In the wake of widespread public criticism, parliamentarians from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have staunchly defended their decision to approve significant salary increases for top government officials, including themselves. 

The MDP, holding a majority in Parliament, faced backlash following the Parliament Public Accounts Committee’s approved increases in the salaries of the president, vice president, government ministers, parliamentarians, and judges.

The MDP’s parliamentary group leader, Mohamed Rasheed Hussain (Bigey), underscored that the decision was reached after thorough deliberation at the Public Accounts Committee and gained unanimous support from its members. However, the committee’s move has been met with widespread public disapproval, and the President’s Office clarified that the government had not initiated the request for these increases.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, Rasheed, representing the Alifushi constituency, highlighted that the Parliament had only recently begun functioning effectively. He detailed that a special code for pay harmonisation, involving an allocation of MVR 500 million, did not encompass those officials whose pay is set solely by Parliament. He revealed that MVR 90 million from this budget was proposed to raise salaries of such officials.

Despite initial backing from parliamentarians, the committee’s decision faced immediate opposition, leading to some members retracting their support. The minority party, The Democrats, issued a strict directive to vote against the pay hike. Rasheed added that the committee consulted with the Judges’ Association and councils, noting that judges, prohibited from other employment, sought their first pay rise in 13 years.

Rasheed argued that the salary increase was not limited to parliamentarians but was a uniform decision affecting all officials paid by Parliament, part of a broader pay harmonisation effort. This change, however, awaits a Parliamentary vote for enforcement.

He also emphasised the financial challenges faced by parliamentarians, including high living costs and the necessity of frequent constituent visits, suggesting these factors justify the salary increase – a notion that has sparked public outrage from ordinary citizens who bear the brunt of the decision.

The President’s Office, however, distanced itself from this decision, stating no prior consultation with the government occurred. The President’s chief spokesperson Mohamed Shaheeb accused the MDP-majority committee of fostering discord.

On the other side, the minority party, The Democrats, issued its first major directive to reject this salary increase, critiquing the committee’s decision amidst ongoing economic challenges. The party, with a minority presence in the committee, has called for a reevaluation of the proposal.

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, in response, stated he had not requested the salary hike and pledged to donate any personal increase to social funds.