Expatriate workers in the Maldives transfer MVR 6 billion annually as remittance, announced economic minister Mohamed Saeed late Sunday.
The minister had appeared on national television to defend the government’s sudden decision to cut down subsidies on staple food following a public outcry. Saeed described President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s decision as another effort in stabilising the Maldives’ economy.
Shedding light on the reasons for the subsidy cut off, the minister noted that the last census numbered expatriate workers at 124,000 with an additional 15,000 undocumented. Adding on the 1.2 million tourists arriving in the Maldives annually, the minister stated that 41 percent of subsidies had been spent on expatriates and tourists over the past 11 years and questioned the justice of spending such a hefty amount on foreigners.
“From staple foods, 17 percent go to tourists, 24 percent to expatriate workers,” said the minister, pointing out that half the benefit of staple food subsidies are spent on foreigners.
Saeed reassured the public of the incumbent government’s transparency. Declaring that the previous government of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had also pondered staple food subsidy cut down, the minister pointed out the staggering debt amassed within the three years of MDP’s regime which, he said, had been repaid by the current government.
The minister went on to say that the Maldives had been repeatedly urged to revise its subsidy policies by foreign financial institutions in the past. Refusal to oblige, he said, had resulted in various obstacles to development, including major projects for schools, water and sewerage and harbour construction.
The Maldives had revised its current policy on staple food subsidy to limit it to just the needy last Thursday. The government had defended the move by insisting that the decision was prompted to secure foreign aid, which had been hindered by continued subsidies.