Parliamentary move to slash President's salary draws scrutiny

From Left to Right: Vice President Faisal Naseem, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Questions have been posed regarding a decision by the Parliament to reduce the salaries of the President and Vice President.

The Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has approved a report to reduce the salaries of public officials who earn more than MVR 20,000 if the salaries are decided by the Parliament. The move was a bid to reduce expenditure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions have been regarding the constitutional validity of the decision by some.

The Committee report calls to reduce the salaries of the President and Vice President by 35 percent. This means that MVR 35,000 and MVR 26,250 would be slashed from the salaries of the President and Vice President respectively.

The Act related to the salaries of the President and Vice President, including the allowances and amenities passed in 2009 stipulates that the salary of the President is MVR 100,000 while the Vice President’s salary is MVR 75,000.

Regarding the matter, Sun reached out to some legal experts in the country who criticized the move. They stated that the act clearly stipulated a specific amount for the salaries of the commander-in-chief and his deputy.

They noted that the act did not, however, state how the figures could be revised or in what situation it could be done so.

This meant that such a move is valid only by amending the act. It cannot be acted on unless the Parliament amends and passes the act and the President ratifies it. Any other way of doing this, even if it is by a Parliamentary Committee would be in violation of the law, according to the legal experts.

The chair of the Committee that passed the report MP for Kinbidhoo Mohamed Nashiz, speaking with Sun stated that there were no legal infringements with the move. The report was approved under the authority of the Committee granted by the Constitution, said Nashiz.

Article 118 of the Constitution states that the President’s salary and remunerations, as well as the salary and remunerations of the Vice President, are to be decided by the Parliament. The Parliament would do so by passing an act for the purpose.

The act regarding the salary of the President also states that the Parliament could review the figures every three years, based on the price of services and goods in the country. However, the law has remained unchanged since it was passed 11 years ago. 

Other than the President and the Vice President, the Parliament also decides on the salaries of MPs, justices, and judges as well as the heads of independent institutions. 

The Parliament had made a similar move to slash the salaries of some state officials in March. Reducing the salaries of the President and Vice President were touted back then as well.