President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday stated that councils should be more self-reliant in order to reinforce their performance. He made this statement during the third session of the third Viavathi Raajje conference held for the southern atolls of the Maldives, on Gan Island in Laamu Atoll.

The first session on Monday morning focused on the fiscal autonomy of local councils. President Solih emphasised the importance of island councils finding their own source of income in order to become more self-reliant. The President stated that the purpose of the session was to engage island council members and the Women’s Development Committee (WDC) representatives in discussions to enable economic empowerment for the local residents. One of the main objectives of the Decentralisation Act was to give island councils complete fiscal autonomy, he added.

The President stated that the budget allotted to the councils from the state budget grows at an exponential rate each year. However, he said that there is still room for improvement and that there are ways to increase the efficiency and self-sufficiency of the councils and WDCs.

President Solih highlighted that the administration allocates five percent of its total revenue and 40 percent of the total income generated from leasing islands and lagoons in atolls, to the island councils. Furthermore, the councils also have the authority to form companies and operate businesses to generate more income. He noted that fiscal autonomy was a major topic of discussion at the previous Viavathe Raajje conference held in Ukulhas Island in Alifu Alifu Atoll earlier this year, and expressed hope that constructive solutions would be sought by the conference's conclusion.

During the session, Ibrahim Ameer, the Minister of Finance and Uz. Fayyaz Ismail, the Minister of Economic Development provided participants with updates on the government's efforts to give councils fiscal autonomy. The participants were also given the opportunity to discuss the issues raised during the "Funoala Dharubaaru," which took place prior to the conference, with the panel.

President Solih was joined on the panel by Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Finance; Uz. Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of Economic Development; Ali Shiyam, Minister at the President’s Office
Minister at the President’s Office; Ali Niyaz, the Member of Parliament for Hulhumalé constituency and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Decentralisation; and the Chief Executive Officer of the Local Government Authority (LGA), Fathimath Afshan Latheef.

Over 270 individuals are participating in the Viavathi Raajje conference, along with 107 council members and Women’s Development Committee (WDC) representatives. The final session of this conference will focus on building resilient communities.