New President Pushes Forward With Decentralisation

New President Pushes Forward With Decentralisation

President Mohamed Nasheed is pushing ahead with pledged decentralisation, on Sunday announcing plans to establish regional development councils in the North and South of the country.

Two out of seven pledged regions, the Northern region is to consist of Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal and Shaviyani atoll, and the Southern region of Addu and Fuvahmulah atolls.

"The important thing here is that instead of this work being done in Male', the work will be done directly from those areas," Nasheed told journalists.

Under ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's administration, government services, trade and commerce were centralised in the capital Male', leading to developmental disparities between Male' and the atolls.

While offices were established at atoll and island levels, they had to work through the central Ministry of Atolls Development.

But full details of the plans have not been revealed. The main ruling party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, in their manifesto had pledged development would be concentrated around seven different regions in the country.

Home Minister Gasim Ibrahim said the decision made by the cabinet was "very important" and "we will finalise other areas within 2 or 3 months."

A state minister will be allocated to the two regions, and the committees are to be selected from grassroots island development committee.

The appointed atoll chiefs, currently administrative heads of the atolls, will also work under the state minister.

The state ministers are to be assisted by four departments which include a services department, infrastructure department and economic development department.

"For example to establish a sewerage system, from obtaining funding and technical assistance to bidding to implementation, it will be these regional committees that will be active," Nasheed said.

"We will give the opportunity for employees [in the central administrative divisions] to go back [to the atolls] with housing, families, entertainment," he added.

One-third of the country's population, approximately 150,000 people, live in Male', many due to essential services such as education and medical care.

"God willing, we hope at first 20 to 30 families will change and with them their families. We want people to go back," Nasheed says.

"The result of this would be that work of the centralised ministries will be divided to that region," Vice-president Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said.

"This does not mean the size of our government will increase,” he said.

"Our aim is for services to be delivered to people where they are," he added.

The constitution, ratified in August, calls for administrative divisions to be decentralised and elected councils to be established at island and atoll level accordingly.

Currently, the island chiefs head the administration at island level.

Each island has an island development committee which was appointed until June 2007, but elected committees say they do not have much power.

The constitution also stipulates island and atoll councils elections must be held before July 2009.

Source: Minivan News

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