Monday, February 28, 2011

The economics of politics in Maldives

Back in 2008, the majority of Maldivians voted against the incumbent autocratic ruler, who had ruled Maldives for 30 years. Even at that time there were about 40% of the voters who supported that President, Maumoon, making the 2008 election very competitive; and increasing the polarization in the country. What was evident during that time, as an observer, is that there were some businessmen who wanted to protect the Maumoon regime, as it ensured the protection of their own business interests. Likewise, there were a huge percentage of ordinary citizens who wanted to protect the Maumoon regime, for reasons they would better understand.

Anyhow, then there was the MDP, who was the opposition at that time. There were many loyalists of this reform movement, people who joined the party simply because they had a genuine belief that the state of the country has to change. There were many people who sincerely supported MDP because they cared for the country, they wanted the drugs problem to be solved. They wanted the housing problems in Male' to be solved. They wanted prices to come down, and they wanted more social protection, and economic well-being. The PR campaigns and the pledges of MDP were also very smart; addressing those issues that grass-root ordinary citizens felt for. Maumoon, the judiciary, police, and the parliament was portrayed as 'wicked', 'corrupt', and exploiters of the country's wealth. Maumoon was blamed for almost anything and everything bad that ever happened in the country during those last few years.

Maumoon was smart, and removed his 'old guards', and replaced them with young blood, like Hasan Saeed, Nasheed, Shaheed, Aisha, Jameel, Shaugy, and others. There was a young, energetic cabinet, who publicly showed sincerity in bringing reforms to the country. However, just when it was about time for the presidential election, Hasan Saeed together with Jameel, and later Shaheed got out of the government, and blamed Maumoon for many short-comings in the reform process. Later, Hasan contested in the presidential election, and came third. Qasim also resigned from the post of Finance Minister, just in time for the election, contested, and lost in the first round. In the second round, Hasan and Qasim backed the current President, Nasheed who came up second in the first round. As Nasheed defeated Maumoon in the second round, and became the first democratically elected President in the country, there were many who had high hopes, and high expectations for the future of this country.

So, two years after the change in the government, are the people happier, now that their hopes and expectations are being met? With the fall of the dictatorship, is the country better off? Well these are difficult questions to answer using the appropriate statistics. For one thing, it might not be appropriate to compare the two Presidents or the two governments, as the new President has a new Constitution to abide; the current government has to face new independent institutions, and an independent judiciary, and a highly-powerful parliament. That brings me to the main 'gist' of my story.

The political economy of our country is still the same; as there are few 'very rich' families who control almost all the affairs of the country. It has been the case even 5 - 10 years back in this country. It is so even now. The Parliament has bunch of 'millionaire' businessmen, who would do anything to protect their own business interests, and to make sure that new and young people do not emerge in their area of business, so that they wont have enough competition. Most of these businessmen want to keep the poor under their control, by providing them with small favors; like donating a ticket to India for medicals, or few dollars as charity. These businessmen have in their control families who are directly employed in their businesses, and they would fight for their last breath to protect their businesses. It will be very difficult to pass legislation that would raise import tariffs, business profit taxes, tourism lease rents, and other forms of taxes. At the same time, these Parliamentarians will do everything they can to increase the government expenditure so that they could get re-elected, as their constituents would support any additional spending on them.

Those huge businessmen who supported and spent on campaigns of Maumoon is today supporting the campaigns of Nasheed, and in turn, the current government is expected to make sure that the interests of these businessmen are well-protected. It doesn't seem that there is anybody in the country who is protecting the interests of the poor, the ordinary citizens of the country. It doesn't seem that anybody is sincerely trying to protect the interests of the nation.


  1. Who care economy? everyone seeks politics in this tiny dot in indian ocean.

  2. very true, and the people are divided.

  3. But, there would come a day justice will prevail. I think its not too far now, and corrupt people cannot flee to other countries like old days. Wherever they are they will be caught and brought to justice, Maldives just needs that person who is honest in his words and deeds. Let hope for the best do the little things we as citizens can do.