Speaker dissatisfied with minister's response regarding usable reserve

The government is expected to have enough foreign currency to import basic goods for five months by July this year, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer said.

The minister disclosed the information while responding to a question asked by Galolhu North MP Eva Abdulla.

The MP sent her question in writing to the Parliament on June 7. In her question, she noted that over $130 million would be spent on debt repayment in June and July and further pointed out that the deficit budgeted for the two months was over $150 million. Therefore, she inquired from the minister how much staple foods, oil, and medicine could be purchased from the amount in the usable foreign currency reserves by the end of July.

The Finance Minister's answer to the inquiry was read out at Wednesday's Parliament session. In his short and concise answer, the minister said the country's foreign exchange reserves stood at $317 million at the beginning of June. He said the central bank -- the MMA -- is legally responsible for managing the country's foreign exchange reserves. The MMA is also responsible for preparing estimates of the government's reserves. The MMA does not disclose the amount of usable reserves available to the government, he said.

The minister said based on the information available from the MMA, the Maldives will have enough usable reserves for about five months of staple food, oil, and medicine imports by the end of July.

"For further information regarding this, please contact the Maldives Monetary Authority. The State has always provided the necessary cooperation to the Maldives Monetary Authority in managing reserves," Ameer said.

Minister Ameer's reply was met with dissatisfaction from Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed said as per the powers vested in the President under Article 116 of the Consitution to establish ministries required within the government and determine their areas of jurisdiction, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih decided the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry and submitted the information to the Parliament on February 22, 2019. As per the submission, it cannot be stated that the Finance Minister cannot take responsibility for financial matters, he said. Therefore, he said the Minister has to amend the letter.

"Article 34 of the Constitution obliges the Minister to be accountable to this Parliament. I ask the Honorable Minister to revise the letter and send it to this Parliament," Nasheed said.