Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, alleging difficulties in currently getting student loans and loans for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the SME Development Finance Corporation (SDFC), has preemptively called on the administration not to discontinue student loans and SME bank loans. He made the call while campaigning for Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The free degree programme initiated during his presidency is one of the most important development initiatives under his administration and more than 18,000 students participated in the programme in the past five years with 9,000 students having completed their degrees, the former president said.

“These are opportunities that have never been provided in the history of education,” he said.

In the past five years, about 3,700 students have studied abroad with the help of student loans, but today there is concern because of complaints of not getting the loans, Solih said.

“I would tell President Dr Mohamed Muizzu to think about it and not stop this. Put money into this. That is the development of Maldives,” he said.

Another important step taken during his tenure to boost the economy was the establishment of a bank for medium-sized businesses, which has created new businesses and entrepreneurs, he said.

Citing Fuvahmulah as an example, Solih said there were less than 150 tourist beds in Fuvahmulah before the introduction of SME loans but the number of beds had increased to 350 beds since.

The SDFC has already introduced 4,000 beds across the country he said, adding that the concern now was the money in the bank will be used for other purposes.

“There is no money there. They are announcing in name that they will give loans. In fact, there is no money,” the former president said.

MDP needs a majority in Parliament in order to get things back on track, he said.

Efforts by MDP to hold the administration accountable cannot be stopped or reversed, Solih said, explaining that there are already many things that need to accounted for which can only be done if the MDP gets a majority in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Responding to President Mohamed Muizzu’s repeated criticism that the Solih administration had taken significant loans, bringing the country to the brink of economic collapse, the former president said his administration had implemented the most projects during its five-year term and spent around MVR 36 billion on development projects while also paying back about MVR 1.2 billion every three months for loans taken by previous administrations.

“Today, President Muizzu is saying that he paid MVR 800 million in three months while we paid about MVR 1.2 billion every three months. That was not a loan we took. However, administrations should have continuity and have to pay back the loans taken in the past,” Solih explained.

He said development must be undertaken across the country to solve the problems of congestion in Malé, explaining that while his administration had given significant priority to the development of Addu, some projects have now stopped since the Muizzu administration took office.