President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared that more than 500 development projects would be conducted across the country in 2020.
Speaking at a rally held in the capital city of Male' on Friday night, to concurrently launch ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)'s nationwide campaign for the upcoming local council elections, the president stressed that local councils would actively participate in these projects as per the legal authority granted under the Decentralisation Act.
President Solih stated that the government's decision to grant greater powers to the local councils was partially intended to conveniently conduct multiple development projects simultaneously.
He opined that decades of centralised governance had resulted in the depopulation of several islands and led to the over congestion of Male', describing the capital as a "breeding ground for social problems".
According to President Solih, the mindset that progress necessitates migration to the capital and abandonment of native islands and atolls, was a barrier to true development.
"This is a national problem. A problem that must be solved by everyone", he said.
President Solih noted that despite continued emphasis on infrastructural development, only 46 islands have clean water and sewerage systems. Describing the lack of services as a source of shame and an injustice, the president reiterated his electoral pledge to establish water and sewerage systems in all inhabited islands within the first three years of his administration.
Furthermore, the president highlighted that the government passed the Decentralisation Act which granted financial empowerment to the councils, ensured female representation in the decision-making process and extended councillors' terms to five years.
Reiterating MDP's commitment to the policy of decentralisation, the president asserted that local island councils could only serve as partners in the state's development projects, if councillors elected to power are prepared to cooperate.
He requested the audience to vote for MDP candidates who support the idea of cooperating with the state's development projects.
The president highlighted that MDP was well prepared for the campaign ahead of the local council elections, particularly noting that candidates were chosen following internal primary elections.
Referring to certain issues which arose following the primary elections, President Solih stated that much work needed to be done to strengthen internal democratic policies and create trust. Calling for unity within the party, President Solih guaranteed that MDP's leadership would solve the issues.