Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih delivered pointed criticism of the Mohamed Muizzu administration’s economic and fiscal strategies, asserting they have not succeeded in securing economic and financial stability for the country. President Solih, speaking on Raajje TV’s ‘Fashaairu’ programme during the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) 19th-anniversary celebrations, emphasised that his administration had devised comprehensive plans to tackle economic challenges from 2021 to 2028.

President Solih urged the Muizzu administration to refrain from initiating new projects and instead prioritise the implementation of projects set forth by his administration. Highlighting the effectiveness of economic and fiscal policies established during the previous MDP-led government, President Solih urged the current administration to adhere to these policies to navigate the nation’s existing economic and fiscal challenges.

President Solih refuted claims by the Muizzu administration about inheriting financial distress and heavy debt from his administration. He underscored the prudent economic measures undertaken during his tenure to overcome economic adversities, including those posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Disputing President Muizzu’s assertions of assuming power amidst near bankruptcy, President Solih dismissed them as deceptive falsehoods aimed at misleading the public. He argued that the Maldives’ economy could not have endured the dire circumstances claimed by President Muizzu, highlighting the successful management of economic challenges during his presidency.

President Solih detailed his administration’s efforts to settle outstanding dues to various sectors, including fishermen and other companies, emphasising the allocation of significant funds for these payments. Additionally, he disclosed reliance on foreign aid, such as assistance from the Abu Dhabi Fund and the Indian government, to meet essential financial obligations, including government staff salaries.

President Solih refuted claims made the Muizzu administration regarding the Sovereign Development Fund (SDF), clarifying that the fund contained US$140 million at the end of his term. He explained that a portion of the fund was invested in banks to generate additional income. He reiterated strategic plans aimed at increasing the SDF’s value to US$600 million by 2026, expressing confidence in achieving this goal if President Muizzu effectively implements these plans.

The MDP’s senior advisor also urged the Mohamed Muizzu administration to uphold and implement policies established by the previous MDP-led government to address current challenges in the fisheries sector. During Solih’s tenure, a significant initiative was launched to increase fish storage capacity to 1,200 metric tonnes, a project the former president encouraged the current administration to continue advancing.

President Solih underscored the necessity of reducing the volume of raw fish exports to Thailand as a crucial step in resolving issues within the fisheries sector. He advocated for a shift towards processing fish domestically to augment their value, citing the commencement of this strategy during his administration.

Highlighting diplomatic engagements initiated during his tenure, President Solih disclosed ongoing discussions with the European Union and the United Kingdom to reduce the 22 percent tax imposed on Maldivian fish products. He expressed optimism that continued dialogue by the Muizzu administration could lead to the realisation of this objective.

Expressing disapproval of the Muizzu administration’s decision to detach the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) from its subsidiary status under the State Trading Organization (STO), President Solih criticised this move as detrimental. MIFCO’s operational efficacy would have been better preserved under the STO’s oversight as a subsidiary entity, he contended.

President Solih also raised concerns over the current administration’s heightened expenditure levels, advocating for fiscal restraint as a fundamental measure to alleviate financial pressures. He specifically urged the Muizzu administration to curtail spending, including reducing the substantial number of political appointees, as a critical step towards achieving financial stability.