'Increase in number of councillors will not be a burden on the state'

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has stated that the increase in the number of councillors appointed to local councils will not be an added burden on the government.

The president made the statement on Sunday while speaking at the 'Viyavathi Raajje' symposium ongoing at Crossroads Maldives, a platform for discussion between the government and local councils.

Recent amendments to the Decentralization Act increased the number of councillors, under which islands with a population below 3000 will have five councillors on the island council. President Solih said the amendment was proposed after assessing the added expenditure that would be incurred due to the increase. The increment in number of councillors will not be a burden on the state, said the president.

"We calculated [the expenditure] and believe we can afford the added expenditure. The state will be spending MVR 48 million. I do not believe this is a large amount to spend to decentralize the country and offer services and resources to the country's citizens," President Solih said.

Three councillors were elected to islands with a population of less than 3000 in the last local council election. However, the recently ratified amendments to the Decentralization Act will increase the number of councillors elected to island, atoll and city councils.

President Solih said difference of opinion cannot be avoided, and that there were some disagreements with the decision to allocate a certain percentage of council seats to women. However, women are capable, and 33% of the government's cabinet is filled by women, noted the president. During the next year, 50% of Maldivian ambassadors to other nations will also be women, said President Solih.

372 female councillors will be elected in the 2020 local council election. While 744 councillors will be elected to island councils, the remaining 372 seats can be occupied by both male and female councillors, said the Elections Commission. A total of 923 councillors will be elected to island councils including 179 presidents of the councils.

18 individuals will be elected to atoll councils, and a total of 197 councillors will be on atoll councils including the presidents of the island councils.

Additionally, 12 women will be elected to city councils. 24 additional councillors will be elected to city councils, for which both male and female candidates can contest. With the three mayors elected to city councils, a total of 39 councillors will be elected to city councils.

The 2020 local council election is slated for April 4.