President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Saturday stated that his administration aims to fully empower and equip local councils to serve better and fulfil the developmental needs of their respective constituents. He made the remarks in his opening statement as the chair of the first session of the Viavathi Raajje conference held on Ukulhas Island in the Alifu Alifu Atoll.

The first session of the conference is themed around the administration’s efforts to ensure the fiscal autonomy of local councils. President Solih noted that more action needs to be taken to refine further and strengthen decentralised governance. To improve the financial status of local councils, the President stated that the administration is currently providing block grants to local councils and assisting them in increasing their income. He, however, noted the concerns of local councils in acquiring the funds and the challenges to utilising the funds within their respective jurisdictions.

The first session also featured presentations on the administration’s efforts to combat the drug trade and gang-related crimes; the isles platform, which tracks the progress of PSIP projects; and the social welfare programme, "Ibama." The Maldives Police Service offered insight and analysis on the nationwide crime prevention efforts. Earlier, the President convened a special task force to combat drug offences.

President Solih took questions from the attendees at the session and discussed their concerns in detail. He announced the administration’s decision to ensure atoll councils are the beneficiaries of the rent proceedings of the "Atholhu Fihaara" shops designated for each atoll in Malé. The administration, in May 2019, reversed a 2014 decision that barred atoll councils from the funds.

The President was joined at the first session as panellists by Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Finance; Uz Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of Economic Development; Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture; Aminath Shauna, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology; and Dr Mustafa Lutfi, Special Advisor on Social Policy at the President’s Office.