Finance Minister Mohamed Shafeeq has refused to answer probing questions from the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament regarding the number of political appointments made by the Mohamed Muizzu administration, stressing that only the President’s Office can disclose this information. The undisclosed number of political appointees has sparked public criticism and concern.

During a committee meeting on Wednesday, Minister Shafeeq was questioned by Hanimaadhoo MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) regarding the number of political appointments made by the Muizzu administration. Minister Shafeeq refrained from providing a direct response, citing his lack of precise knowledge on the total count and indicating that ongoing performance evaluations of political appointees necessitate confirmation from the President’s Office.

The current administration has appointed over 1,063 individuals, mainly from the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC), to political positions across various government ministries and state-owned enterprises. In contrast, the previous Abdulla Yameen administration had 808 political appointees.

Minister Shafeeq’s testimony before the Public Accounts Committee also omitted any mention of the government’s dismissals of political appointees. Recent reports from government-aligned media suggest that the administration has begun terminating underperforming political appointees as part of austerity measures aimed at reducing state expenditure.

Expressing the government’s commitment to addressing non-performance among political appointees, Minister Shafeeq outlined plans to take corrective action in alignment with a cabinet-approved guideline. “We are gearing up to address political appointees who fail to meet expectations in accordance with a guideline sanctioned by the cabinet,” he said.

President Muizzu’s pre-election promise to limit political appointees within his government to below 700 remains under scrutiny, as the precise tally of political appointments remains undisclosed despite persistent media inquiries.

Local media outlets have speculated that the total count of political appointees exceeds 2,000, a figure the government has yet to confirm. Reports have also surfaced indicating that some appointees lack essential resources such as desks, chairs, and computers at their designated workplaces, leading to idling in cafés and restaurants near their assigned offices.

This situation unfolds against a backdrop of cautionary advisories from international financial entities to the Maldives, underscoring the imperative of implementing austerity measures. These organisations advocate for the reduction of political appointments and stringent control over government spending as pivotal measures for the Maldives to navigate its current financial challenges and foster economic stability.