Which pledge is most important to you?
Continued from The Battle of the Ballots Part II.
In the previous part, we took a look at the pledges made by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and the Opposition Coalition regarding the sectors of Transport, Health, Tourism, Economy, Youth and Security.
Here in the third and final installment of this mini-series, The Edition brings the final listings of the pledges made by both factions throughout their campaigning and canvassing.
With just a few days left until voting day, The Edition hopes this collation of information proves useful for the voters setting out to cast their ballots on September 23, to make the decision they deem best for the country.
The Maldives is a low-lying nation, its islands only protected by coral reefs and, in some cases, mangroves. With the highest recorded point at around 2 metres above sea level, the Maldives is one of the most vulnerable countries in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.
Meanwhile the number of Maldivians involved in environmental protection work has notably increased, as more locals actively advocate for individual-, community-, and nation-level steps to conserve the fragile ecosystems and marine life of the Maldives. However, it is of note that the number of pledges made regarding the environment is lacking compared to the 2013 election.
Affordable social housing has long been a crisis in Maldives, mainly in the congested capital. With around a third of the total population living in Male for various purposes such as education and employment, many people still live in poor, cramped conditions while struggling to meet the ever-increasing monthly rents. Some of the relatively developed islands with large populations also face housing problems over lack of sufficient land space.
As of 2017, the employment rate in the Maldives was at 95 percent, with the unemployment rate maintained at 5 percent from 2016.
The rate of unemployment in the country averaged 3.04 percent from 1991 until last year, reaching an all-time high of 5.20 percent in 2014 and a record low of 0.80 percent in 1992.
The Maldives is a small and, up until a couple of decades ago, obscure island nation striving to keep up with global development and the subsequent demands for progress, and the newly emerged and ever-evolving standards of living around the world.
After the devastation faced across the archipelago in the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, the country struggled having been pushed back a few decades.
As the industry expands today, there are more people and greater expectations to cater to, while bridging the gap between modernization, urban development, and rising living standards.
As of 2015, the Maldives boasts a proud literacy rate of 99.3 percent. The state commenced provision of free education for all students registered at public schools, from nursery to higher secondary level, in 2002.
The country currently has one national university along with a number of private colleges that provide tertiary education, while public and private institutions also offer various scholarships to universities abroad.
Maldivians have been described, often and by many, as a peace-loving people. However, phases of internal political strife and irregular upsurges in violent crimes are not uncommon, and Maldivians are raising their voices to demand social protection in any and all circumstances.
The people continue to demand justice for each and every individual, freedom of speech and opinion, and to ensure the rights accorded for all.
While the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives sits comfortably nestled amongst quite the number of tangible projects to showcase their own developmental prowess, the Opposition Coalition brings a plethora of pledges painting a brighter vision of the future. Nevertheless, such circumstances may be declared inevitable, at the end of a comparatively successful five years in power.
The question of the moment is, of course, what the Maldivian people truly want for their future.
Simply observing the campaign of both factions thus far, it is clear that the ruling party has focused a great deal of their efforts on denouncing the credibility and capacity of the opposition power to live up to the development afforded under their governance. On the other hand, the opposition party offers a massive amount of promises, although the delivery certainly requires a far larger effort than the proposal itself.
Ultimately in the upcoming elections, the choice for Maldivians seems to lie in choosing between what the people have experienced in the last five years, or the possibility of bringing new ideas and concepts to the table, albeit with new risk and possibility of regret.
Yet every election gives life to hundreds of new promises, and not all will ever come full circle to fulfilment, but some are vastly more important than others. Hence, choosing from the rolodex of promises becomes nearly as important as predicting the likelihood of well-spoken words coming into existence.
As is the trend over the last decade, the highest concentration of 2018’s pledges seem to concern infrastructure, economy and housing. However, the strong deviation from targeted solutions on environmental issues, from both sides of the coin, seems to be a worrying factor as, regardless of the need for development, if progress is unsustainable in terms of natural habitats, communities and culture, then perhaps the cost may outweigh any short-lived benefits that arise.
Humans cannot live on a planet, a country or an island, that is unsustainable. No human can progress, while destroying what is irreplaceable, in the process. A nation facing a disposition as unique as the Maldives, must look to adopt and adapt innovative ideas, not simply as ‘copy-paste’ mechanisms borrowed from friends in the East or the West, but as long-term developmental goals that are specific to the country, and that are set to outlive the current population by generations.
This distinct archipelago must invest in solutions originating from within Maldives, a fusion of islander knowledge with modern technology that is especially curated to solve problems specific to a low-lying island nation, heavily dependant on fishing and tourism, that lies smack in the middle of the equator. These are facts and issues that are yet to be properly addressed within either manifesto.
Similarly, sectors such as education and employment, though heavily discussed, did not see the introduction of a novel approach to these old and ever-growing problems. Little entered the discourse describing the actual viability and economic justification behind some of the proposed resolutions.
On the other hand, this year the public have heard issues such as the recognition of mental health on a national scale spoken about for the very first time. Information and communication technology has made hitherto unseen waves in terms of policy making and economy.
Transport, a long ignored topic in a country that faces logistical challenges in every industry, has been brought to the forefront of conversation. Discussion arose on the topic of foreign influence, and philosophy if not strategy, has been heavily spoken about during this election campaign.
These are all important, significant changes that must be afforded due consideration in the decisions we make, as a people, as a society, as individual communities, as Maldivians, on the 23rd of September 2018.
It is unquestionably difficult, to find a moment of clarity amongst such chaos and confusion. It can be easier to succumb to the norm than it is to embrace change and take a chance. These are facts of the human condition, as we know it. However, the 263,000 eligible voters and the nearly 10,000 new voters, must find it within themselves the ability to this quinquennial decision which is, in every way, far bigger than themselves.
This election season, may all Maldivians be guided to make choices that will reflect well on the legacy we leave behind for our children and their children, and that will help colour a nation that we are not just happy to hand over to future generations, but that we are proud to call our own.