'Necessary to find out total debt before approving budget' - Speaker

Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has announced that the MVR 37.5 billion budget proposed by the government can only be approved after the estimated total debt the state will owe by the end of 2020 is informed by the Finance Ministry.

Debating the budget at Thursday's parliament sitting, Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb pointed out that while the proposed budget will have a deficit of MVR 5.6 billion, the budget does not state what the estimated total debt owed by the state would be by the end of 2020.

The government's statistics show the total debt would reach MVR 67.9 billion by the end of the current year, which is 76.4% of the GDP, said MP Ilyas.

"The budget does not state what the total debt amount would be with the inclusion of guarantees provided by the state, and neither does it state the debt-to-GDP percentage", he noted.

Speaker Nasheed acknowledged MP Ilyas's concerns and said the budget should have mentioned the total estimated debt before being presented to the parliament. He said he hopes to get the numbers before the budget is approved.

"A total debt amount must be known before the budget is approved. We can ask for vote on the budget only after we get the numbers", said Nasheed.

Presenting the budget to the Parliament, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer had stated that although a deficit budget was submitted this year, the budget mainly focuses on revenue generating economic projects.

If the projects are implemented as proposed on the budget, it would result in surplus budgets being presented in the future, said the minister. The government is currently working on repayment plans for external debt, he said.

While a samurai bond worth US$ 300 million will be sold to Japan to compensate for the deficit, the additional MVR 562 million required will be raised throuhh the sale of treasury bonds.