Lack of restriction on submission of public finance bills raises concern

Speaker of Parliament, President Mohamed Nasheed presides over a parliamentary sitting. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

The Speaker of Parliament, along with a large number of government parliamentarians, have expressed concern over lack of restriction on non-government parliaments from submitting legislature affect public income and finance.

At the parliamentary sitting this Tuesday, Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir submitted an amendment to the Pension Act designed to increase the monthly pension payment to retirees to MVR 10,000. Jabir, though he is a member of ruling MDP, was elected to the Parliament as an independent candidate.

Presenting his legislature to the Parliament, Jabir said the current MVR 5,000 monthly pension is “insufficient”.

“There are daily expenses. The laws of this nation needs to be amended. Salaries are getting higher. If the expenses are increasing, there needs to be a way to manage it. The government has the capacity to increase this MVR 5,000 to MVR 10,000,” said Jabir.

Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Before opening the preliminary debate on the legislature, Speaker of Parliament, President Mohamed Nasheed said that it was important the parliamentarians realized Jabir’s legislature was linked with public finance.

Nasheed said that only government parliamentarians were previously allowed to submit legislature linked with public income and finance, but that the restriction was removed near the end of the 18th session of the Parliament in March, 2018.

“The amendment submitted by the Kaashidhoo MP, as you well know, is a public finance bill. The Parliament’s regulation is silent on this front. The regulation is silent on submission of bills which affect public finance,” said Nasheed.

He also added that the Parliament had a legal duty to pass the State’s annual budget, and that the Constitution was clear that all decisions regarding the State’s policies must be made by the President.

Nasheed said he didn’t presently have the legal grounds to deny the submission of Jabir’s legislature.

“From what I was able to clarify on this front - according to our regulations, the Constitution and other polices, a bill submitted by a parliamentarian must be presented at this floor. I don’t have the choice or authority to deny presentation of this bill by claiming this bill is of a certain nature,” said Nasheed, expressing his concern over the legislature.

“You, the parliamentarians, will decide how to proceed with this bill. Not I. I am pointing out that this bill is linked with public finance and the State’s budget.”

The majority of parliamentarians who took part in the preliminary debate spoke against the legislature.

Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef, who has a history of verbal spars with Jabir on the parliamentary floor, said legislature linked with public finance must come from the government.

Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

“Such a bill cannot be submitted in the middle of the year after passing the State budget. I propose this bill be rejected immediately and as of this moment. This cannot be done. We took note of this when we wrote the regulations. We will write this,” said Shareef.

He said that any parliamentarian could submit any legislature in any name to promote themselves and gain a few minutes of fame on the parliamentary floor.

He said the State still faced a misbalance of expenses over income.

Central Maafannu MP Ibrahim Rasheed (Bondey) said the legislature shouldn’t even be up for debate. He said Jabir was someone who was well-versed to the country’s current situation and “someone who is far smarter than this”.

Central Maafannu MP Ibrahim Shareef. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

“There exists law which holds debt and expenditure in check. Neither the President nor the Parliament can spend above this law,” said Bondey.

Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb said MVR 105 million will be spent by the State from its pension budget this July alone, but that the State only received MVR 90 million as income from pensions.

“How is this feasible? We need to design and maintain this to ensure our children and our children’s children receive old age pension,” said Ilyas.

Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

He said that any parliamentarian who wished to submit amendments to the Pension Act must first do their calculations and factor in inflation and income.

“Blindly writing whatever amount comes to mind is the same as destroying the State’s treasury,” said Ilyas.