Transparency Maldives has strongly criticised the recent decision by the Parliament to increase the remuneration of MPs and top government officials. The organisation has raised concerns about the conflict of interest inherent in MPs setting their own salaries and the timing of the increase, coming just three months before the end of the current parliamentary term.

In a statement, Transparency Maldives noted the adverse reflection of this decision on the lawmakers’ integrity and intentions. The organisation has long advocated for reforms to parliamentary regulations to prevent MPs from having the discretion to fix their own salaries.

The Public Accounts Committee’s decision last week to raise the remuneration of the President, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Prosecutor General, Auditor General, MMA Governor, and councilors has further intensified public disapproval. The President’s salary was raised from MVR 100,000 to MVR 120,000, while the Vice President’s salary saw an increase from MVR 75,000 to MVR 93,000. Additionally, ministers’ salaries were increased from MVR 66,000 to MVR 72,000.

Transparency Maldives has pointed out the stark disparity between these salary increments and the lack of a proper minimum wage for the country’s employed citizens. The organisation criticised the Parliament for prioritising their own remuneration increases over the economic challenges faced by the general public. They argue that this move contradicts the previous government’s efforts at comprehensive pay harmonisation, aimed at reducing social class disparities.

In 2019, Transparency Maldives submitted amendments during parliamentary regulation reforms, proposing a robust system for assessing MPs’ expenditures and recommending the elimination of committee allowances. The organisation maintains that committee responsibilities should not warrant separate incentives, as they fall within the legal duties of elected lawmakers.

They also emphasised the importance of the bill on the financial accountability of senior state officials, which has been stalled in the Public Accounts Committee since its submission last year. This bill is viewed as vital in combating illicit enrichment and corruption among state officials.

Transparency Maldives’ stance reflects a growing public sentiment that recent salary increments for MPs and government officials, without corresponding improvements in accountability systems, signal questionable intentions and motivations of the lawmakers. The organisation has called on all MPs to reject the remuneration increment bill, arguing that sustaining public trust in state bodies is crucial for the country’s democratic reform and growth.