President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih addressed the nation at an official function held on Sunday night to mark Republic Day.
After gaining independence from the British and changing from a constitutional monarchy, the second republic was proclaimed on November 11, 1968.
The following are translated extracts of the president’s speech.
On constitutional supremacy
No one under the Maldivian flag would have a power that is not granted by the constitution. Whether that is myself or the leaders of the other two powers of the state, no one can stand above the constitution. And there is no power of the Maldivian state that won’t have to bow to the constitution. With God’s will, I am working with belief in this truth and with the consideration that upholding the constitution is my highest duty.
On stability and public order
Looking at the police records of the past seven years, violent crimes occurred the least this year. Gang violence has also declined by 50 per cent from last year. Twenty-two people were killed on the streets of Malé in gang crimes during the past six years. But I will note with the most happiness, not one life was lost to gang violence this year.
The biggest challenge facing the nation’s development is the concentration of powers in one place, that is in Malé. In my view, development can be achieved by strengthening the decentralisation system. To that end, major amendments have been submitted to financially and legally empower councils. With those amendments, the budget of councils will increase twofold or threefold. As a result, revolutionary changes will start to come to island development.
On the 2020 budget
Eleven per cent of the budget is earmarked for social security, 12 per cent for the development of the education sector and 11 per cent for the health sector. The budget proposed for 2021 will also be a big budget. The most important aim of the budget is to start large projects pledged by the government in the next two years, that is 2020 and 2021, without waiting for the election year of 2023.
On national debt
A sovereign bond of US$200 million sold at high interest by the previous government will have to be paid in full [in 2023]. We are working on finding a solution to this as well.
On health and education
To develop the health sector, work is ongoing on improving the quality of services provided by [the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital]. And work has now started on completing facilities needed by regional hospitals and developing tertiary hospitals in five regions. The positive results of this will start to be seen in the middle of next year.
The biggest positive change brought to the education sector in the past year is the start of the breakfast programme in all schools in the country. And 4,736 students participated in the free degree programme and student loans have been issued for 567 students.
On infrastructure projects and connectivity
Work has now started on air-conditioning 11 mosques with renewable energy and mosque construction is ongoing on eight islands. Work is continuing without interruption on providing essential services needed by islands without discrimination. Harbour projects for a total of 30 islands have been awarded to contractors and work has started on 14 islands. Work is also ongoing on developing roads to a good standard on seven islands. To provide electricity without interruption, generator sets have now been sent to 58 islands. And contracts have been signed and work is ready to start on establishing water and sewerage system on 33 islands. My aim is to start water and sewerage projects before the end of 2021 on all islands where it hasn’t started yet.
[…] After work stalled on the new terminal [at the Velana International Airport], work has restarted and is progressing speedily. Work on the terminal is now going ahead after changes were made to the design to represent the Maldives. When the terminal is complete with boarding bridges, capacity will be increased to serve three million people a year.
In addition, work on developing a sea transport system will be carried out during next year as a priority. And the seaport project on Gulhifalhu will begin during next year. As a result of speedier and cheaper services at the commercial harbour, the prices of goods at the market will fall.
Starting various housing projects on islands across the country during the coming year has been budgeted. In order to find a solution to the housing crisis in the Malé region, God willing, work on building more flats in Hulhumalé will start next year.
On foreign policy successes
Foreign and neighbourly friendships have been renewed to their true path and ties have been established with some nations. During the past year or so, well-wishing nations have provided US$3.2 billion as grant aid to the Maldives. Around sunset this evening, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid called me and said the US$25 million Abu Dhabi was going to give this year has been changed to US$50 million as grant aid.
On environmental protection
Solar power systems to produce electricity have been set up on 13 islands. In consideration of environmental fragility, we have protected 14 areas on 14 islands. Work is ongoing on including Addu and Fuvahmulah in UNESCO biosphere reserves.
On combating corruption
The biggest challenge faced in eliminating corruption even today is various influences during the bidding process. Therefore, an independent review committee was set up in June this year to look into bidding problems.
On unresolved murders and stolen asset recovery
The commission investigating deaths submitted the final reports on the deaths of Dr Afrasheem Ali and Raudha Athif last Thursday. In order to carry out matters noted in the two reports, God willing, I will forward to the relevant authorities within this week and publicise information in the report.
As the highest priority, the asset recovery commission is looking into the MMPRC corruption scandal. The commission is investigating cases of 49 islands and lagoons…I hope that the work of both commissions will be completed before the end of this year.
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Source URL: Maldives Independent