Finance Minister: Budget offers room to procure COVID-19 vaccines, if available

Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer gestures as he speaks during a meeting with the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee on August 27, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer has stated that the proposed state budget of MVR 34.79 billion for 2021 will allow for COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to the Maldivian people, if it is available.

Ameer presented the budget to the Parliament on Monday morning.

Delivering his statement, Ameer said that the health sector is one of the priority areas in the 2021 budget, and has been allocated MVR 4 billion.

The government spent extensively on the national COVID-19 response this year, and has allocated MVR 200 million for COVID-19 response next year.

Ameer said that the budget allows room for the government to procure COVID-19 vaccines and administer it nationally, if it becomes available next year.

“With the Grace of Allah, if a vaccine for this disease is found in 2021, there is room in this budget to provide vaccines to the people,” he said.

The government’s expenditure on COVID-19 response this year exceeds MVR 2.4 billion. This includes MVR 1.3 billion on health operations and MVR 1.1 billion on economic relief.

Delivering his statement, Ameer said the government made significant investments to improve the capacity of the health system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that the government, through the investments, increased the capacity for daily COVID-19 tests to 3,000, increased hospital bed capacity, and brought in machines, equipment and medical consumables to needed treat patients.

Ameer also spoke of the economic impact of the pandemic, stating that Maldives, same as other countries, is facing a spike in unemployment.

He said that 10,538 people have registered with the Job Center between April and September after losing their jobs or suffering a negative impact on their income.

Ameer said that the Maldivian economy is expected to contract by 29.3 percent by the end of this year – the lowest economic performance in its history.