A technical study will be conducted next year to identify changes that need to be made to the Maldives’ decentralisation mechanism, Minister of Cities, Local Government and Public Works Adam Shareef Umar has said.

While addressing the ‘Laamaseelu Laamu’ event, focusing on Island Councils and Women’s Development Committees, held at Gan Island in Laamu Atoll, the minister noted that the Maldives’ decentralisation mechanism was still weak, pointing to 10 amendments to the Decentralisation Act of 2010 within the span of 13 years as evidence of the fact.

The minister said that instead of rushing to make changes to the decentralisation system, a technical study would be conducted, with the views of the people and councils included. The work will be handed over to an academic institution next year and the relevant results will be released within the year, he said.

“We believe that the people of Maldives have to decide today what changes need to be made to the current decentralisation system. The people have to think about this,” he said.

Critics, however, point to the newly minted ministry as an effort to control councils, similar to the Atolls Ministry from the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom era. The minister rebuffed such claims by stating that a local government ministry was created by President Mohamed Muizzu to facilitate a more efficient running of councils and island development, based on the President’s own experience of serving as housing minister and Mayor of Malé.

The local government minister said his first 14 days in office had reinforced the importance of having a local government ministry. While councils may work very responsibly, and the employees of the Local Government Authority (LGA) work diligently, the minister outlined that the absence of a local government ministry to convey their work and challenges to the administration and the President was a point of disconnect. He noted that continuing without such a ministry would pose a huge challenge to development at the atoll and island levels.

“I hope to be the one to take these issues, and challenges, faced by the islands and its peoples to the cabinet,” the minister said.

The administration will assist local councils and the people in every way to solve the development challenges facing their islands, the minister said. He went on to advise the councils to work towards increasing their income without solely relying on the state budget, by utilising the resources available to them within their jurisdictions.