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Maldives - a country imperiled by President Nasheed’s hallucinations

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed struggles through his seventh month as ruler of the island state, a hated autocratic ruler whose angry citizenry is calling for his immediate resignation. “GANJABO RESIGN!” … these words resonate daily throughout the streets of Male’ and other islands. Sprayed on street walls and public buildings alike, they call upon President Nasheed to resign. Nasheed is now commonly known as Ganjabo due to his very public drug habit. The capital Male’s streets are now nightly patrolled by police and army forces armed with riot gear, as Nasheed struggles to remain in power.

The major grievances of the Maldivian citizenry stem from the absolute lack of delivery on President Nasheed’s election promises. Promises of 25,000 free public housing units claimed to have been donated by the Chinese Government, a transport network connecting all islands to be established overnight, free electricity and water supply for all, free medical services for all, all these have evaporated into thin air. Similarly, Nasheed’s other promises such as his promise that he would pay off of all outstanding debts of corner shops, that he would bring 3000 volunteer teachers for the country’s schools, that within 15 to 20 days of assuming power he would bring 300 million US dollars of grant aid to the country, have also turned out to be lies, lies and more lies.

Within a few days of Nasheed becoming president, the 25,000 free public housing units metamorphed into 10,000 commercial flats. The promised donation by the Chinese Government is no longer mentioned by the Nasheed government. The flats are now reportedly on offer for any foreign investor wanting to invest into housing in the country.

The citizenry decries Nasheed’s reneging on his election promise that he would bring housing prices down to affordable levels. Within his first month of office, Nasheed introduced a substantial down payment in advance for lease of social housing units on Hulhumale’. These housing units were built by the former government, which at no time demanded any down payment for social housing leases.

The promised transport network has vanished into the dream world of research studies, white papers and joint committees under the leadership of Maizan Adam Maniku. According to President Nasheed, in his infamous Alifushi speech last month, a foreign company bringing a harbor would arrive in the Maldives the very next week. Three weeks down the line, no foreign investor, no transport network.

The promised 300 million dollars of free aid turned out to be a 203 million rufiyaa loan taken by the Nasheed government from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) in November 2008. This was quickly followed by a 208 million rufiyaa loan last December, and a 176 million rufiyaa loan in January this year, all from MMA. In trying to support the expensive Nasheed Government, Finance Minister Ali Hashim appears to be following his father DIK’s shining example of how to rapidly go into bankruptcy.

Nasheed’s claim to the media that within 30 days in office he had brought down food prices has outraged the public which knows that increasing numbers of families on island communities are going hungry due to escalating food prices during his short tenure in office. Loss of jobs and declining incomes in an economy mismanaged by the inexperienced Nasheed government are exacerbating this problem on some islands.

The promise that he would give every person over 65 years a monthly stipend of 3000 rufiyaa has been translated into applying to a few recipients selected on the basis of mysterious eligibility criteria concocted Health Minister Aminath Jameel. This too has disenchanted many senior citizens whose medical costs arise as they wait for the promised free medical services for all.

President Nasheed’s delivery of his promise of free electricity and water services for all has been to sell off these government service providers to commercial entities.

Civil servants cower in their cubicles as colleagues and friends are sacked and their salaries reduced by the very ruler who promised that if elected he would not sack any civil servant.

Even more alarming to Maldivians are the unconstitutional actions by Nasheed such as joining the ILO and his Government’s formal acceptance of Kosovo independence, both without parliamentary approval.

Island residents complain that Nasheed has not delivered upon his promise that he would arrange for all resort rents from an island to go the atoll in which that island is located. To date, there have been no such moves by Nasheed’s government.

When questioned by media on his appalling lack of delivery on any of his promises, President Nasheed’s now infamous reply is … “That is merely our philosophy”.

The local economy is derailing. Local industries squeezed to the limit as the inexperienced Nasheed government continues its lethargic and confused journey into the “Other Maldives”. No public sector investment projects nor any development projects have been begun by this government during its six months of rule. Development projects such as construction of island harbors, schools, hospitals, health centres, begun by the previous government have been stopped. Market prices of consumer goods have sky rocketed. Having labored through the ever decreasing quality of life in Nasheed’s “Other Maldives”, one wonders whether he will ever be able to help the Maldivian people.

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