor, Sri Lanka, expanded its economy by 8.5 percent in the three months to end June from a year earlier (Bloomberg). Its economy is expected to grow at 8 percent this year according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Bottom line is, we are paying a very high price for the reforms that we began few years ago. Hey, I’m not saying that we go back to the old days, or to amend the Constitution like the Sri Lankans did.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our capital Male' - making the place livable

Osaka, Japan is on the top 6 of the most expensive places in the world, compiled by CNBC ( In Osaka, a luxury two bedroom costs $2,218 as rent. In Male', Maldives, it is $1,400. Likewise, comparing few other things:

Osaka Male'
2 room apt rent 2,218.00 1,400.78

cup of coffee 6.10 2.72

gasoline liter 1.41 0.70

fast food meal 7.21 7.00
(In US Dollars)

Male' has become such an expensive city, as cost of living has increased dramatically over the last six years, and it is still on the rise. What led to the sudden transformation of Male'; migration of many from the atolls in search of jobs, better health care and better education. As the population increase, it creates a bigger market for the businesses, and hence, more jobs are being created. This led to attraction of more people to settle in Male'. So, it is a vicious cycle of increasing urbanisation. The 2004 tsunami was a shock that intensified the situation, after which the rent prices in Male' hiked alarmingly as there was a sudden flow of migrants from the atolls, thus, boosting demand.

It makes economic sense to have a large population, and there are many commercial benefits of it. However, not at the expense of the deteriorating social fabric of the society, and the low quality of life as more than hundred thousand people live on the small island of Male'. Large families live in small rooms, husband and wife do not get their privacy, children do not have enough space to study and run around, youth do not have enough entertainment opportunities, and the list goes on.

Another drawback is the extremely high rent prices in Male', eating up a high proportion of the income of many workers. Hence, teachers, doctors and other civil servants have no choice, but demand higher salaries. These huge salaries again lead to further increasing prices of goods and services, together with rent prices.

In order to prevent further migration, and to reduce the population of Male', other atolls, or other city centers with bigger land space need to be developed. Places like Hulhumale', and other big islands like those in the South. An immediate and urgent attention has to be given to this matter, and what's most important is the political will to do so. If housing units can be developed in Hulhumale', and attractive financing packages arranged, government can easily afford to reduce the salaries of the civil servants. If the teachers and other civil servants are given cheap accommodation, they should be willing to accept even a lower salary than their present one.

It is extremely important that government policies are geared in that direction rather than developing further infrastructure in Male'. However, the government has recently announced that 1,300 housing units will be built in Male', and has identified the location/sites for these developments. This will again lead to further inflow, and deteriorating the 'livability' in the island. We can easily divert these funds to Hulhumale' or any other atoll, so that social conditions in Male' will improve.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Education and development - pathetic case of Maldives College of Higher Education

Long run growth, development, and prosperity is achieved through supply side factors like education and health. Better quality education and health services provide productive workers and responsible citizens, thereby leading to higher economic growth. Various empirical studies support this, and there are many examples like Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, where huge investments were made on education and research.

In our case, we have achieved universal primary and secondary education, and our literacy rate is relatively high compared to other developing nations. However, our tertiary education system has been very much neglected for a long time. The Institute for Teacher Education was established in 1984, and laid the foundation for producing quality teachers to teach in our primary and secondary schools. A few years later, in 1987, the School of Hotel and catering services was established, and provided the opportunity to train people for the tourism industry. In 1991, the Maldives Center for Management and Administration (MCMA) was established, and started providing valuable management and accounting courses. In 1998, the government formed the Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE), and the previously mentioned institutions were changed into faculties and brought into the umbrella of the college.

Since then it has been 12 years. The academic standard of our college has not been improving year by year, rather it has been deteriorating. The college has not been able to create an intellectual environment, with academic debates and discussions, extremely vital for the developmental policies of this country. The country needs a strong academia with research, so that evidence-based decisions are made, and policies are formulated accordingly. The college has not been able to develop its standards so that it can achieve the University status. I remember back in 2004, the Faculty of Management and Computing (FMC), did not have a enough full time lecturers for microeconomics & macroeconomics (because I had to work as a part-time lecturer at that time). Six years on, even now the faculty is in the same situation. When I compare the overall standard now and back then, it has deteriorated alarmingly now. The situation is no better in the Faculty of Education.

Why has the College not performed to our expectations? What are the reasons for not having a strong pool of lecturers/professors after all these years? I dont know the exact answers for these questions. But, for a start, the admission criteria and procedures need to be reviewed in most of the college faculties, since the quality of graduating students can be maintained only if the college adheres to such criteria. Government needs to review the situation and find out the reasons why academic staff are not retained in the college, and implement measures to improve the situation. Government also needs to review the performance of the top management of the College, the College Council, and bring about necessary changes. Most of all, the government needs to acknowledge the importance of tertiary education, a strong academia, and credible research for the development of the country.

What we see are large, nice buildings that have been built with the loan assistance of international institutions, however, the quality of education, and the quality of the courses do not match up to the architectural quality of the buildings. We always tend to give too much emphasis on the physical infrastructure (hardware), rather than the quality of service or human resource (software). As a result, we've got modern physical infrastructure, but very weak software to operate this hardware.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Privatize Bank of Maldives

Bank of Maldives - as it appears in their latest Annual Report, is the Nation's Bank. The only domestic commercial bank in the country, with over 27 years of banking service with 260,000 deposit account holders. The bank has achieved many over the years, and has 25 branches and 37 ATMs, provides electronic banking, and works on the financial inclusion aspect through its branches and 'dhoni' service in the atolls.

However, last two years have not been such favourable years for the bank, and this was made worse by the negative publicity in the media about the health of the bank. Recently, with the publication of its 2009 Annual Report, we have been hearing more about the bank, especially when it was revealed that the bank's earnings and profits fell during last year.

Briefly looking at the financial statements, we see that although deposits have increased, lending of the bank has fallen by almost 17 percent. Earnings per share has fallen to Rf9.3 in 2009 from Rf50.2 in 2008 (an 82% reduction). The bank has increased its investments on government securities despite its low appetite on commercial lending. All these factors remind me of only one thing, once again; that our bank should not be owned by the government.

As at now, the government directly holds 51 percent of the bank, while the public holds only 29.3 percent. Which means, there are 8 directors nominated by the government, and 3 elected by the public shares holders, in the board of directors. The fact that the government has the control of the bank, has led to the bank doing many mistakes in the past, like engaging in 'connected-lending', where lending has been done to politically connected people. Some of these connected people have less probability of repaying their loans on time, as a result, the bank's profits will be affected. Another drawback of the government ownership is its influence on the bank regarding investments on government securities. Since, the Ministry of Finance is the owner of the bank, and the ministry is also the seller of government treasury bills, the Ministry is in a position to instruct the bank to invest on these securities, when the government is in need to finance its budget shortfalls. In this case, the bank is not acting in the best interest of its share holders and its core business, further, the private sector will be deprived of its borrowings.

For this reason, it is always advised that commercial banks are freed from government ownership; instead, they be better regulated, monitored and supervised by the state. I don't seem to understand why the government has been so keen to privatize places like Ghiyasuddin, or the Islamiyya School, when these places are public education schools, with relatively good standards of education. If the government genuinely believes that the role of a government should not be conducting businesses, privatization of Bank of Maldives should be on the top of their privatization list. With limited government ownership, and strong regulation by the MMA and CMDA, the bank can be strengthened, and be able to serve its purpose better and effectively.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why we need a United Maldives

Recently, during the Independence Day, I heard this famous song, "Minivan kamun alhuvethi kamah dhaanan hey? Nudhaanamey!", when translated it means something like: 'Will you go from independence to suppression (or colonialism), No, (I) won't go!'. The has many other such examples, mostly asking the question whether we'd choose a negative for something positive. Today, I've been asking myself and many others, similar type of questions.

From our very early childhood, we've been reading and hearing about the uniqueness of our country, Maldives. I've always been proud to say 'I'm from Maldives', whenever I get introduced to someone while abroad. We have been unique not only due to the geography or the natural beauty of our islands, lagoons and seas; but also due to the homogeneity of the population. We've been boasting about this 'one-ness' all the time, saying that we speak the same language, we are the same race, we have the same religion. And until recently, we always had the same President. So, we were 'unique', and that's the story of Maldives. That's not all, we've also been talking about the peacefulness of our islands, with no violence, no protests, and very less crimes; almost a 'Pleasant-ville' kinda place, where people have been kind, polite, obedient, and well-behaved. I can still remember those days., and I'm not that old.

But now? Do we still have that one-ness? I dont think so. Our society has been transformed in many ways, socially and economically. Every day we hear about an incident of either a gang fight, or a person being killed, or a person dead being over-dozed, or a political protest, or a mass demonstration, or tourist resort being shut-down because of a strike, or a Supreme Court being hi-jacked by the Police, or a cabinet submitting mass resignation, and the list goes on.

I agree that we've obtained many civil liberties that were non-existent earlier; we've now got freedom of expression, we've got a free media, we've got a separation of powers, and independent Judiciary, a Supreme Court, political parties, a human rights commission, a police integrity commission, and most of all, a brand new Constitution with many political and governance reforms. However, I still wonder, are we 'better-off'? Will you choose violence for peace and harmony? Will you choose polarization and political dividedness to national unity? Will you choose gang violence to the peacefulness we had in Maldives? I don't know about you, I surely dont want most of the reforms at the expense of the uniqueness and the one-ness that we had.

From an economic and developmental point of view; why do you think most of the African countries are still lagging behind on economic development? According to two famous economists Easterly and Levine, ethnic fragmentation has been a big impediment to economic growth in Africa. Many other factors like corruption, mis-trust to the institutions, the judicial system, and higher authority, are all impediments to growth and development. Today, we see similar characteristics in our society. The country is becoming fragmented and polarized. There people of different political parties, with different opinions or personal grudges. There are people following different sects of the religion, or having their own 'group' of friends with their own style of dressing. There are many expatriates, with their own set of beliefs and culture. There are 'gangs' with their rival other 'gangs'. There are many independent and autonomous institutions or commissions working 'on their own', without any regard to others. With all these, I dont see many possibilities of our country moving forward with further economic growth and development, unless somebody somewhere does something to unite us all once again.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Local Councils - can we afford these governance reforms?

The Parliament has passed a Bill on Decentralization, and formation of Atoll Councils, Island Councils, and a Local Government Authority. According to this Act, there will be an Atoll Council in every atoll to replace the existing Atoll Offices, and a minimum of 6 (six) Atoll Councilors will be elected to run the Affairs of the Atoll, and a Chairperson from these Councilors will be nominated as the head of the Atoll. As we are moving towards to decentralisation and empowering the local communities, these Atoll Councils are separate legal entities, and Councilors are elected by the people. An estimated Rf4 million per month will be incurred only to the salaries of the Atoll Councilors.

We are also getting Island Councils to replace the Island Offices, and each Island Council is to be run by Island Councilors. A minimum of 5 (five) Councilors will be there in each Island, some islands having 7 (seven) depending on their population size. So we would expect a minimum total of one thousand Island Councilors to be elected in the whole country. With a salary of Rf15,000 each, it would come to Rf15 million per month in salaries for only Island Councilors.

In total we will be spending about Rf19 million per month only on the salaries of these Atoll and Island Councilors. On top of that, there will be a new institution, the Local Government Authority, with a new set of staff and other expenditure.

End result? The Island Councilors will be from different political parties, even the Atoll Councilors will be from different political parties. The Local Government Authority will have members from different parties, and in the end, just like our Parliament, there will be minimal productive work done in all these institutions. The politicians in the Councils will get monthly fat salaries, and they will argue, fight, conspire, and promote their party policies. We would have a textbook model of democracy, local government, or decentralization, however, in practical terms, I don't envisage a situation where things would run as smoothly as they are outlined in the Act. Main reason is that we dont have enough people who are sincere, competent and with the will to govern, and make things better. Most of all, I don't think our country can afford it economically.

Monday, September 6, 2010

You wanna be a Parliamentarian?

Do you know that our Parliamentarians or Majlis members are required to work only eight (8) months per year! According to the Majlis Qawaid (which the members themselves have formulated of course), the first term of Majlis is from March 1st to April end - meaning they get May off. The second term is from June through August - hence September off. The third term from October through December - so January and February off again!! Can you believe this? Four months of holidays per year. That's not all, they can take leave even during those eight months, on top of the four months holiday. They get to choose how many days they gonna work. They get to choose how much salary they gonna get. They get to choose their own code of conduct.

That's not all. They get to choose the Supreme Court Judges, Civil Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, and all the other Commissions, plus the Broadcasting Corporation board directors. They can question the Ministers, well, almost anybody in this country. And they get Rf 62,000 per month as a salary with many other benefits like health insurance, sick leave. What more can you ask for?

The Parliament is considered as one of the three 'powers' according to the Constitution. The President doesn't get four months holiday, and the Judges dont get four months holiday. The Majlis is supposed to supervise, and oversee the work of the government, independent commissions, and the judiciary, yet, the Majlis is on leave most of the year?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can you believe it? People gather at President's Residence to protest about 'Baibalaa'

It seems that more than a 150 people gathered at the President's Residence, Mulee-aage' on Tuesday. These people were protesting, bringing to the attention of the President that they need to play 'Bai-balaa' during Eid I guess. It seems that the Police is cautious about the implications of the this game, as competition or rivalry between gangs has lead to violence in the past.

So, considering all the various social and economic problems facing today, I just couldn't believe that priorities could become Bai-balaa all of a sudden. Apparently the President came out and met the crowd, assured that he will look into the matter. (

Monday, August 30, 2010

We are heading into another recession?

Just when we thought the American economy is on the path of recovery, and hence there is hope for the world economy, we have started to see signs of a second recession - what we normally call a 'double-dip' recession.

Many economists have tried to study the impact of the stimulus spending by the US government on the actual GDP growth. And from what we know, close to $800 billion has already been spent since the second quarter of 2009. Many are now predicting a slow down in the American economy as these stimulus spending has already run out, and this is evident from the predictions shown on the chart above.

The Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last Friday expressed some hope for the year 2011, however, he also acknowledged that the economy was weaker than hoped and promised additional measures.
However, there is serious doubt as to how much intervention Bernanke is referring to, as the politicians at the Congress are less willing to spend additional money as stimulus, despite policy recommendations by some economists like Krugman and Stigilitz, on continuing the stimulus spending.

Hence, with low investor confidence and a dearth of policy interventions, there is every reason to believe that we are headed into a double-dip recession. What's more disturbing is the fact that many have started to predict that this recession could turn into a prolonged depression, similar to that experienced by Japan recently for a decade. “There are many ways in which you can see us almost surely being in a Japan-style malaise,” said the Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reminding ourselves about the 'Asaasee's

Total Number of gang-violence within the last three weeks: 5
Number of deaths within last three weeks: 1
Total injured within last three weeks: 8
Source: Haveeru

Last thursday, a 16 year old boy was attacked by knife. Male' streets have become unsafe, and what are the authorities doing about it? We have all hired a President, and paying him Rf100,000 every month. We have hired 77 Parliamentarians, and paying them all Rf4.8 million every month, and all these people have appointed and put in charge Judges, and we are spending more than Rf700,000 every month to all of them. On top of that, we have at our service Police, and a Defense force, and I'm not sure how we are spending in total every month on them. Yet, our streets are unsafe, young children are being killed.

...And we are being told that we have a new Qanoon Asaasee, and with the new Qanoon Asaasee, we have a better governing system; we have a separate Executive, a separate Legislature, and a Separate Judiciary. With new political and governance reforms, things are ought to get better. Maybe, we need to revisit to the basics: Qanoon Asaasee also means the 'basic or primary law'. When I say returning to the basics, I am referring to the main objectives we are trying to achieve. The only reason we want political reforms or governance reforms, or democracy, is for us to achieve some basic objectives. We need to achieve some outcomes, and in order to get there, we have all agreed on to form some basic laws, and then enact other laws and regulations. Then we have all agreed to hire some people according to these laws, and allow these people to serve us; to uphold the laws and regulations, to work for us in order to achieve those objectives that all want to achieve.

So what are those objectives? I'm guessing one of them could be, a safer society with less crimes. A society where people do not have a fear that they could be attacked by another and killed on the street. A society where, even if somebody harms another, that person is properly punished, and such acts are prevented. I'm also guessing that we want to respect the human dignity. I'm also guessing we want to achieve economic prosperity, ensure that people are properly fed, appropriate clothing, and shelter is provided. Appropriate education and health services are provided. We want to have a decent job, and earn a living. So, these are some of the basic objectives we want to achieve, and everything else is just a means to achieving these objectives. So, be that the Qanoon Asaasee, or any other law or regulation. If, the Qanoon Asaasee, the Laws, the Regulations, the President, the Parliamentarians, the Judges, the Police, and whoever I've left out, cannot work together to achieve these objectives, then I'm thinking,...we have serious problems to rethink about.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sin City

Two days back, one of the suspected drug dealer, Hussein Mohamed Manik was found innocent by the Court. According to the Police, he's one of the six main dealers in the country. Early March this year, another suspected dealer among the six, Adam Naseer was also not convicted. Here, we are talking about "MAJOR" crimes. It's well-known in this country that 'if you are arrested today- you'll be released tomorrow' - no matter the type of crime you've committed. It is also public knowledge that the prisoners, or inmates at Maafushi Jail have their own demands and these demands are very easily met, or they go on strike and even destroy the premises. Bottom line: the Police, Prosecutor General, Parliament, and the Courts are unable to work together to bring about a solution to this. They are unable to restore law and order in this country. They are unable to punish, rehabilitate, or keep wrong-doers away from the rest of the society. Why?

The Courts or the Judges might say, there is not enough evidence to convict according the existing laws. The Police might say, the Courts are not doing their job, and Parliament doesn't provide appropriate laws to do their job. The Executive has been blaming the Judiciary on this matter.

In another case, within this week, two men serving their 15 year sentence were released, saying that they get a 3 year probation, and if they do not commit any crime during this period, their sentence is pardoned. And these two guys are those involved in the Sultan Park bombing. Unlike in the first case, these two guys have been already convicted, and serving their sentence. And just like that, the government decides to pardon them, those who have committed acts of terrorism, and as a result our country suffered immeasurable damage in the international forefront.

So, Maldives has become a haven for anybody with a mind and will to commit crimes, hu? There's less chance you'll be convicted, and even if did get a sentence, the government will pardon you within 2-3 years.