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MPs dissatisfied with JSC's request to hike up judges' health insurance

The Public Accounts Committee reviewed and discussed a request sent by JSC last May.

Ameera Osmanagic
09 July 2024, MVT 19:39
[File] Maldivian judges at an event -- Photo: Mihaaru
Ameera Osmanagic
09 July 2024, MVT 19:39

Judicial Service Commission (JSC)'s proposal to increase the premium paid by state for the health insurance of judges and retired judges was met with opposition by some parliament members serving on the Public Accounts committee today.

In a letter JSC sent to the parliament last May following concerns raised by judges, it was requested to increase the insurance packages for judges and also to restructure the packages so that the 10 percent now paid by judges are also borne by the state.

It proposed increasing insurance premiums for high court judges and their families from MVR 14,500 to MVR 18,500, lower court judges from MVR 12,000 to MVR 16,750, and magistrate judges from MVR 9,000 to MVR 14,000. It also suggested raising insurance packages for retired judges.

This increase would require an additional budget of MVR 5.7 million.

In light of this request, the matter was discussed during the Public Accounts Committee meeting today, with several members opposing the request.

Speaking at the committee, MP of Eydhafushi constituency Ahmed Saleem noted that the last increase in judges' insurance packages was approved after judges agreed to pay 10 percent out of pocket. Considering this, amending the policy for the government to shoulder the 10 percent as well does not make sense, he said, adding that if this change is allowed, it would have to be changed for other institutions as well.

"That can't happen. The entire system will have to be changed again," Saleem said.

MP of Baarashu constituency Ibrahim Shujau also highlighted that the insurance offered for judges at the moment is more extensive that what parliament members receive. Even if insurance is provided, it should be done under the same policy for everyone, he said. In light of this and the current financial situation of the state, Shujau suggested the parliament to consult the Finance Ministry on the matter.

"For example us parliament members receive insurance includes our underaged children and wives. The premium for this is borne by the parliament. However, according to what the administrative table highlighted, judges' [insurance] covers their parents as well. [This also] has to be borne by the state," Shujau went on to say.

He also called for the provision of insurance for high level officials to be reviewed considering the government is now in the process of implementing an economic reform agenda, highlighting that it is a big concern for the public as well.

Central Hithadhoo constituency's MP Ahmed Azaan also spoke on the matter, pointing out that JSC has requested for an additional MVR 5 million at a time when the government is in a cost cutting phase. He added that the way insurance schemes work is for the recipient to pay some amount as co-pay, but that JSC's letter shows that the judges do not want to pay this.

"At this point, [they want] to stop paying what they contribute [to the insurance] and have that paid from the public['s tax money]. I don't support approving this even via a supplementary budget. It would be an additional debt hung over the heads of the people," Azaan said.

Following the discussions, the committee decided to seek Finance Ministry's advice on the matter, and to hold off on a decision concerning JSC's request.