Malé, Maldives – Expenditure data of the Maldivian Parliament has reveled that the parliament had spent a total of MVR 14,620 (USD 948.1) on Areca nuts, betel leafs, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in March 2021.
The report detailed that the parliament had purchased MVR 5,700 worth Areca nuts, MVR 1,520 on betel leaves, MVR 1,600 on cinnamon, MVR 1,300 on cloves and MVR 4,500 on cardamom from a vendor named Afaf Abdul Azeez.
Parliament had also spent a total of MVR 31,756.8 (USD 2,059.5) on coffee in March. This figure comes with MVR 21,962.40 being spent on Lavazza Rossa coffee beans and MVR 9,794.40 on Nescafé coffee tins.
While the parliaments expenditure on Areca nuts and coffee for the month of March totals up to MVR 46,376.8, parliament has been heavily criticized by the public for over spending on benefits and being over paid.
The 87 parliamentarians get a salary of MVR 42,000 with added allowances for housing, MVR 20,000, committee sittings, MVR 20,000 which totals their monthly pay to MVR 82,000. Parliament Speaker receives a monthly salary of MVR 73,125 including a living allowance of MVR 20,000 and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament receives MVR 91,000 in total, with MVR 20,000 for living allowance and an additional MVR 20,000 as committee allowance.
While parliament has the power to declare their own salaries, allowances and other benefits, most recently the General Committee of the Maldives Parliament decided to classify the trips of Parliament Members to their constituencies an official parliament trip.
While speaking at the parliament meeting that was held today, the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed stated that the Genera Committee has decided that the trips that MP’s make to their constituencies can be classified to as an an official parliament trip. When travelling the MP must inform the Parliament secretary and get approval as per the committee.
Speaker Nasheed further stated that if the Public Committees decision becomes effective than if an MP wishes to travel to their constituency, they will have to provide the Parliament with a document containing details of the purpose of their trip for approval. If the MP is traveling with approval, then Speaker Nasheed stated they will be noted as on an official trip in the Parliament Committee meeting attendance sheet and that if they wish to attend the parliament meeting, they will be able to do so via online methods.
The expenditure of Parliament on Areca nuts and coffee also comes while Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Mohamed Aslam had revealed that as per their quality of living classifications, an average family of 5 with a total income of less than MVR 16,000 is considered to be ‘poor’ and that following their categorization, there are 2,560 ‘poor’ families in Malé City alone.
According to ‘PARLIAMENT WATCH – An Evaluation of the Parliament of Maldives 2010’ report by Transparency Maldives, the weakest sub-area of the category is the public acceptability of the system whereby MP’s salaries are determined. The sub-area scored the minimum score of 37% which shows the lack of public trust and the concerns of the public towards the remunerations of the parliament.
The report had also stated that the Parliament should adopt in its Rules of Procedures measures to incentivize MPs to consult their respective constituencies in drafting, debating and voting on legislations and motions. Parliamentary Rules of Procedures must also accomodate provisions that ensure monies/ allowances provided to MPs is spent for its actual intended purpose. For example, MPs are provided an allowance for establishment of an office. Few MPs (if any at all) operate offices.
While so many people are considered as poor and parliamentarians with one of he highest paid salaries in the whole country, the excessive expenditure on such commodities can only be seen as a waste of taxpayer money. Especially during a time where Covid-19 has crippled the national economy which is barely recovering only this year.