The stark disparity in income between an average Maldivian citizen, earning just above minimum wage from a demanding 9-5 job, and the politicians and Parliament Members who seemingly neglect their responsibilities becomes glaringly evident. While a significant portion of the population, particularly those residing in the Greater Male’ Area, has grown accustomed to juggling multiple jobs to sustain a basic lifestyle in the city, it is disheartening to observe the lack of attention our leaders pay to this challenging reality.
Despite the financial struggles faced by Maldivians due to heightened taxes resulting in an increased cost of living, policymakers appear more focused on padding their own paychecks for minimal effort. A recent revelation that the Finance Committee of the Parliament finalized a salary increment for its members on December 19, 2023, is particularly outrageous. This decision, self-approved by parliamentarians, comes at a time when the nation grapples with substantial debt.
The salary increments are not limited to parliamentarians but extend to the Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the Parliament as well. Each member of the parliament is set to receive a salary of MVR 74,000, marking an additional MVR 7,000 from their previous earnings. Furthermore, the new salaries for the President and Vice-President amount to MVR 1200,000 and MVR 90,000, respectively, representing a 20 percent increase from their prior earnings.
The audacity of the Finance Committee's decision during a period of economic uncertainty and debt crisis has drawn widespread criticism. What exacerbates the situation is the fact that many parliament members, set to benefit from the generous pay hike, consistently fail to attend parliamentary sessions as expected.
This raises concerns among the public, as the average citizen would likely face consequences such as a pay cut or even job loss for similar workplace behaviour. However, those in positions of power seem immune to such repercussions, instead profiting from taxpayer money to secure larger salaries at the expense of the country they are meant to serve.
As soon as the news broke out regarding the pay hikes at the Parliament, there was a major public outrage. Following this, the President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Muizz took to social media platforms to announce that he had decided to donate the increased amounts of salaries for the President, Vice-President as well as Ministers to a social fund such as a children’s shelter, as it appears that the Parliament has taken this major step towards salary hikes for their benefit without consulting with the heads of the Government.
As the nation continues to grapple with economic challenges and the burden of debt, this episode serves as a poignant reminder that the focus should remain on policies that uplift the lives of ordinary citizens, instead of benefitting those in power who already live life of luxury that many can’t even imagine of earning through their 9-5 jobs.
The incident prompts a crucial conversation about the ethical responsibilities of those in power and the need for a more inclusive and consultative approach to decision-making that aligns with the best interests of the Maldivian people.