COLOMBO – Maldives Tourism Minister Mahmoud Shaugee said on Sunday he had resigned from the government over plans to lease more than 30 new resorts to make up for a $180 million budget shortfall.
“The submission of my resignation is now official. I submitted it on 3 July,” Shaugee told Reuters.
“My intention today is not to challenge the government, but we have differences of opinion — on policy issues.”
It was not immediately clear if President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had accepted the resignation, which follows that of Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim on Thursday.
Shaugee’s resignation follows the government’s decision earlier this month to lease 31 new resorts to bridge a $180 million shortfall in revenues.
The funds had been expected to be generated by a privately funded investment in a new trans-shipment port on the popular tourism destination, but the project has been postponed with no start date fixed.
The new round of resort leases had not figured in the Tourism Ministry’s 2007-2011 masterplan and would have been carried out “without any planning,” Shaugee said.
Shaugee is the sixth minister to leave the cabinet in the past 18 months.
On Thursday, finance minister Ibrahim quit, a day after an auditor’s report revealed the 2008 state budget faced a deficit of 4.4 billion rufiyaa ($344 million).
The International Monetary Fund early this month warned the Maldives government to cut its “extraordinarily high level” of expenditure on state wages and subsidies and increase revenue collection or face possible high inflation.
($1 = 12.8 Maldivian Rufiyaa)